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Old 15-03-2014, 21:58   #1
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Downwind Reefing & Gybing

Downwind Reefing & gybing

After 1200 nm downwind I am rethinking short handed sail handling on my 37' sloop as I head further South.

GYBING
Thinking of installing dual preventer tackles port and starboard with lines back to cockpit so the helm can gybe the main unassisted.

The helmsman can release the preventer on one side, control the gybe, and secure the preventer on the other side, without having to leave the helm.

REEFING
I would also like to reef downwind from the cockpit. Right now I have a 2 reef point mainsail with reefing lines at the clews brought aft within reach of the helmsman on the cabin top. But you must go forward to attach the tack cringles to the gooseneck hooks while lowering the halyard and coaxing the main down with your fingers. This is hard as the boat under autopilot can yaw out of control downwind in quartering seas while working at the mast. And the loaded up main is hard to pull down.

I am thinking I will remove my first reef point line in favor of a second reef point only, controlled with 2 reefing lines. One passing through the tack cringle and one through the clew cringle.

With just these two reefing control lines and the main halyard all lead aft to a triple clutch and cabin top winch within reach of the helm, I should be able to put in that 2nd reef without going forward. I can tidy up the mainsail belly later after the sail reduction is in, and things are more stable.

My rationale for having only a second reef goes like this:

1) When its time to reef the main downwind, going directly to the second reef won't slow the boat too much in building conditions since I can increase sail area easily by adjusting the 140% roller furler genoa I keep on the headstay.

2) Not having to deal with the spaghetti of an extra pair of reef lines in the cockpit, clutches, and winch, makes life a lot simpler.

Any critiques of this strategy would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 15-03-2014, 22:28   #2
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

Have double line reefing lead to the cockpit with three reef points, The clew lines and outhaul go to the port side with a winch lead through stand up blocks at the mast, a deck organizer and Garhauer triple rope clutch. The tack lines and halyard to stbd with a winch through a pad eye and blocks at the mast base and then through deck organizer, triple Schaeffer rope clutch for the tack lines and Spinlock XAS clutch for the halyard. Could save a winch by reversing the halyard with the outhaul. The tails of the lines go into cloth bags screwed to the cabin face and are out of the way and easily stowed.

Reefing is super easy under the protection of the dodger. Still trying to break a minute for a reef but getting close. Reefing in sequence has made messing with the bunt of the sail a non issue.

You won't always be sailing downwind. Would be nice if you tie in that 1st reef easily without going forward.
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Old 15-03-2014, 22:38   #3
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

Journeyman: on your former proposal:

Provided the boom is not long in proportion to beam, and not skinny (ideally, it would be sleeved at the vang attachment), I think 2:1 tackles attached at the aft chainplates, with tails led aft to lazy winches, (essentially what you propose) is the best option of all.

Blocks (at least, the ones on the boom) will need to be 100mm plain, 'industrial' strength items (not ball bearing).

Ideally (I think) you would fit custom tangs with decent sized baseplates, and doublers inside, to the boom -- fairly high on either side, at the location where the boom fully squared outboard passes over the gunwhale.

(Rather than relying on the vang tang under the boom)


Your latter proposal may work for you. Reefing downwind can be hard work, but I fully support you in exploring until you find a way to make it doable for you, especially if sailing solo.

The main difficulty, of course, is the sail and battens being pressed hard against the rigging and mast by the wind.

On some boats it is necessary to provide extra leech eyelets, as if for #3, #4 and even #5 reefs, with light lines taken down each side of the leech, held by velcro patches at intervals. One end of each line is secured to the clew.

When a downwind reefing operation proves impossible without their help, the other side of each line is pulled out from the velcro grips (which must open aft) and passed through a snatchblock which is then allowed to run up the backstay as these "assist" lines are hauled tight, to help pull the upper portion of the sail off the rig. They're a bit like the multiple sheets used on a junk rig.

As for leading the main reefing lines to the cockpit: The added friction from the lines taken aft is unfortunate, but I would certainly fit downhauls lines to the reefing eye(s) on the luff, as you propose.

The main problem I see with your proposal (of skipping reef #1 and going direct to #2) is that the slugs or slides BELOW the second reef luff cringle may jam and prevent the reef being pulled down, and it's things like this, which can only be sorted at the mast, which make me personally averse to reefing from the cockpit.

However with some thought, it is usually possible to set the lines and blocks and cleats up so that (if need be) you can "take over control" of those lines from the mast position.

The gold standard for doing this is to mount remotely actuated clutches at the halyard exits, and for the reefing lines, as high as possible on the mast.

The remote actuation can be done by pulling a control line at the cockpit, OR at the mast.

The very best clutches for this duty are made by Cousin Trestec, called "Constrictor" Textile Clutches: these are relatively new and untested (and not cheap) but I suspect they have a great future. They are ultra simple and reliable, and require only one control line, with no spring return needed.

They work on the age-old principle known as the "Chinese finger bandage"

This sort of layout means you can easily do the job from either location, provided there is a spare winch and judiciously located strong-points to which you can clip a few snatch blocks as needed.

(But it is, as I say, the 'gold standard')

I have other, more "budget" methods, if you're interested, and some are quite simple.
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Old 16-03-2014, 02:42   #4
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

I was just wondering why you would want to reef your main down wind the main must jam against your spreaders and lowers,I have always rounded up until the main is luffing and then reefed it.Have also found sailing downwind when its windy enough I take the main down altogether and use the headsail only, sheet it through a block on the end of the boom with a preventer on and if it gybes not much happens you just steer it back no slamming boom.Have sailed 600 miles on one run with sail set this way.
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Old 16-03-2014, 02:51   #5
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

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Originally Posted by builder dan View Post
I was just wondering why you would want to reef your main down wind the main must jam against your spreaders and lowers,I have always rounded up until the main is luffing and then reefed it....
This can be hard to manage when it's really windy, if you're solo and either unable or unwilling to rely on the engine.

There are times when you cannot round up safely (especially in a smaller boat), and even if you can, holding it there long enough to get the main down on your own can be nigh-impossible (especially in a bigger boat).
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Old 16-03-2014, 03:38   #6
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

I would have liked to transport you into what a sea looks and feels like when its been blowing 40+ knots for a couple of days and see if you can imagine turning upwind to reef a sail. Simply put unless you're racing you should be reefing early. I have had poor luck with reefing from the cockpit when running and much prefer to go to the mast to pull down the luff. I also worry about damage caused when using winches for pulling a sail down, especially if a slug is caught. Often you have to raise it a little and pull down again before you get it down properly.
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Old 16-03-2014, 13:55   #7
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

Roverhi:
Are you saying 3 clew lines and 3 tack lines lead aft to triple clutches, along with the out haul and halyard in separate dedicated clutches?

Why specifically Garhauer clutches for the clews, Schaeffer for the tacks, and the XAS for the halyard? I have Lewmar D2 triples in place now fronting port & starboard cabin top winches.

I don't follow you on how you "save a winch by reversing the outhaul and halyard". Details?

I hadn't thought about running the outhaul aft as well. I guess it allows you to play how flat you want the main when its full without having to go forward. But once the reef is in it has no role? If conditions are such that the main is full and un reefed, I don't mind going forward to adjust the outhaul.

Sounds like 3 reefs are working well for you. But 3 reefs seems pretty busy for my boat. I am thinking with just a single reef (2nd reef only) that I would drop the main completely as the next reef, continuing along with just the headsail, or storm staysail if needed.

Andrew Troup:

I have a slotted toe rail I am planning to attach the lower preventer tackle to.

I assume you want the back plated boom attachment tangs high up on the boom to reduce twist on the boom?

Your caution about jamming up the lower slugs under the 2nd reef point gets my attention. I guess pulling down the whole 2nd reef at once increases chances they may bind. I do have a Tides Marine Track and pretty slippery slides on the main .... but I need to test this under real conditions.

Jamming the sail & battens against the shrouds due to wind pressure is a concern. I am hoping the characteristics of my Valiant Esprit 37 will mitigate this. It has a high aspect main that makes for a short 12' boom length. I don't have full battens, and the slides are slippery in the Tides Marine Track. And if you bring the main in towards centerline first, perhaps I can further reduce sail-to-shroud friction?

I do have jammers on the mast halyard exits including the main. So I could control the mainsail drop from the mast, but no means of working the tack jammers on the cabin top without hustling fore and aft between mast & cabin top. So that's an issue indeed if things jam up.

Builder Dan
I will try poling out the genoa with preventer, snatch block, and boom. I guess it makes the sail flatter and more stable. And still allows you to reef the headsail.

Robert Sailor
I agree, "reef early, reef deep" will be my mantra. And as you and Andrew suggest, be prepared to sort things out at the mast if things jam.

Even though I have a brand new latest generation Raymarine Evolution autopilot with a strong linear Type 2 below decks ram it can't handle the yawing behavior in a quartering sea, which means a rodeo ride while working at the mast for any length of time.

ALL
Thanks for discussing this with me, lots of quality advice here.
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Old 16-03-2014, 14:14   #8
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

I got a deal Anderson 12 self tailing winches so ran the halyard to traditional stbd side. That required an additional winch. Could have run the halyard to the port side with the clew reefing lines and gotten by with only one winch. The tack lines don't need a winch as it's always been easy to pull down the tack with the reefing lines. The clutches, etc. are just what I used. Garhauer stuff is reasonably priced, other stuff I got on Ebay.

Boat has a big main, 15' along the foot. Wanted to be able to use that sail in varying conditions. Reef panels are 5' for the first two and 6' for the third. Essentially the third reef is a storm trisail. Never used it for that but it's made a great steadying powering in light winds and rough seas.

PM me with your email and can send you some photos of my set up. Haven't figured out how to post pictures to this site.
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Old 16-03-2014, 17:46   #9
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

G'Day Journeyman,

Some good advice above!

Must be good, because much of it is what we do...

But I thought to add something re attaching the vang/preventers to the boom:

Our boom has a spring loaded mechanical vang, and there is a doubler at that point. Our v/p attachment is via a webbing strop around the boom in way of the doubler. I make the strops from nylon 2 inch "seat belt webbing", available in most chandleries. Three wraps around, then hand stitched and with a heavy D-ring to hang the blocks from. This method avoids the weakening ensuing from a bale or tangs which require holes being drilled in the boom (stress risers).

Actually, all our attachments to the boom (outhaul "car", sheet blocks etc) are done with webbing. We replace it every few years, and have never had a failure.

And FWIW, we have had a set of v/p's rigged on the last three boats we've owned and cruised in. I view them as a great safety device and enjoy their useage. They have prevented any number of accidental gybes over the years. We did suffer a broken boom a couple of years ago when a violent gust coupled with a 90+ degree wind shift caught us aback with a full main. Later inspection showed that there had been a pre-existing crack under the external doubler where we could not see it... a failure waiting to happen! From its location, I believe that it was caused by over exuberant tightening of the mainsheet against the rigid vang when securing the boom at anchor... not from use of the v/ps.

We'll be interested in how you finally set your boat up.

Cheers,'

Jim
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Old 16-03-2014, 18:55   #10
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

Journeyman, you're a delight to raise ideas with.

Slotted toe rail: Just make sure there are plenty of fasteners in the region in question. I have posted a photo on this forum of a reasonably tidy load-sharing bridle I'll try to dig out, but basically it used webbing (through several slots) and D rings. If you can cow-hitch the webbing to the rail, it reduces chafe massively.

It pays to de-burr the punched apertures through the toerail extrusion, too. Ideally before anodising, of course, but that's another counsel of perfection.

Jim's idea of webbing to relieve point loads (and fastener holes) on the boom is a great idea from a stress angle. It does eventually wear through the finish, which is something to watch, and it's not quite as stable.

The worst head injury I ever got from a boom was one which was prevented/triangulated so it could not swing, but not in such a way it could not twist about its own long axis; the sail filled just as a lurch of the boat tipped my head towards the boom, and the vicious flick of the oval section (even though it was contained within a circle sharing the same 'major diameter') made me see stars bit time, and could have injured my skull if it had not been a smooth part of the boom, free of blocks or fittings. That's why I prefer purpose-fitted tangs, as high as possible, to get the windward restraint vector passing close to a notional straight line joining the clew to the pivot axle.

Regarding your question "if you bring the main (boom) in towards centerline first, perhaps I can further reduce sail-to-shroud friction?"

Certainly this helps, as the lower part of the remaining sail area is held aft. Another ad-hoc method, available unless the seas are too big to risk going beam on to, is to take 'scallops' up onto a beam reach, steering with your bum if lucky enough to have a tiller ... and hauling the sail up in rushes, during the momentary 'high points' of your angle to the wind.

I should qualify my earlier post by saying I've only personally known a couple of people who've had to use the 'extra reefing eye' dodge in dead earnest, and one case I posted details of recently was a highly unusual situation, a yacht whose sail-handling workload was on occasions a ball-buster even with a full complement of 10 on watch (which was the routine number, having 22 crew)

Reading between the lines, I suspect Francis Chichester came up with this method when sailing GM4 around the world alone, in the mid 1960s. But he may have only fully implemented it on GM5, by which time he was pretty much a spent force.
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Old 16-03-2014, 19:05   #11
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
.... We did suffer a broken boom a couple of years ago when a violent gust coupled with a 90+ degree wind shift caught us aback with a full main. Later inspection showed that there had been a pre-existing crack under the external doubler where we could not see it... a failure waiting to happen! From its location, I believe that it was caused by over exuberant tightening of the mainsheet against the rigid vang when securing the boom at anchor... not from use of the v/ps.

...
Jim, you've put your finger one of several things vang preventers sometimes get unfairly blamed for.

I recall once waking in the middle of the night and performing some quick mental arithmetic about the 6:1 mainsheet on the boat I was sailing on, situated 2/3 of the way aft along the boom, with the tail taken to a 40 power-ratio winch.

It was quickly obvious that even a desultory tweak on the winch could drive the rigid vang right through the lower chord of the boom.

I grabbed a torch and eased myself out of a handy hatch (the offending piece of kit was directly overhead) to discover a "smile" crack already well established in the boom, at the aft end of the tang, exactly where it had been in my dream!

We rerigged the mainsheet as a 2:1, and nursed that boom back to the home port.

I had been intending to rig a boombrake to that same tang (whereas I now prefer vang preventers, like you) but at that time the boat, which I had just joined, was relatively unused and had no such niceties. Not even a boom-end preventer ...

If I HAD rigged a boom brake, it would surely have been blamed when the boom broke. (Pun unintended)
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Old 16-03-2014, 19:16   #12
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

Photo as promised



This was a short-term expedient, though:

for the full story (including why I don't recommend ball-bearing blocks at the boom end of a vang-preventer)
refer the original post:
Toe Rail Tough Enough For Preventer?

and it's probably worth reading to the end of the thread because evidently my explanation was garbled.
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Old 16-03-2014, 19:32   #13
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

Im curious about this. Occasionally I have pulled out a reef downwind and also wanted to reef downwind on our cat, but really only done it with very light apparent wind.
What is the recommended method to reef a cat downwind in around 15K apparent.
Alloy mast slides with bearings, lazy jacks back to helm..
I would think center the boom and ease the halyard while trimming the lazy lines..raise the boom with the topping lift to ease some pressure first? Biggest concern would be pressure on the slides as they are pretty soft alloy..Would be nice to hear anyone step by step guide and how effective it is.
cheers
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Old 16-03-2014, 19:39   #14
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

Great advice and nice set ups. I single hand quite a bit and have faced similar dilemmas. One thing I've done is to put a Strong Track on the mast. I've found that using conventional slugs, etc had too much friction when reefing down wind. My concern has always been the pressure on the sail and ability to lower / reef it. I've even thought of a down haul but so far the new track has been flawless. Btw, all my lines are led to the cockpit.
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Old 17-03-2014, 01:06   #15
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Re: Downwind Reefing & gybing

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Originally Posted by Andrew Troup View Post
This can be hard to manage when it's really windy, if you're solo and either unable or unwilling to rely on the engine.

There are times when you cannot round up safely (especially in a smaller boat), and even if you can, holding it there long enough to get the main down on your own can be nigh-impossible (especially in a bigger boat).
Ive managed it ok for the last 20000miles
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