It seems to me that there is some disagreement out there regarding third reefs in the main. (I am on the verge of adding one to our main.)
Many offshore cruising boats have a third reef. I was reading a book by Hal Roth last night, and he believes in three reefs. As does Larry Pardey, Bill Seifert, and others. John Vigor mentions having two "deep reefs," so I am thinking that might be equivalent to three typical reefs.
Here is a photo of our boat. You can see both existing reefs. (The second one is just above the lowest batten.) I believe that the first reef takes away 15% of the sail, then the second takes another 20% of the total, so two reefs means a 35% reduction. Hal Roth talks of getting down to a 60% reduction through three reefs in the main, and my aim is get to a 50%-60% (reduction) range.
My sailmaker does not agree with the premise that at the point you would be using this, the sail would not be up to the task. But he does think that one would want to TIE in that reef directly to the boom through the new clew. He points out that running a reefing line down through a cheek block on the boom creates a weak point: the block. He thinks that that would be the first part to fail: the block would rip off of the boom. If, like my other cheek blocks (for the 1st and 2nd reefs), that block were screwed on, I think he is right. I am curious if anyone has cheek blocks on the boom which are thru-bolted. On the forward end, the third reef would be held by the reefing hook. (Actually a line running down TO the reefing hook, I never use the reefing hooks directly on the sail, and one would likely be unable to get that third tack down to there.)
I woud be interested in getting feedback on this, both pro and con. If you have three reefs, what is your experience regarding plusses and minuses?
At this point I think that I would just have a line secured to the boom, ready to tie down the third-reef clew. And forget the cheek block. I know that putting that tie in would be an adventure, but I still think that having the reef in the sail would be good insurance.
I think that if you want to have a storm trysail, that is great IF you have a separate track for it, and it's ready to go. I think that trying to remove all of the main's slugs, then hoist a trysail in the main's track is just too much work do do in lousy conditions. And I think that taking the main completely off would be virtually impossible, particularly if the main has full battens like mine.
I do not see this as a hurricane rig. I have been in 30-35 knots of wind with just the staysail up. I remember thinking that the boat would probably be happier with a deeply reefed main, and a reef in the staysail. More balance, no lee helm, lower center of effort.
I am looking to have something to go to in 30-40 knots. There is very little chance I would find myself in higher winds than that, with the type of sailing we do. We mostly sail the coast of Maine, but I am planning to sail to Nova Scotia in July. Directly, it is a 200 mile trip. I see my plan as just a (relatively) inexpensive insurance policy, something to have in my pocket.