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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
How would you set a reef while racing? I tend to race short handed, so I don't have a lot of rail meat to balance the boat. In the past I have been in races where the winds started at 8 to 10 and ended more like 18 to 22. My boat sails better standing up so I would have liked to put a reef in but did not want to head up and lose time and position. So we just manhandled the rudder against the weather helm and rode the boat on its side. I have recently moved my main and reef lines to the cockpit. So it may be possible (I have not tried it) to pull the main down with the tack reef line, while it is still powered. Should I let the main out to de-power it and then reef? Most of the races I have been in are around 3 sides once or twice rather than point to point.

I am new to racing and mostly just daysail, so reefing early is what I do when out alone.

thanks,
Ron
 

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This is relevant to my interests!
Last week, I was leaving the local bay heading into LI Sound on a beam reach on a port tack when the wind picked up to the point that I was heeling beyond what I felt was comfortable. However, I did not want to risk running up on the lee shore to my starboard side should I run into any problems reefing. I was also single handed that day. So I simply let out the main and sailed far enough along, still practically exceeding hull speed, to a point where I felt safe enough to head into the wind and reef properly.

The downside to this tactic was that although I was not racing, I was passed by 2 other boats as my main flapped noisily in the wind.
 

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Why would you head up to reef? Luff the main and reef. Your foresail with drive the boat. A rudder hard over, fighting weather helm, is called a brake.
 

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Why would you head up to reef? Luff the main and reef. Your foresail with drive the boat. A rudder hard over, fighting weather helm, is called brake.
Exactly... leave the headsail trimmed for close hauled, hold the course, ease the sheet and vang and let the helmsman carry on while the reef is put in, then trim and off you go, more comfortable and likely faster to boot.

There's often too much 'macho' non reefing action just because it's 'racing'... usually at the expense of actual speed.
 

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There's often too much 'macho' non reefing action just because it's 'racing'... usually at the expense of actual speed.
honestly though, we rarely reef in a race. If conditions warrant, sure. Nothing macho, but so long as the bottom 1/2 - 1/3 of the leach is still working, most boats are faster with a full main. For us the crossover is somewhere around 25 kts sailing upwind depending on air temps. Of course racers are working much more actively at sail trim than when cruising, so reefing would happen earlier in cruising mode.
 

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Well, for one thing, when I am single handed, relying on the AP or wheel lock to hold her steady in a gust to wrestle with putting a reef in the main and standing on the foredeck is daunting!
It's not only daunting, it's unrealistic, if you don't have a reliable means of self steering while you're away from the helm. I've been on a sailboat when a full race crew was barely able to get the sails down when she was caught in a sudden microburst. If you had been singlehanding at the time, and had to leave the helm virtually uncontrolled while taking down the sails, I have no doubt that the boat would have gone down, as did a bigger boat in the same storm. Regardless of whether you're singlehanding or fully crewed, and whether you're racing or cruising, you can't allow yourself to get into a situation in which the conditions are beyond your ability to cope with them. When singlehanding, you have to anticipate worsening conditions, and prepare for them while you are still able to do so. It doesn't really matter whether you're racing or cruising.
 

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Well, for one thing, when I am single handed, relying on the AP or wheel lock to hold her steady in a gust to wrestle with putting a reef in the main and standing on the foredeck is daunting!
I have single-handedly reefed at the mast without it being that daunting; I was tethered. Reef when you think about. If you do not have an AP you can also reef while hove -to. But that is not a good racing strategy.
 

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I think another reason why reefing is not done racing as soon as cruising is the short legs of round the cans...
 

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Ron-
"So we just manhandled the rudder against the weather helm and rode the boat on its side." You do realize, that you were driving in second gear with the brakes on? So to speak?
If you can get or run polars for your boat, you might want to check out how much speed you will gain or lose versus the amount of time it takes to reef the main. How you can reef it or what your options are, depend on the rig.
But when the boat is heeled too far (often as little as 15 degrees) it goes SLOWER than a reefed boat standing up. And anytime you need to steer with more than two fingers, your rudder is being used as a speed brake. Again...not the fast way to go.

If you are expecting winds to strengthen, you may need to make sure the reefing lines are rigged before you start, so there's less rigging to do. If you're working with a local loft or have other talent available, ask them to look over rigging options. The folks at Harken (who coincidentally sell reefing gear!) will also be glad to go over it with you, if you tell them details and preferably post some pix.

If you do that here, you might also get more input on how to rig it. But the most important factor with reefing is the same whether you are racing or just putzing around: If you have to ask "Should we reef?" it's already too late. When you first start to *think* the question, that's the time to do it. And it is always easier and faster to do it a little earlier. (And safer with harnesses in use.)

And again, if you have access to polars, you may find that reefing makes your boat faster in as little as 15-18 knots of wind. Sailboat racing, like poker, is just a simple game. (G)
 

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Before reefing have you flattened the main? Harden the outhaul and the cunningham, and bend the mast with either the backstay (fractional rig) or baby stay (masthead rig).
 

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...If you had been singlehanding at the time, and had to leave the helm virtually uncontrolled while taking down the sails, I have no doubt that the boat would have gone down, as did a bigger boat in the same storm. Regardless of whether you're singlehanding or fully crewed, and whether you're racing or cruising, you can't allow yourself to get into a situation in which the conditions are beyond your ability to cope with them. When singlehanding, you have to anticipate worsening conditions, and prepare for them while you are still able to do so. It doesn't really matter whether you're racing or cruising.
Even when single handing, it's simple to but the boat into a heaved-to position and comfortably add the reef...have lunch while you are at it.
 

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As a racer, we reef down pretty quick on every boat I sail, though the way we do it may not appear to a cruiser to do so. Typical racing boats reef in a number of small steps versus cruisers that do it in more dramatic fashion as follows...

1) 155 full cut jib - full main
2) 150 flat cut jib - full main 12-15kn
3) 115 flat cut jib - full main 18-20kn
4) 115 flat cut jib - 1st reef 25-30kn
5) 85 flat cut jib - 1st reef 30+

I have never needed to go smaller than this, but it could happen. Compare this to a cruiser that will typically have two sails on board, a roller furling full cut 155, and a main. They just don't have the discrete steps that racers do, and so are forced to carry more sail longer. By the time most cruisers are thinking about reefing, we are probably two steps removed from out max sail area.

That being said, getting a cruising boat, or non-full crewed race boat rigged to quickly reef becomes more important, because you don't have the same amount of man power to throw at problems. So things like a batt car system that will allow the main to drop even when highly loaded, and a free running reefing system become much more important than on a race boat.

Yes it is expensive, but you know you have it set up right when in order to reef your main you have to take a wrap around a winch to keep it from dropping too fast.
 

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Even when single handing, it's simple to but the boat into a heaved-to position and comfortably add the reef...have lunch while you are at it.
With respect, sailingfool, you weren't there. I was. We were just to windward of the Bay Bridge when the microburst struck, and had no sea room to heave to and let her drift uncontrolled. My point was not to recount all the details of that incident, but to express my opinion that it is foolish in the extreme for a singlehander to think that, if one is caught in a 55 kt microburst, all one must do is to heave to and enjoy a casual lunch. It's irresponsible to lull a singlehander into believing that heaving to will, in all circumstances, save him from disaster. I stand by my advice that a singlehander should anticipate a worsening of conditions, and get ready for them while he is still able to do so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
All,
thanks for you comments and suggestions. Previously my reefing was done at the mast but I have recently added clutches at the cockpit, so it can be reefed from there (see the adding reefing lines in the cockpit thread in General Sailing for my post with pictures). I know the boat is slower healed over, but at the time I did not want to chance trying to reef the main while still powered. So that is why I asked. It sounds like I should let out the main sheet enough to be able to pull down the main to the first reef point,I will have to try that. I image it is easier on a close reach as you can just let the main out a bit. Probably a bit more difficult on a beam reach as the main has to be really let out. I am not sure what to do downwind, just center the main and pull it down some? I have tack reef lines lead back to clutches in the cockpit so I don't have to try and pull the main down by the sail and hook the reef rings to the horns at the boom anymore. I can now pull on lines attached to those rings and pull the sail down until the lower sail cars bottom out.

Thanks again, I have not tried this and was just asking to get this kind of info. I will have to try reefing without heading up next time I am out under gentler conditions and see how it all goes.

Ron
 

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All,

I am not sure what to do downwind, just center the main and pull it down some?
Thanks again, I have not tried this and was just asking to get this kind of info. I will have to try reefing without heading up next time I am out under gentler conditions and see how it all goes.

Ron
If you're going downwind, racing, you probably won't want to reef too often. If it's blowing hard enough to make you want to reef going downwind, you might try centering the boom, but doing that will slow the boat down and increase the apparent wind. This could lead to nasty gybes unless your crew can get those tack downhauls in really fast. You might want to try it in lighter air first, to see how it goes. In such a situation it might be better to wait to reef until you start back up a windward leg.
 

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... It sounds like I should let out the main sheet enough to be able to pull down the main to the first reef point,I will have to try that. I image it is easier on a close reach as you can just let the main out a bit. Probably a bit more difficult on a beam reach as the main has to be really let out. ..
Make it easier and quicker for yourself..fully luff the main, sheet all out...and take in the reef as quickly as possible, then trim and you are set. With some practice, you should be able to get the job done in a minute or so, even if you need to go to the mast.

With a partially trimmed main you'll have a struggle and take a lot longer.
 

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This all comes down to how your boat is rigged. I am a strong proponent of being able to reef on the fly, without changing course and from the cockpit if you are single- or short handed. To me reefing should be quick and easy and only require one person to leave the rail, and ideally not move thier weight and windage forward.

It should not be a complex process. In my case I start by releasing the mainsheet (which I can't do at the mast). I typically mark my halyard at the proper drop point for each reef with a whipping so I can feel it in the dark or a hurry. I drop the halyard to that mark. The downhaul for the reefed tack is set up 2:1 and both pulls down the reef tack, keeping the kringle at the gooseneck and acts like a cunningham which tensions the luff at the same time. Then I release the vang and bring in the clew which requires a bit of winching. Then I set the mainsheet and take the slack out of the vang. Its only once we are settled in and fully back to speed that I finish tensioning the vang and cleaning up the mess. The whole process should take less than a couple minutes start to finish.

Now then, in the discussion about 55 mile an hour downbursts, ideally you should see them coming, insert hatch slides, reef ahead of time and have the sheets ready to run ahead of time. But that luxury does not always exist in a downburst, so it may simply come down to flogging the main, which is hard on the sail, and rig, but may be the only way to avoid a knockdown sufficient to cause downflooding on many boats.

Jeff
 
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