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1979 C&C 30 Mk I - 2QM15
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172 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've put on my flame retardant suit because this is probably a really dumb question but here goes...

I understand "why" you reef (to reduce sail area thus de-powering the boat when the wind picks up to the point of overpowering you and your boat). And also "how" you reef, (I've done it many times).

But say you're single handing the boat and the breeze picks up... Why would you take the time to point into the wind, lock the wheel, lower the main, put your reef hooks in place, raise the main, re-tighten the main, then go back to the wheel, unlock it and resume sailing.

When presumably you could just let the main out to dump a little more air if you're heading upwind, or bring it in to catch less air if you're going down wind. And just avoid the entire evolution of reefing altogether?

(Assume we're talking about coastal or bay day sailing in a medium duty racer/cruiser type vessel when a typical summer storm pops up... Not a sustained transatlantic trip from Nantucket to the Isle of Wight in the middle of the perfect storm...)
 

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quote
When presumably you could just let the main out to dump a little more air if you're heading upwind, or bring it in to catch less air if you're going down wind. And just avoid the entire evolution of reefing altogether?

(Assume we're talking about coastal or bay day sailing in a medium duty racer/cruiser type vessel when a typical summer storm pops up... Not a sustained transatlantic trip from Nantucket to the Isle of Wight in the middle of the perfect storm...)[/QUOTE]

Because if weather pops up and you ease the main sheet far enough to dump that much air you'll just let the main beat itself to death. If you reef, you reduce sail area by lowering the main. This reduces leverage on the mast (reduces heel) two ways if you think about it. Reduces sail area and allows air to spill over the top of the main at a lower point. This lets you keep better control of the boat especially to windward.
 

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I'll take some of the flames for you. As a pretty inexperienced sailor I wondered the same thing until I was out a few weeks ago with the wind gusting to 42 mph (about 37 knots). I had full sail up when that hit and was spilling all I could (on a beam reach with the main virtually wide open, just sheeted in enough to keep from luffing). The whole boat was shuddering and I could only hope the main didn't get blown out. And this was after us blowing a jib a few weeks earlier!

I like being out in big wind, but the guys around here have taught me that you have to be smart about it. On that day, I wasn't being smart.

Now, I'm all for reefer madness.

PS - Welcome to SN, dude.
 

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Another way of looking at it is that you have to have the main sheeted in enough so that there that you create an airfoil instead of a flag. I you have a flag not only will the flag shred but you will not be going anywhere and not have any steerage etc.

Try it someday we all have.
 

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Aeolus II
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It is a matter of control.

By reefing, you give yourself better control over the boat. If you are sailing along in 15 knots of wind and it picks up to 20 kits, sure you could spill or dump wind and sail on and remain safe. But you would not be sailing at anywhere near full potential. Assuming you decided to spill wind and sailed on and then the wind creeps up to 30kts... now what? Spill more? At some point not too far away you will have to remove all sail if the wind keeps going up. By reefing you push that danger point further away and you will find the boat easier to control. Reefing is like throttling back as you enter your slip, sure you could race the engine at full throttle and then cut it at the exact right moment and make your slip easily OR you could do as most sailors do, throttle down and enter the slip at slow speeds/
 

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Super Fuzzy Moderator
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A few weeks back we out on Sydney Harbour with a bit of a breeze piping up.

We were only half an hour or so from being in absolutely sheltered water so we just played the main and put up with the bang crash and irritable handling.

If we were likely to be out there any longer a reef would have made the old girl behave herself in the puffs and we would have probably moved along at a higher speed, or at least on a straighter course. There is simply no point in pushing a boat beyond a certain point where the hull is not designed to go.

oh yes.....and a nicely reefed sail doesn't scare the women and horses....
 

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Siren 17
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Some other issue. You create lee helm, your boat keeps trying to fall off because the jib is sheeted in. This usually requires constant correction in the helm with the chance to over correct and put your self in a dangerous situation. Since if you over correct a little to much at the same time a gust comes along, you can quickly find out that your boat can flip or just how much the weather stay can withstand.

Two things i would usually do to correct this. If your sailing at a time that storms are likly to hit, like every afternoon around central FL, then throw the reef in before you go out so your ready later. if you get out and it doesn't look like a strom is likly then shake the reef. It's a lot faster then the reverse.

Second, if it's getting just a little hairy but your heading for sheltered water or not planning to stay out much longer then drop the jib and live with the weather helm. It's a lot safer since it tries to head you up but you've dropped the total amount of canvas.

Of course the real solution is to rig up a fast reefing system if you like to wait till the last minute to reef.
 

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1979 C&C 30 Mk I - 2QM15
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ok, all replies make perfect sense, especially with regard to saving the sail and your wallet from damage.

Here's one more related question... All boats I've personally sailed use a single reefing point that allows you to bring the main down about a foot or so.

Is it ever worth the added expense to have additional cringles sewn into your main to provide multiple reef points to compensate at say 20knots, 30knots, 40+knots ? Or when the boat starts getting too squirrely even after reefing, do most people just drop the main altogether and crank up the diesel?
 

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the pointy end is the bow
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We have two sets of reef points on our main. We were out in gusts over 30 last weekend and I wished I had used the second set of reefing points.

At some point a third of forth reef may not hold up well to a really strong wind because the material just isn't heavy/strong enough.
 

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Super Fuzzy Moderator
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We have three sets of reefs points although I don't keep the third permanently rigged.

I'd have thought that one set was inadequate.

Offshore we would generally go directly to second reef, particularly if it is coming into the evening and we would expect to hold the reef in overnight.

One other thing...the winch for our reefing lines is on the boom. Stupid place for it me if you ask me. Really dumb.

Better to run the lines down to the deck. Nice stable platform on which to work.
 

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Siren 17
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Depending on what size boat you have and what you use it for the answer is maybe. A second set higher up is useful. A set in your jib if it's not roller reefing is useful as well. Remember, with a standard marconi or bremuda cut sail, your not just shorting the sail, it's a triangle so whats up top is narrower as well. So taking in the bottom 10% is more like taking in 20% overall, so by the time you've added a second reef your talking about 50% of the sail. I've seen three reefs but not often. More for racing boats or long distance cruisers. But if the boat is smaller then about 24 foot and if it's that nasty out, don't go out. If your out when it gets that nasty then douse them all and go to motor.

Reefing usualy goes as such. Reef the main at first reef. Then if you need more reef the jib to first, then if you need more reef the main to second, then douse the jib and sail on the double reefed main. then douse the main and hoist a storm sail. A small sail that goes where your main goes and gives you just enough power for steerage since at that point your really just trying to make it through the storm with out damage.

By the time your sailing on a double reefed main with no jib, it's getting pretty bad. Thats why you wouldn't do it in a small boat unless your out trying to prove how dumb you are. On really windy days we used to go out with a single reef only, on my friends 18' siren, no jib. It would get funny passing bigger boats who were still trying to fly it all. There we are, just 2/3 of the main, passing 22' catalinas. Most people don't reef enough. If your heeling really far, your spilling more air then your catching. We used to leave the reef in for three or four weekends in a row.
 
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Seattle Sailor
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Advantages to Reefing

On our boat we reef relatively early, even when racing, though more for speed and efficiency than for control. I have found that with our sailplan, I can point higher and still maintain hullspeed with the first reef in at about 15-18 knots. This allows less heel, and significantly less weather helm. Sure, I can sail without a reef to 22 knots or so, but I am fighting the helm and constantly dumping the main, whereas I can really point smoothly with a reef in.

To address the other part of the initial question: I don't usualy reef going downwind nearly as early. For our boat, the only reason to reef going downwind is to make it easier to turn upwind. If we have to reef to depower the main going downwind, I probably shouldn't be out because it must be blowing like crazy. Having said that, if we are racing, I usually don't shake the reef out on a downwind leg unless it is a really long leg.

The need to reef, or even the point at which to reef varies greatly. Although nearly identical size, weight, and sailplan, when I am racing on a friends S2 10.3, I have never see a reef in, even with winds up to 25-30 knots. His boat just seems to like a lot of main, even when we have to use the #4 headsail. Each boat is a little different, and it is kind of fun to see how the boats respond to size of the main. Try it some windy afternoon.
 

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Reef early and often. Sure it can be a pain singlehanded but it is a MUCH bigger pain to try and get the sail down when you go from 15 kts to 40 with the sea, flapping of the sails, unpredictable boat movements, etc.

Anticipation, anticipation, anticipation....

Besides the challenge of getting a sail down when it is a bit late to do so, the material takes a beating as well. Sails, cordage, mast, stays, etc, etc... Just think about the force on the mast it takes to heel the boat over and you'll get the idea.

Most of my recent sailing has been in 25-40 kt wind on 2-3 reefs and a reefed staysail forward. Last time out we had to drop everything for about an hour (not a piece of sail out there) as we topped 50 kts sustained and we were still making nearly 5 kts with about a 18° leeway with the wind on the beam. Didn't even bother with the storm sail as we didn't need to come back into the wind to get home for the day.

If we had waited or tried to just let out the main traveller we would have been in a heap of trouble.

As for not bothering when going downwind, well this all depends on how well the crew can manage the boat. It's OK to maintain more sail downwind as long as the boat doesn't stall in a wave and slow to a point where the wind overpowers the inertia of the boat - when this happens it can get messy as well - especially under Spinnaker.

If you think you have too much sail out there, you do. If you think you may be cutting it short to reef, then you're already too late.
 

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Super Fuzzy Moderator
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You are trying to make us all hate you aren't you? ;) I would love to be able to say that with regularity.
It's a hard life but someone has to do it .....:p

Hey...it'll be winter down here soon enough....temperature down round 50-60 degrees...brrrr.......we suffer too you know,,,,,;)
 

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STARBOARD!!
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Sailing with slightly spilled sails is called a "fisherman's reef". While it is not exactly a reefed sail it is a de-powered sail. The problem is that when you spill a sail while tacking you mainly increase your angle to the wind (fall to a broad reach). The boat picks up a bit of speed but you lose a huge amount of VMG to your destination. So if you are sailing upwind to make a destination or racing mark it does make more sense to tuck a reef in and point higher. If you are daysailing and are not so concerned with making a destination and are short-handed you can get away with spilling the main and jib a bit; but if you start flogging or are getting increasingly overpowered you should head up or heave-to and get the main reefed (or reef the headsail if you have a roller reefing headsail).

In regards to square-footage; for reducing the mainsail, it was mentioned earlier that putting the reef(s) in reduces sail area to a greater extent due to the larger foot. While this may be true; it depends on the aspect ratio of the sail, and the overall luff length. Luff length is a larger factor in sail size than overall area, since the airfoil force is generated nearest the luff. In addition; if wind speed doubles (say going from 15kts to 30kts) the force on the sail is 4x higher, but your luff length when reefed to the 2'nd reef might only be 25% less (with sail area reduced ~40%). You will have more force on the sail at the 2'nd reef in 30kt wind than a full sail at 15kts. So it might be more important to spill the reefed sail a bit in 30kts with gusts to 35 than a full sail in 15kts with gusts to 20.
 

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Telstar 28
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One reason not touched on yet is that on some boats, multihulls especially, not reefing is just plain stupid... Having too much sail area up in heavy winds makes it far more likely that you'll either capsize the boat or pitchpole it by going too fast. While the latter isn't a concern for monohulls so much, it is a serious concern on multihulls.

Having too much sail area up means that you're going to have a lot more trouble trying to control the sails, and that the range of control you do have will be far less than if the sails were properly reefed. Also, in many cases, most monohull boats will sail faster and better when properly reefed than they will when overpowered with too much sail up.

Reefing not only reduces sail area, it lowers the center of effort, giving the boat more leverage against the wind and causing it too heel less. It also moves the center of effort forward, making the helm better balanced on most boats.

The general rule for reefing is if you're thinking about it, you should probably already have done it. Multihulls reef for the gusts and monohulls reef for the average wind speeds. This is because multihulls can't heel to bleed off the extra force generated by the gusts as a monohull can.
 
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