Mainsail Reefing Protocol

Elroy Schwartz of New Orleans, Louisiana, asks: "When I was learning to sail I was taught when reefing a mainsail (with slab reefing, that is) to first tighten up the reef line securing the clew and then take full tension on the halyard to tighten the luff and tack. When I reef this way on my current boat, which I bought used a couple of years ago, the foot of the sail gets
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Elroy Schwartz of New Orleans, Louisiana, asks:

"When I was learning to sail I was taught when reefing a mainsail (with slab reefing, that is) to first tighten up the reef line securing the clew and then take full tension on the halyard to tighten the luff and tack. When I reef this way on my current boat, which I bought used a couple of years ago, the foot of the sail gets so tight I sometimes break the plastic luff slide nearest the tack. But when I do things the other way around (tighten the halyard and tack first, then the reef line for the clew) I never have this problem.

Why does this happen if both the clew and tack end up just as tight anyway? Also, does it really make any difference which line is tightened first?"

Win Fowler replies:

In my experience it is best to tension the luff of the reefed sail before tensioning the clew. The tensioned luff helps to support the slides (by way of the tension on the bolt rope or tape along the luff and, to a lesser extent, the sail fabric itself) and spreads the load evenly among slides. You may feel you are tensioning the lines equally whichever way you reef, but I’m sure you are pulling the clew out farther when you tension it first than you would if you tensioned the luff first.

In the days of cotton sails, and before winches were used to tension reef lines, it made sense to tie the clew down first (along with the reef nettles) before tensioning the halyard in order to get the foot reasonably supported before loading the sail. But modern sail fabrics and powerful winches have tipped the balance in the opposite direction.

Related

01-LEAD-Vento-Solare-action-(1mb)_Stephen-Cloutier

Ida Lewis Distance Race 2021

This year’s annual Ida Lewis Distance Race on Narragansett Bay will offer something for everyone. In addition to ORC and PHRF, there will be sections for doublehanded, youth and collegiate racing. Racers will also have a choice between the event’s traditional offshore distance ...read more

01-LEAD-Lag01-oon-620---Raiatea---French-Polynesia-(12)

Internships: Run Away to Sea

Not the office type? College isn’t an option, or your degree in philosophy isn’t panning out? If a job in the marine trades sounds like your dream career but you don’t know where to start, here are three places to both get some good training and a foot in the door. Dream Yacht ...read more

Screen Shot 2021-05-12 at 9.58.55 AM

Summer Sailstice Turns 21

Summer Sailstice’s will celebrate its 21st birthday this year. This annual worldwide celebration of sailing occurs on the weekend closest to the solstice, landing on June 19th this year. Over the past two decades, the event has grown to include nearly 5,000 boats and 19,000 ...read more

e60aa842-1c3c-41da-b0ba-dfd7678479e4

The New York Yacht Club Submits a Protocol Alteration with its America’s Cup Challenge

The New York Yacht Club (NYYC) has submitted a challenge for the 37th America’s Cup to the current Defender, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) in Auckland, New Zealand. The challenge was accompanied by a draft protocol for the regatta, which would see the Cup take ...read more

01-LEAD-CCA-Antarctica2-01

Cruising: Honoring Remarkable Ocean Voyages and Seamanship

The Cruising Club of America, an organization of about 1,300 offshore sailors, has been honoring remarkable ocean voyages and seamanship with an array of prestigious awards for nearly 100 years. The club’s highest honor, the Blue Water Medal, has recognized renowned and ...read more

2.4mR's racing at the 2018 Clagett Regatta-US Para Sailing Championships credit Clagett Regatta-Andes Visual

Host for 2021 U.S. Para Sailing Championships Announced

The 2021 U.S. Para Sailing Championships will be hosted by The Clagett Regatta at Sail Newport, in Newport, R.I. on August, 24-29, 2021, according to a joint announcement from the host and US Sailing. "We have had a very long working relationship with US Sailing and look forward ...read more

Reflections-photo-CMerwarth

Cruising: Reflections of an Old Salt

I am 90 years old, dwindling in mind and body and fear living too long. Twenty years have passed since I last weighed anchor. Still, when a Carolina blue sky is polka-dotted with billowing cumulus clouds and the wind blows fair, I sorely miss raising sail and setting forth. I ...read more

DSC_0145

Waterlines: Solo Sailing

In spite of the fact I came to the sport of sailing alone and untutored, in a boat I acquired on my own, I never really aspired to become a solo sailor. It just sort of happened. All these years later, I still never explicitly plan to sail anywhere alone. I’m always happy to ...read more