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Old 14-08-2015, 18:52   #1
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Location: Oak Hill, VA
Boat: Fountaine Pajot Helia 44
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Reefing a Helia

I'm really embarrassed to say that every time (until recently) that I've needed to reef my Helia there have been more experienced crew on board that have essentially performed the reefing operation as I basically stood by helping lower the main. However, most recently when faced with the need to reef, I was the most experienced on board and had to concede defeat and gut it out, which wasn't too bad as we experienced only about 25 knots sustained winds, but I decided then and there to not sail again till I know the drill. Now, I'm reasonably competent about almost all other aspects of sailing including reefing smaller boats where there's much less complex rigging (such as a Catalina 22, which I've raced for many years), but the Helia system has me stumped. Can someone please refer me to some well-written documentation, specifically for the Helia system, or describe the procedure (step-by-step in detail) yourself? Thanks, in advance, very much!
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Old 16-08-2015, 14:19   #2
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Re: Reefing a Helia

I disliked the reefing system on the Helia so much that we changed our whole mainsail set up.

We had lots of problems with getting the mainsail to come down, either dropping it completely or trying to reef. So we decided to add several intermediate track cars to the sail as well as upgrade (and downsize!) our main halyard. The sail comes down much easier now, no more having to hang on to the mast as the boat pounds into waves trying to pull the sail down.

Our boat came from the factory with the "auto first reef" option, which to me is just a fancy term for a single line reef, but the second and third reefs required going to the base of the mast and pulling the webbing strap through the cringle in the sail. I'm assuming this is how your boat is still set up. I didn't find the process for this much different putting in the first reef. Drop the main a bit past the reef point, haul in the reef line, then go to the mast and try to manhandle the webbing strap through. It helped if the boat wasn't going too fast in order to reduce pressure on the main. Then haul the main up again.

However, I really, really dislike going to the mast to do anything underway, especially when needing to put in a 2nd or 3rd reef as the seas are usually quite big by that time! So I converted our 2nd reef to another single line reef set up. This requires a much longer line, re-running the line through the boom so it comes out the underside of the sheave, then up to a low friction block lashed to the 2nd reef cringle, then down to the block at the base of the mast and then back to the helm. Now we just drop the main past the reef point (marked on the halyard), pull in the reef line (also marked), pull the halyard back up, turn off the wind and go. Much simpler and, to me, much safer.

I'll also add that we elected to do away with our 3rd reef. Going to a single line reef for the 2nd reef added a fair amount of line and in all honesty, if it is blowing hard enough to require a 3rd reef, we sail using just a sliver of genoa or are motoring.

Bit of a long winded answer, but hope there is something in there that helps!

David
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Old 17-08-2015, 10:44   #3
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Thumbs up Re: Reefing a Helia

First of all thanks for responding. Now that I'm sitting at my comfortable desk, reading your explanation helps me understand the steps that I vaguely knew; however, while underway in nasty conditions, the Helia reefing system boggled me to the point of frustration. Thinking it through now, I'm at least mentally confident I know how to do it.

Mon Amie is hull #13, and as far as I know there's no auto-first reef option. There are three reef lines each a different color all going back to the helm. Reefing to the first line is procedurally the same as the second and third. Corresponding to each reef line, there's a jam cleat behind the mast and just under the boom. We've always had to go forward to reef, i.e., to bring the main down, which is always a herculean effort, so much so that I've concluded no one person could reasonably single-handedly reef a Helia in that configuration. Also, like you said, you need to be forward to engage (manhandle) the strop (webbing strap) through the cringle. A source of my confusion has been the jam cleats, but now I understand when to use them from the steps you've outlined, assuming they’re intended to be engaged to prevent the reef line from slackening in the event you remove the reef line from the winch.

Thanks again for your helpful response. I wasn't sure anyone was going to be sympathetic to an owner that wasn't comfortable reefing his own sails. At least I feel better about the procedural steps, but, as you pointed out, the whole setup is ‘a real piece of work’. I wish I could see the modifications you made in operation, as I have been watching with jealousy at how easy it is for other similar cats to lower their main sail. It’s never less than a grueling three-man chore for us! Unless you’re perfectly into the wind, with a dead calm sea, the dang batons always get caught up in the lazy jack lines (going up or down). Makes me think I’m doing something (else) wrong.
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Old 17-08-2015, 21:32   #4
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Re: Reefing a Helia

There are a number of issues here.


Firstly, the problem with dropping the main as Starry eluded to is the standard halyard running through the jammer. As he said replace with halyard with downsized dyneema and the should be no problems with it dropping quickly.


Secondly, I have found the auto-reef to be problematic, as the system does not allow for proper sharing of tension between luff and leech, and reefing may be easier but you end up with poor sail set. Further, I experienced line abrasion on the end of the boom. My set up is the same as yours in that all reefs are done with the strop (1st and 2nd on bottom) and third on top.


Now there are a few problems with this setup of course.


First, you do have to go forward to reef. This is generally not a problem with first or second, but as Starry says third can be a problem due to bumpy seas.


You need to mark the halyard for each reef. Drop the sail so that the cringle is below the boom. Then go forward and fasten (15 seconds), and then go back and retension halyard and reef lines. To make fastening the strop easier you can add longer or more shackles to the reefing snapshackle points.


Starry makes the point that extra cars at the reef points make this much easier and this is probably well worth doing.


Also agree that in tough conditions just drop the main and allow the furling headsail to do the work.
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Old 19-08-2015, 19:34   #5
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Re: Reefing a Helia

Thanks very much for the good description and advice. My first actions will be to replace my main halyard with the recommended downsized dyneema and add cars at the reef points. I also like the idea of adding more and longer shackles at the snaps shackle reef points, and then practice, practice, practice! Thanks again!
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