Ask SAIL: Will a Second Reef Help?

Reefing the main aboard this Precision 23 will allow it to perform even better in brisk conditions


Q: Many times while sailing my Precision 23 on our local lake I find myself reefing my main and roller-reefing the jib to almost nothing to keep the boat from excessive heeling when the wind is 20 knots. However, when I do this I don’t get the performance I want. When I let out more jib, it seems I get better balance between the two sails, and I go faster, but I have to fight the gusts way too much. Would it be better to have a second set of reef points installed in my mainsail so I can depower that sail some more? Could I then sail with the jib out without having to fight off the gusts? If so, how far up the sail should the sail loft install the new reef points?

Win Fowler Replies

A: Yes, I expect a second set of reef points would help your situation. Not knowing how deep your existing reef is, my best advice is to make the second reef twice as deep as the first. Generally, when we build a sail with a single reef, we put that reef in a position to remove approximately 1/3 of the sail area (about 20 percent of the luff length). Doubling that would leave a very small bit of main.
It is also important to make sure that the sail is flattened as much as possible when reefed. That means tensioning the leech end of the reef (after tensioning the luff) so that the sail is basically completely straight between the luff and leech reef cringles. If you can achieve this, and the sail is still quite deep aloft, you might consider recutting the sail rather than adding a reef.


Win Fowler has built sails for America’s Cup boats, coastal cruisers and one-design racers



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