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Old 09-10-2009, 13:34   #1
Don't ask if you can't handle it
 
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When Do You Reef?

My boat starts to get a little over powered around 20 knots (close hauled/reaching). Boat is still not too hard to handle just that the rubber is over I think to where it is probably slowing down the boat and at about 18-20 degees heel. Probably should put first reef in at 18 knots, but all depends on how much further I have to go as whether it is worth the time. At 20 knots close reaching I can do 6 knots with a partly rolled head sail only.

This got me thinking to what is "normal" for reefing.

So at what wind speed do others put their first and second reefs in?
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Old 09-10-2009, 13:50   #2
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For us low 30's. She's screaming in the high 20's (who'd want to miss that!)
1 reef 30-40
2 reefs 40 to almost 50
3 reefs (yep, we have 3) 50+
Usually though above 40 we drop the main and sail jib and mizzen.
(balances well and it's easier)
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Old 09-10-2009, 13:56   #3
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I don't use the wind speed as a reference for reefing (I have no anemometer). My reference is weather helm: when I need more than 5 deg average rudder to keep a straight course, it is time to reduce the sail area. Running downwind, it's time to reef when the helmsman has trouble preventing the boat to broach.

Once, I had to double-reef the mainsail on a training yacht because the lady at the helm was too light: she couldn't resist the pull of the tiller and skidded on the heeling deck.

Reefing should be very quick, not much more than 5 minutes if nothing snags. Then, it's generally worth the time.

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Old 09-10-2009, 14:01   #4
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I reef right about the time the question hits me "Should I reef?". Usually the smart/safe answer is "Yes."
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Old 09-10-2009, 14:06   #5
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You can carry more sail downwind than upwind in the same true wind strength. And some boats are more tender than others.

Factors:
  • Too much weather helm.
  • Too much heel
  • Easing the main too much
  • Uncomfortable crew
  • Rail in the water
  • Approaching bad weather
But mainly:

If I ever ask myself if it is time to reef, it is (maybe too late).

You might also consider putting in a reef at night.
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Old 09-10-2009, 14:11   #6
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Thanks for responses, looking for when YOU reef. I know when I should reef. For me sometimes the bigger question is when to take the reef back out (how long to wait before I believe that wind isn't trying to trick me). I guess I should also say that I'm a sloop anbd understand a ketch would probably go about it different.
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Old 09-10-2009, 14:18   #7
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we reef whenever we develop a bit too much weather helm, or when the first person says "should we think about reefing". Truthfully we reef early, since the gaff rig is easier to contend with before it gets too lively. In any case that is our mode of operation
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Old 09-10-2009, 14:25   #8
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Generally, I shake the reef when the boat appears underpowered. It's mainly a question of feeling at the helm. If the sea is confused after a squall, I shake the reef early, to regain power for going through the waves.

Alain
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Old 09-10-2009, 15:51   #9
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I agree that the time for reefing is both subjective and dependent on the design and rig of the particular boat. Our old Hunter 34 was fast in light to moderate winds and definitely tender. When cruising our numbers would be almost exactly the same as Don’s - about 16-18 kts. was usually time to reef. In fact, in the Caribbean we pretty much gave up and had a permanent reef. The biggest reason for this was that heeling more than 15 degrees for an extended period of time was not fun and didn’t seem to provide any real benefit. The 2 times we got suckered into racing (PHRF Cruiser Class non-spinaker) we accepted more heel and probably went faster but well, it’s not really our thing. We retired undefeated - and trust me, it had nothing to do with us. We just had the right boat for the conditions.
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Old 09-10-2009, 16:05   #10
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Old 09-10-2009, 17:05   #11
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yep... when you are asking yourself if it is time... it is time! depending on the sea state and your boat you might be faster with the reef in... instead of wallowing heeled over....
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Old 09-10-2009, 17:18   #12
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I usually reef in early June, and don't shake it out until sometime around Game 4 of the the World Series.

If you think I'm kidding, you haven't sailed SF Bay.
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Old 09-10-2009, 17:25   #13
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We used to reef early and it sucked - boat would get underpowered and roll / sway just too much. Now we reef rather later than sooner - some damage to the sails happens but the boat goes and we can work on the deck in more safety.

I believe a more experienced skipper with experienced crew can wait longer in almost any conditions ban gusty days (say like in the doldrums). But a greenhorn should reef early and often - it is always easier to shake a reef.

An amazing thing can be done with some rigs (e.g. junk or an unstayed cat) - if caught in the downwind gust ... just ease the sheet and the trouble is over. Probably what I would love for my ocean downwind passages.

b.
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Old 09-10-2009, 17:53   #14
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Catamarans are a bit different..then don't de-power by healing, instead they load up quickly. On a cat, rig for the gusts, not the lulls. I carry more sail upwind than in same conditions downwind. Generally speaking I start thinking 1st reef when peak gusts hit 25ish, 2nd reef 35 ish.

Dave
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Old 09-10-2009, 18:23   #15
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It certainy is a wide open vaiable. Balancing the boat
my Peterson has a wee bit of weather helm so in 20 knots with a 135 jib I'm thinking reef. No point in loosing speed fighting the helm. If I think the winds are intensifying I might reef at 20 otherwise I'll hang in. Crew on board or solo when solo I reef sooner with q roller on the jib I can reduce up front easily but the. Boat won't be balanced. There are many options given with varied circumstance. You should be comfortable not fighting the helm. Play through the many options if your not enjoying yourself you should have reefed sooner I've swung both sides of this fence. I'll probaly push the gate again. Experience does provide us with some intuition and comfort in process and options. Thinking and sailing both end in ing coincidence noooo
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