How to add a tennis ball to your spinnaker pole
It was just as I had always feared. We were winning the race by a whisker, struggling in a force 6 on Oulton Broad at the end of the Winter season, when Bryan got a tangle in the spinny halyard so it wouldn’t release. I decided to take down the pole as we luffed up too late towards the last buoy. It seemed to jam against the mast for a fraction of a second then after a big tug on the elastic, the next thing I knew was the end of the pole had hit me in the face with a loud crack. I promised my friends at the nationals that if I wrote this story for Squibble I wouldn’t go into details, so let it suffice to say that Bryan was still wiping the evidence off the mast and rudder as we launched for the Nationals three months later! I was in a terrible mess, my nose was well broken and only after four visits to hospital, a nose mask and about 6 weeks was I beginning to think of ways to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again as easily.
I must first tell you that the elastic wasn’t too strong or too tight, nor was the up and downhauls too tight, nor did I let go of the release rope too early…. It was an accident waiting to happen and from talking to other crews it has happened (or nearly happened) lots of times but perhaps not with such spectacular results! I felt that I had been really unlucky until people started talking about how fortunate I had been that it hadn’t hit me ½ an inch to one side. Yes, our little white ball on the end of our pole is just the same size as a squash ball and these days squash players always use eye protectors. I could have lost an eye as easily as broken my nose.
So to get me back in the boat and use that pole again we had to do something to make the end bigger and softer! (no rude comments please) This is what we did….
I cut a hole in a tennis ball the same diameter as the pole and cut 4 slots radiating out from it. Then I drilled 2 holes on the top so that I could thread the rope and elastic from the end of the pole through these holes. Then I jammed the ball over the end of the pole and super-glued the slots so that they wouldn’t catch. I have now tested my new addition in all weather conditions including a championship week and I can honestly say it has not affected our spinnaker handling at all. It pulls up to the socket on the mast with a squidge rather than a clunk and the pole is now the perfect length rather than a couple of millimetres short!
I am delighted with my tennis ball addition, it has given me back my confidence and as a no cost, quick and easy modification which could save a serious injury, I would thoroughly recommend it.
Jenny Riley (Brimstone 73)