Originally Posted by glassdad
The time to reef is at the moment that you think it might be time to reef. If you are inexperienced (or your passengers or crew are inexperienced), reef early. Additionally if you are in heavy winds where the rudder is exposed, reefing will make the boat handle better and alloow you to sail faster. The boat wont be over powered and over heeled. Everyone will have a better time.
I agree, reef early
. So many people I know make a big deal out of it, mainly because they never reef so they resist. Do it a few times and get comfortable.
If it's blowing, or I think it will be when I get out of the sheltered area, I'll reef right at the dock or mooring. I don't even raise the sail all the way. And I use a working jib, not a genoa. ( I like hank ons!). It's amazing how well you will sail with reduced sail area, the boat stands up and flies. If you can hit hull speed reefed, there is no point in fighting things and struggling for control. You're supposed to be enjoying yourself.
If the wind drops, or turns out less than you thought, it's easy to shake out a reef. But trying to reef with scared help in high winds is not pleasant.