Easy Reefing

Windage and drag are two of a racing sailboat’s worst enemies, especially around a sail’s leech. Many racers eschew in situ reefing lines until it’s absolutely necessary to reef. (Some cruisers also don’t use reefing lines, as they can chafe sailcloth.) The risk is that you can get caught out if you’re not careful. A smarter, faster way to reef without leaving reefing lines in
Author:
Publish date:

Windage and drag are two of a racing sailboat’s worst enemies, especially around a sail’s leech. Many racers eschew in situ reefing lines until it’s absolutely necessary to reef. (Some cruisers also don’t use reefing lines, as they can chafe sailcloth.) The risk is that you can get caught out if you’re not careful.

A smarter, faster way to reef without leaving reefing lines in place is to use messenger lines instead until it’s time to reef (see illustration), as this avoids chafe, windage, and drag. For each reef cringle on the leech, a thin-diameter messenger line—strong parachute cord (“p-chord”), available at rigging shops, works great—is led through the clew eye, up through the reef cringle, and back to join the other end. Ideally, the messenger line should be spliced together, but a double fisherman’s knot also does the trick.

You’ll want a “cut” splice in the messenger, forming a small loop (see illustration). The messenger lines are fitted at the beginning of the year and stay in place through the season. I recommend using cut splices that are 1 inch long for every 13 feet of boat length, as bigger boats require larger-diameter reefing lines. The aim is to have the loops small enough that the reefing line cannot accidentally drop out, but big enough to feed the line through more than once.

When it’s time to reef, the crew passes the end of the reefing line through the cut splice, wraps it around the P-cord two or three times (a bit of rigging tape is useful), and then pulls on the messenger so that the reefing line goes up through the reef cringle and back down to the boom, where it’s secured. Next, simply ease the halyard and reef as you normally would do.

This system works best if you leave your reefing lines permanently led through your boom. Simply tie a figure-8 knot at the end of the line and cinch up the slack so that the knot lies against the boom-end sheave until it’s needed.

Some people prefer to rig their messengers with two or three cut splices. This way, the end of the reefing line is passed through each cut splice (sewing-needle style), which makes it less likely that the line will accidentally come free.

Ian Nicolson has written 24 books on sailing and has another two in the pipeline.

Related

shutterstock_1158262783

A Catamaran Takes on the American Great Loop

After completing the European Great Loop on our 1987 40ft Catalac catamaran, Angel Louise, my wife, Sue, and I sailed home to the States and spent two years sailing up and down East coast between Maine and Florida, like migratory waterfowl. Eventually, though, we decided to ...read more

01-LEAD_Alex_Irwin

Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image Competition

The Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image competition once again captures the excitement that is sailing from around the world An impressive 109 photographers from 25 countries took part in last year’s Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image 2018 competition. And while Portuguese photographer Ricarado ...read more

judges2-1024x319-0219-600x

2019 Pittman Innovation Awards

For the past couple of decades, the digital side of sailing has become increasingly important, to the point where it’s now almost inconceivable going offshore, even aboard a daysailer, without at least a modicum of electronics onboard—a trend that has been very much in evidence ...read more

Nathan-Bates-San-Diego,-CA

SAIL 2018: Reader's Photographs

Are you out there sailing, cruising and living the sailing life? If so, we’d love to see it. Send your sailing photos to sailmail@sailmagazine.com And don’t forget to sign up for our free eNewsletter. Check back for updates! I took this shot from Cooper Island Beach Club as my ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Fall in line In the days before GPS, the best trick outside the book for finding a harbor in dense fog went like this: if it’s surrounded by rocks, forget it; if not, in you go, but never try to hit it ...read more

190115-Mark-Slats-Golden-Globe-Race2048x

Photo-Finish in the Golden Globe Race 2018

With less than 1,700 miles to go to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, second-place Mark Slats of the Netherlands has cut another 393 miles out of the lead held by French sailor Jean-Luc Van Den Heede in the Golden Globe 2018 race.  Jean-Luc aboard the Rustler 36 Matmut ...read more

06-Heineken-1-R2018_1March_©LaurensMorel_LMA5965_p

Post-Irma Heineken Regatta

Even more than a year and half later, the scars from Hurricane Irma are still all too visible on the island of St. Maarten. But if Irma couldn’t prevent the famed Heineken from taking place in the winter of 2017-18, you can bet it’s not going to put a crimp in either the racing ...read more