Reefing rules

Henry Buckminster, of Seattle, Washington, asks: "My 35-foot 7⁄8 rig sloop has a 135 percent roller-furling jib, and once the wind starts blowing over about 12–14 knots I want to take a reef. But I’m not sure whether I should reef the mainsail or the headsail first. Are there any reefing rules when going to windward, and does the protocol stay the same when I am running off
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Henry Buckminster, of Seattle, Washington, asks:

"My 35-foot 7⁄8 rig sloop has a 135 percent roller-furling jib, and once the wind starts blowing over about 12–14 knots I want to take a reef. But I’m not sure whether I should reef the mainsail or the headsail first. Are there any reefing rules when going to windward, and does the protocol stay the same when I am running off on a close reach or a run?"

Win Fowler replies:

The answer really depends on the type of boat and the condition of your sails, but you should always have a sail combination that will keep the boat upright, the sails reasonably flat and the helm well balanced. That said, with most fractionally-rigged boats it’s best to reef the main first. Doing so will reduce the mainsail area by about 25 percent, will flatten the sail, and will move the sailplan’s center of effort forward; the combination should reduce weather helm and help you steer more easily through the building chop.

However, if you have a low-stretch headsail that is relatively flat and you aren’t experiencing weather helm, it might be quicker, and easier, to roll in a few turns of the headsail. Most headsails get fuller when they are rolled up—not a good feature when going upwind in a breeze—but my experience is that you can roll up to about 1⁄3 of the headsail before it becomes so full that it’s no longer effective for windward work.

Remember to move the jib lead forward when you reef the headsail, to keep the top of the sail from twisting off too much. Finally, when sailing off the wind you still want to keep the boat upright and the helm balanced. On a beam reach, the best move might be to reef the headsail first because an overlapping jib tends to become much fuller once the sheet is eased; mainsails don’t have that problem. But if you are on a broad reach, or even running, reducing mainsail area first will help keep the bow down, and that will reduce the tendency to broach. The best way to learn what works best on your boat is to try various combinations and see the results for yourself.

Related

09-Map-Route-VG2020

Vendee Globe Village Closing, Race Still On

Following the latest national lockdown measures announced by French President Emmanuel Macron as part of the fight against Covid-19, the 2020-21 Vendée Globe Race Village will be closed to the public beginning Friday, October 30th. The Vendée Globe will still take place as ...read more

Register-2048

Register of Circumnavigators Launched

Just in time for a fresh class of Vendée Globe sailors to attempt their circumnavigations, The International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) has taken on the responsibility of maintaining an official register of sailors who have completed solo circumnavigations by the Three ...read more

FPO skys0tlm8jlrpynehcpe_NEW

A Half-century of Cruising with SAIL

I cannot say I have been reading SAIL magazine since the very beginning, but I come pretty darned close. Sometime around 1974, when I was in high school, I began buying it every month at our local newsstand and saving every issue until I had great stacks of them, as carefully ...read more

B&G-Halo20+-side-facing

Gear: B&G HALO radar

B&G’s HALO series of radars now includes the HALO20+ and the HALO20, a pair of compact radomes expressly designed for use aboard smaller sailboats. The units measure 20in in diameter and weigh a mere 11lb. The HALO20+, in particular, delivers a full 360-degree sweep every ...read more

PICTON CASTLE under sail with stunsls WV7 compressed

Picton Castle Seeks Crew

The Picton Castle is set to begin its eighth circumnavigation this spring under the command of Captain Daniel Moreland. A professional crew of 12 will guide up to 40 trainees at a time as they learn about all aspects of sailing the bark, from steering to lookout, ...read more

DSC_0013

Ask Sail: Keel Attachments

Q: I have an early ‘70s Catalina 27. The keel bolts look pretty good. My question is, why not glass over the keel to bond to the hull rather than changing the bolts if, or when the bolts are too far gone? I haven’t seen anything on this, so could you discuss? Full-keels are ...read more

04-GOPR0511

Book Review: Sailing Into Oblivion

Sailing Into Oblivion by Jerome Rand $15.99, available through Amazon As refreshing and inspiring as Jerome Rand’s 2017-18 solo-circumnavigation may have been, his account of the voyage in the book Sailing Into Oblivion: The Solo Non-Stop Voyage of the Mighty Sparrow may be even ...read more

01-1970-Dec

50 Years of SAIL

Back in early 1970, Bernie Goldhirsh and the recently founded “Institute for the Advancement of Sailing,” publisher of an annual sailboat and gear guide, launched something called SAIL. A half-century later, a look back at the magazine’s first few years provides a glimpse into a ...read more