A few weeks ago, my and a buddy went out for a sail. It was blowing about 10 to 15, but gusting up to 25. I decided to throw in a reef. My friend is in his early seventies, and I'm not sure but suspect that if he returns home soaking wet and his wife finds out we went over, he won't be able to come out and play anymore.
Well, once we got out there it stayed about as I described, we were having a good time. The gusting started to die down. The wind had dropped to about 8 to 12 knots. After about twenty minutes I started thinking about shaking the reef, but decided to wait a bit longer. That's when a Catalina 22 passed under full sail. They shouted that we should let out and run.
Five minutes hadn't passed when the gusts started up again. The wind returned to it's previous 10 to 15 knots. The Catalina started getting headed up with every gust. Then they had to regain the momentum they had lost. By the time they would get up to speed, another gust would head them up again.
Before this had gone on for long, we had past them. Considering we were in a 17' siren, we shouldn't have been able to catch them, much less pass them. Plus, I don't really enjoy the sound of flogging sails, so I was glad to leave them in our wake.
A long story, but I hope it shows that, reefing should be considered as important as other forms of trimming sail, and not just an "oh crap, we're in trouble", thing