THE STORY ~ A.E. Luders (known as Bill) was a respected yacht designer, builder and sailor, known for his many graceful and appealing yacht designs. Among them was the famous and highly successful racing sloop American Eagle, one of the last renowned racing yachts to be built of wood. His spinnaker patent describes an innovative method of construction that increases the depth of “bagging” or pouch form in the sail, never before implemented. Our PatentWear Spinnaker design was developed directly from Luders’s original 1931 patent—a tribute to Bill Luders and his remarkable contributions to the world of sailing.
The spinnaker, a popular sail for downwind sailing, has been in use for more than 160 years. In clipper ship days, the studding sail was popular as a downwind accelerator, as was the so-called gollywobbler on big fishing schooners. These were big and baggy sails that ballooned out when filled with wind, similar to a parachute. The word chute is a common colloquial name for the spinnaker today.
Any attempt to discover the derivation of the name “spinnaker” is a puzzling venture into sailing lore. One tale has its origin with the sailboat Niobe during a race in England in 1865. When William Gordon, a sailmaker by trade, raised his innovative new sail, one of the crew members remarked, “That’s to make ’er spin!” Gordon reversed the comment, calling his new sail a “spin-maker.” The following year the owner of the yacht Sphinx hoisted a similar sail which her crew—in the manner of the Niobe’s crew—dubbed a “spinker.” The two words combined yielded “spiniker,” which was the common spelling in days of old, until today’s “spinnaker” spelling first appeared in 1869. But wait! There is also an apparent reference in the logbook of the USS Constitution on July 13, 1812: “Moderate breezes and thick cloudy weather with rain at 1 a.m.; hauled up the mainsail and set the spinnaker.” Thus, it’s a puzzling mystery as to the true origin of the word spinnaker, still waiting to be solved.
All spinnakers up until the early 1950s were Egyptian cotton with wire luffs. In the early 50s, Dupont developed synthetic thread and cloth. Making a debut in 1954, the first synthetic spinnakers were rayon, and all-white nylon spinnakers followed shortly afterwards. The development of RipStop nylon’s availability in multiple colors greatly enhanced the design and attraction of the modern spinnaker, and the downwind photo-finish with an array of colorful spinnakers flying is a common racing scene today.