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Old 22-06-2011, 05:27   #46
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

Got to agree with just about everyone else, the instructor is talking arrant bulltish. Probably a pet theory he developed himself. The sail exerts greatest effort at it's point of maximum area, as you reef a mainsail, this point becomes lower on the mast, closer to the pivot point, which is the strongest part of the mast.
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Old 22-06-2011, 09:30   #47
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

As I'm thinking about this more I realized that if loading the middle (unstayed portion) of a mast was such a big problem all of our booms would have to be attached to the base of the mast, not a couple feet up from the deck. Surely the loads transmitted through the end of the boom to the mast are many many times what the head of the sail produces.
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Old 22-06-2011, 09:36   #48
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

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Originally Posted by hoppy View Post
He was not advocating a complete roll in of the headsail or even furling it in to the size of a storm jib before dropping the main. His suggestion was to drop the main fully at the point you may normally reef the main for the first time.
And I disagree with this as general advice. In strong winds you want to keep the boat balanced and under control. An all-or-nothing main is not usually the best way to accomplish this. I suppose on some boats it could be, and if so by all means drop the main, but metal fatigue on the mast is not something I would bother factoring into this equation.

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Paul, the metal fatigue is one of the reasons that many people say you should replace your rigging every 10 or so years.
Yes, but I've never heard anyone suggest replacing the mast as part of this scheduled maintenance! As I said, the weak links are typically the stays and shrouds -- particularly the connectors.

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he is advocating an overly cautious approach which dictates how he believes a yacht should be rigged.
And I believe that his caution is creating a worse condition: a poorly balanced and uncontrolled boat. I've sailed literally thousands of miles with a partially-reefed main, and would not want to give up this option for keeping up my speed and control under challenging conditions.
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Old 22-06-2011, 18:09   #49
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

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. . . Like I said before, he is not advocating a dangerous practice, he is advocating an overly cautious approach which dictates how he believes a yacht should be rigged. . . .
Inactuality, your instructor is advocating a dangerous practice. A very dangerous practice.
- - The mainsail is designed to give the boat "weather helm" - that is to turn the boat into the wind.
- - The headsail is designed to turn the boat OFF the wind.
- - In dangerous winds you want the boat to automatically turn into the wind to unload the sail. However, when underway weather helm calls for a lot of rudder to counteract the weather helm and keep the boat heading where you want it to go.
- - The headsail will try to turn the boat "off" the wind. This will help "balance" the effects of weather helm and reduce the amount of rudder needed.
- - Running in heavy winds with only a headsail - unless you are steering close to dead down wind - will present the possibility of a gust turning the boat broadside to the wind and a knock down or worse. If the headsail is rather large you can experience a "broach" which is really scary as you loose control of the boat when the rudder comes out of the water.
- - In knockdown situations you release the jib/genny sheets and the mainsail's weather helm will turn the boat into the wind rather dramatically and the boat will remain upright. Without a mainsail up you will probably bury the spreaders into the ocean and expose yourself to a roll-over.
- - In less than dangerous wind conditions, just about anything will work but when things are blowing stink, the last thing you want it to remove the "natural" protection that a mainsail provides. That is why you reef the mainsail but keep it up. With a reefed main and reefed headsail you can "heave to" and "stop" the boat to get some rest.
- - Running "barepoles" is frighteningly dangerous. If you get to that stage then drogues or parachute anchors are called for.
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Old 22-06-2011, 19:08   #50
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

I have seen a masthead rig fail when beating into a 35-40 knots under jib alone. As the boat slammed into the head seas, the mast pumped forward enough to go out of column and collapse. The same design boats with a double reefed mainsail had no failures in this regatta, as the leech load on the mainsail kept their masts in column, even though the sails were luffing most of the time. These boats had babystays, but no running backs.

Each boat is different, but you need to learn how your mast is stabilized fore and aft, and watch out for excessive pumping. My boat has both a babystay and running backs, and both are in use when it gets nasty--losing a rig can ruin your whole day.
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