Join Date: May 2002
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Excessive weather helm?
The time when you should reef is a judgment call. If the wind is blowing 15 mph with occasional gusts to 30, then you might not reef. If it is frequently gusting to 30, you should reef. When it gusts to 30, the boat is overpowered, but as long as the gusts are infrequent and brief in duration, you can ease the traveller and use the other sail trim techniques that Jeff H. and others describe. When the gusts are of longer duration and more frequent, it is time to reef.
This assumes that you are either racing or that you want to make the best possible speed for some reason. If you are cruising, or if you have non-sailing guests aboard, it is better to reef sooner. It''s a lot harder to reef the sail when the boat is already overpowered and heeling excessively.
You don''t say what size headsail you are flying, but a 150% is usable when the wind is at 15, but the boat is way overpowered when it is at 30. If you carry sails that are appropriate in size for the overall conditions, the boat will sail more upright, and it will go faster on average. From what I have seen, club racing sailors have a strong tendency to carry too much sail for the wind conditions. If you carry the correct amount of sail area, you''ll sail faster and point higher and beat them.