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Old 21-06-2011, 09:15   #1
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Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

I'm currently doing a theory course to get some paperwork and the instructor mentioned that reefing the main increased the risk of mast breakage on masthead rig yachts.

His argument was that if you reefed the main as the wind picks up and you maintain the same boat speed, then the reefed sail will be excerting the same amount of force on the mast. When the sail is not reefed, the backstay takes a lot of the force, however when the sail is reefed, the area of mast between the mainsail head and the masthead will take some of the force, bending that section of mast.

Obviously the masts are designed to handle this, but metal fatigue could still happen.

So his suggestion was to leave the main up, reef in the headsail and then when you still have too much sail area, just drop the main.

I'm just wondering what others think about this

It's something I have never thought about but it does make sense
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Old 21-06-2011, 09:20   #2
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

In a strong blow the stress on the mast with a reef or two is evident for sure. But as you said, the rig is designed to take it. Reefing the main stabilizes the boat, lowers the CE and often results in as much or even more speed!
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Old 21-06-2011, 09:21   #3
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

leave it up and knock down vs reef it and see if the bs you heard is correct?/i have yet to hear of anyone losing a mast to reefing before a blow. goood luck.
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Old 21-06-2011, 09:39   #4
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

The instructor seems to be full of "bs" - the purpose of reefing the main is to reduce the load on the standing rigging to avoid failure and as mentioned by Cheechako lower the CE and stabilize the boat.
- - Reefing is not a single/size reduction in sail area, but variable. Most sails have two or three reefing points. Usually the first reduces sail area by 50% and the second by another 50% of the fist reef. A third would bring the sail area down to less than 25% of the original sail area. Beyond that you set a storm trysail.
- - If a single/first reef does not reduce the rig loads and stabilize the boat then your reef again to the second reef.
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Old 21-06-2011, 09:45   #5
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

With strong wind and a full main, the boatspeed may be the same (due to the hull speed effect), but the forces on the sail, mast, and rigging will be much stronger.

I believe you should reef headsails and mainsail as appropriate to maintain balance. If you've got running backstays, use them to control mast bend caused by the reefed main (only if you're getting flexing, otherwise don't bother). Running with no headsail and full main is a good way to lose control due to excessive weather helm.
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Old 21-06-2011, 09:50   #6
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He was not saying to not use common sense, just that you should reduce sail area as if your main has no reef points.
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Old 21-06-2011, 09:56   #7
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Paul, his comment was only in reference to masthead rigs with no running back stays.

I saw a couple of Sweden Yachts 340 that had masthead rigs and what looked like running backstays but connected to a car on the jib track. I wonder if it was for reefed mains or perhaps it was for the baby forestay.

I will see him again soon so I will bring this up with him
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:00   #8
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

If you leave your mainsail up in 40 knots of wind you're going to have a lot of problems. Depending upon the wave action and geometry of the boat you very well might snap your mast when you capsize.
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:03   #9
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

Complete and unmitigated BS.

Where on earth did this guy get his 'certification' to teach such a thing?
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:10   #10
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This guy is dangerous. He's taken a half baked theory and is using it to rewrite common and safe sailing practice. He can go and sail his own boat any way he likes, but he shouldn't be teaching this crap.

If it were me, I'd not only ignore this bit of advice, I'd ask for my money back. Who know what other bizarre theories the guy is peddling.

Mainsail reefing is critical to the balance of your boat. With a tiny headsail and full main, you're going to have so much weather helm that you won't be able to control the boat. Then when you drop your main fully and put out more headsail, you'll have so much lee helm you'll only be able to broad reach and you may be blown onto a lee shore.

In fact, a reefed main will stabilize the mast in a seaway and prevent pumping.

If you follow this guy's advice, you'll feel so out of control in any wind over about 20 knots that you'll just stay home if there's any risk of decent wind. The rig is designed for reefing because it is the safe and required practice. That is why the naval architect designed a reefing system. If it was a bad idea, it wouldn't be designed into every boat over 22' ever designed.
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:13   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoppy
Paul, his comment was only in reference to masthead rigs with no running back stays.

I saw a couple of Sweden Yachts 340 that had masthead rigs and what looked like running backstays but connected to a car on the jib track. I wonder if it was for reefed mains or perhaps it was for the baby forestay.

I will see him again soon so I will bring this up with him
In almost all cases, running backstays are used to take the load from a staysail on an inner forestay (not a baby stay which is very close to the mast and doesn't have a sail on it). They are also used on fractional rigs.
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:24   #12
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I should say that I am not on the course to learn to sail, just to get some paperwork.

I've always sailed with 2 sails reefing both with the idea of balance and I won't change.

I understand his point but I also see the " it's designed to sail that way" logic. I have a feeling that what he is suggesting is that it may become a metal fatigue problem over a lot of years.

Time to go to class
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:29   #13
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

Go out in a storm and see which has a higher priority for you:

- reefing your main
- accelerating metal fatigue in rigging components that get replaced anyway
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:34   #14
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

I've heard people say a reefed main, high winds, and end-boom sheeting can increase the chance of the boom breaking. and the common practice is to use a removable mainsheet that can be repositioned to mid-boom if ever necessary.

I wonder if your teacher heard some version of this theory and came to his own conclusions about the mast...
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:44   #15
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Re: Reefed main = greater mast breakage risk???

It is just crazy.

IF someone who had never SEEN a sail came up with such an idea, I could understand it... maybe if he thought the main halyard was taking the 'load'... and transmitting it to the mast head. The slides and the mast track transfer the load to the mast.. not the halyard (slightly... oh so slightly)... but the idea one would not reef for fear of fatiguing the mast is completely insane.

This 'instructor' is a danger to anyone who might be inclined to believe his stupidity.
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