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Most mainsails, at least on larger boats will have a series of grommets or cringles going across the sail, almost parallel to the boom. The lowest of these is the first reef, the higher the second reef, and in some cases there is a third reef.
If you're using slab reefing or jiffy reefing, then there should be a line tied to the boom, running up to the leech side cringle and then back down to a sheave in the end of the boom. If there isn't then you need to set these lines up.
These lines act to hold the clew of the reef down and out. The luff end of the reef is usually attached to a hook on the gooseneck of the boom.
As Sialia said...if you're even thinking about, that's the time to do it. A good setup will allow two people to throw a reef in the main in under a minute.
First come head up until the sail is luffing.
Tighten up on the topping lift a bit, lower the mainsail and get the luff reef cringle on the reefing hook.
Tighten up on the main halyard to keep the reef cringle on the hook and cleat it off.
Tighten the reefing line as tight as possible and cleat it off. Ease the topping lift.
Put sail ties through the reefing points if you're going to be keeping the reef in for some time, otherwise don't bother.
When shaking out a reef:
Remember to undo any sail ties before trying to shake out a reef, otherwise you risk tearing the sail at a grommet. Tighten the topping lift a bit. Then release the reefing line, which passes through the leech reef cringle. Then lower the main and remove the luff reef cringle from the hook and raise the main. Tighten the main halyard and cleat it off. Ease the topping lift.
A couple of other points:
Tightening the topping lift makes it easier to snug up the reefing line. Lazyjacks can help keep the sail fabric under control, even if you don't use sail ties to lash it to the boom.
I would highly recommend practicing this until you can do it in under a minute. It gets much harder to do when the wind is blowing like stink, the boat is being thrown about by large waves, and the rain is pouring in to your face and down your neck.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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Last edited by sailingdog; 07-13-2006 at 04:27 PM.