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Something to Ponder Over the Weekend … What’s a Blooper?

A recent conversation between two of our younger editorial staff turned up the word “blooper” as a part of sailing’s vocabulary. It wasn’t familiar to them, so some time was spent discussing and researching the blooper as it pertains to sailing.

Bright Hour
Some of you will know the answer …
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Your mission, dear readers: Tell us what a blooper is, within the sailing world. To give you a hint, it is not a funny, onboard mishap captured on camera. It is, however, something that could be found on a sailboat.

Put your answer in the comments below.

And if you have a photo of a blooper, send it for our next Sailagram at [email protected].


  1. George hea 1 year ago

    A blooper is NOT a spinnaker since it is hoisted at the same time and there can be only one spinnaker. It IS thus a blooper, a light-weather foresail used by racing yachts, and is flown unattached to the forestay and is often hoisted with, and on the opposite side to, a spinnaker. Bloopers are usually colorful and big and look like spinnakers, but as said, they are not.

  2. John D. 1 year ago

    In the bad old days International Offshore Rule (IOR) rewarded race boats with disgustingly pinched ends, tumblehome, tons of ballast, huge foretriangles, tiny ribbon mainsails, droopy booms and >>>huge spinnakers<<<<. This horrendous imbalance twixt main and kite was corrected with a BLOOPER, an additional sail flown opposite the spinnaker using a spare spinnaker halyard. This 3/4-ounce cloth jib sort of thingie had a long neck & a really big, fat belly. This gave the foredeck yet another onerous task. The wonder and glory of bloopers ended probably with the next IOR rule change.

  3. Bill Andrew 1 year ago

    It’s the banana shaped sail that flies on the opposite side of the boat as the spinnaker when running dead down wind, or on a deep reach. They were popular in the 70’s & 80’s with IOR boats that tended to have narrow pinched sterns, and as a result were prone to “death rolling” when dead down wind (particularly when passing under the golden gate!). The blooper balanced the sail plan a bit and reduced (but not eliminated) some of the death rolls.

  4. Vince Casalaina 1 year ago

    Here’s a video of a blooper in action:

    You can clearly see it starting around 18 sec. into the video.

    And here’s a longer article on bloopers and how the”performed”.

  5. Mr. Brinkley 1 year ago

    Bigger than a Jenny smaller than a Spinnaker

  6. Patrick Broderick 1 year ago

    Blooper Definition: Infernal, nearly uncontrollable flying sail designed to keep an IOR boat on its feet downwind. I can’t seem to send a photo on this site, but check out the September 2020 issue of Latitude 38 for a classic Diane Beeston (I think) photo of Kiolala with her spinnaker, blooper, mizzen spinnaker flying along with main and mizzen. Think of how many hands it took to keep all that nylon aloft. A blooper flew opposite the spinnaker in front of the winged out mainsail. My Newport 30 came up from S. California with one and I flew it on the Vallejo races. It didn’t help things much — usually ended up shrimping in San Pablo Bay. I imagine there are several generations of SF Bay sailors who never saw one, let along flew one.

  7. Moraga John 1 year ago

    I would suggest it’s what we used to call a “ballooner”, a very full, lighter weight, fores’l hoisted from the bow or bowsprit to the masthead (yes, dates back to gaff/Gunter rig days) usedfor close reaching, too shy for a spinnaker.

  8. Bill Huber 1 year ago

    A blooper was a novel revenue stream for sail lofts in the 1970’s…the wide lapel polyester leisure suit of sailboats….they mostly stay in the closet these days.

  9. Peter Mirrasoul 1 year ago

    George is correct. It is usually a relatively light weight full bellied sail flown on the opposite side to the spinnaker. It is deployed when sailing deep down wind with the spinnaker to lend stability to the boat, compensating for a down-wind death roll.

  10. Greg Clausen 1 year ago

    Second smaller chute maybe flown from mizzen

  11. Meserve 1 year ago

    A blooper is a triangular sail flown under the luff of a spinnaker with only one fixed attachment at the bow, and is trimmed via the halyard and sheet. Typically is can add between 1-2 knots of boat speed if trimmed well

  12. Bill O'Connor 1 year ago

    The blooper was popular during the 1980s as it was a way to get more sail up at one time and still not be penalized under the then-controlling IOR rules. I was lucky enough to crew on a 63 foot maxi “Triumph” in the Big Boat Series in1980-82 when “big” boats actually raced in the series.
    All the boats in our fleet carried and used a blooper. Most were hoisted on an extra spinnaker halyard, tack was secured at the bow (as mentioned in the good description above) and the clew trimmed back in the cockpit on the spinnaker sheet-winch not in use. On the bigger boats where cost was not an issue…they were designed and color-coded to match the spinnaker.
    But on SF Bay when the boat started to rock and roll in a city-front, down-wind chop, it was no fun trying to manage two spinnakers which were out of control at the same time…getting one sail under control seemed to aggravate the other one. No one knew for sure if they really made you go faster but they were popular then…and a fleet with them all up did make a spectacular sight with the GG bridge in the background.

  13. Jack 1 year ago

    It’s used opposite the spinny to balance poor/ unstable downwind characteristics of a monohull, esp. IOR design boats; good riddance!

  14. Glenn Owens SV Califia 1 year ago

    Thanks…we ran a spinnaker poled out and a second sail with our main down. Guess it would have been a blooper.

  15. David J Gruver 1 year ago

    A fun fact about bloopers in the IOR days is they were measured as a genoa. They had to conform to girth and LP restrictions that were part of the rule. The rule forbid flying two spinnakers at once. It did not restrict flying a genoa and spinnaker simultaneously. Sail designers adapted to the rule by creating a significantly curved luff thus giving the sail its unique shape.

  16. Bill Nork 1 year ago

    It’s a nylon downwind triangular sail that was hoisted on the opposite side of the spinnaker, same side as the mainsail. No pole, free flying. Made things real interesting when gibing, as it had to be doused and then re-hoisted. I believe they were outlawed sometime in the 80,s, not sure why. Made for some pretty spectacular photos during the maxi classes during the Big Boat Series in the early ‘80’s!

  17. Jim Q 1 year ago

    Last flew a blooper in the 1980s on an Esprit 37. A sail that mostly made sense on rocky and rollsy IOR boats that rocked, rolled and rounded down. The blooper looks like a skinny spinnaker flying just outside the leeward edge of the spinnaker catching the air spilling off the chute. Fun fact… one had a person “trimming” the blooper halyard because if it collapsed, the blooper’s foot was in the water. It was quite effective stopping the rock and roll… but boy did it make jibes complicated.

  18. Mike F 1 year ago

    Two mistakes in search of a solution

  19. Curtis Johnson 1 year ago

    if you can find some old photos from the late 70’s early 80’s you’ll see boats going downwind with a spinnaker and a blooper set on the same side as the mainsail.
    Back in those days the IOR rule encouraged high aspect ration mainsails and big overlapping genoas. The blooper balanced the sailplan when going dead down wind with a large spinnaker set out to windward and the pole squared well aft.
    Halyard almost full hoist, tack line from the bow and eased out and a sheet from the aft quarter.
    Awkward things and rarely added any speed. Became obsolete in the early 80’s when the rating rules on sail area started to encourage fractional rigs.

  20. Charlie Pick 1 year ago

    A blooper is a kind of second spinnaker that flys to leeward of a regular symmetrical spinnaker on an old IOR boat…

  21. Tony Spooner 1 year ago

    The Blooper was really good at giving the all the extra crew we had aboard on Beer Can races something to do on the downwind leg.

  22. Dave Cowell 1 year ago

    Go over and visit with Bill Paxton at Quantum. He as a great photo on the wall.

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