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:
Updated on

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

Pestilence

Sailor-Punk and the State of Cruising

Back when I was a young man, sailing back and forth across the North Atlantic in an old fiberglass sailboat, it seemed fairly obvious to me how all that was wrong in the world might be set right. Everyone should be issued a boat at birth! Or so I declared to any who would listen ...read more

promoOnTheHorizon600x

Cats On The Horizon

Dragonfly 32 Evolution Denmark’s Quorning Boats has been systematically upgrading its line of folding, performance-cruiser trimarans in recent years as part of a long-term effort to incorporate the latest developments in yacht design, with the latest to receive this treatment ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com The double range  Every skipper knows about ranging two objects in line to keep the boat on track in a cross-current. What’s less obvious is monitoring both sides of a gap such as a harbor entrance. ...read more

FamilyCruise

Bareboating on Puget Sound

Depending on where you are, Puget Sound can look no bigger than a mountainous version of the Intracoastal Waterway. That’s what I thought when I first laid eyes on it from the lighthouse at Mukilteo Park on a sunny day last July. Then I went to the top of the iconic Space Needle ...read more

Bali4point1

Boat Review: Bali 4.1

Coming fast on the heels of its predecessor, the Bali 4.0, the Bali 4.1 adds a number of improvements, many of them inspired by feedback from owners and charterers. She’s an evolution of a concept that has already proven popular and very many benefits from its builder’s ...read more

Headsail

Ask Sail: Silencing A Rattling Headsail

Q: Our Pearson 26 has a 110-percent jib that tends to rattle very noisily at the top hank. We only bought the old boat recently, but it must have been happening for a long time, since there’s a deep groove worn inside that bronze hank. The jib has an unusually large and wide ...read more

Alerion2048x

Alerion Yachts 33, the 90 Minute Get Away

Easy to sail, luxurious, and swift; the Alerion 33 is the solution to your busy life. The intuitive, simple rig design, easy set-up, and put-away mean there’s no need to wait for crew to enjoy a weekend, a day, or an hour out sailing. Her beauty and comfort are evident in the ...read more