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Old 23-03-2012, 05:12   #1
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Mainsail - Two Reefs or Three ?

I'm just about to buy a new main. All my ones in the past were three reef mains which were great for racing. Now I'm a cruising man I figure two reefs gives me coarser control and less optimized performance, but less work for reefing. Thoughts?
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Old 23-03-2012, 05:18   #2
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

Three reef points is the only way to go, and have the sail maker make them deep.
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Old 23-03-2012, 05:21   #3
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

I went with 2 reefs as follows:

1st reef located at a position that would be between reefs 1 and 2 on a 3 reef main (but closer to the 1st reef)

2nd reef located at a position that would be between reefs 2 and 3 on a three reef main.

My reasons for doing this were that:
1) I only have 2no. spare locations for reefing lines at the end of my boom and I hate doing the mouse thing for the 3rd reef .....especially in 40 knots.

2) I go to trysail earlier...probably when a 3 reef main would be going to the 3rd reef. This is a) easier and b) saves my main from being thrashed.

I'm sure other may have contrary opinions, but this works for me
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Old 23-03-2012, 05:32   #4
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

I second the opinion of Bewitched.

We have our second reef even a little above the standard location of the third reef, I would say somewhere between 3rd and 4th.

We have been cruising with this sail for 25.000 NM now and we love it!



Advantages:
  • 10% lighter total weight (easier hoisting)
  • Sail is more flexible thus easier to fold.
  • Reefing happens in two steps instead of three so less work to do on deck.
  • Sail stays in shape longer with light air due to the fact that it weights less.
  • The sail is $1300 cheaper (we have a 78m2 main sail)
Disadvantages:
None that we can think of (honestly!)
(I just finished a career of sailmaking, I'm a cruiser now )
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Old 23-03-2012, 07:29   #5
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

We did well with just two.

Then we added the third one and had a trysail built.

I would stay with two reefs for 99% of the cases, the remaining 1% being the ocean going boat that may get into real shitty conditions sooner or later.

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Old 23-03-2012, 07:54   #6
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

Barnakiel,
We are in your 1% and still very comfortable with 2 reefs and a trysail, we cruise the North Atlantic, and even in winter time you will be able to find us north of 50 degrees North and we experience really shitty weather. Especially in these shitty conditions I'm really happy that the mainsail weights a few kg less than normal.

As long as your second reef is at the 3rd reef position or even higher and maybe in combination with a stand alone trysail (what we have), you're better off with just two reefs in my opinion...
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Old 23-03-2012, 10:04   #7
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

I am a big advocate of a third reef, but as Eric De Jong says if you have two very deep reefs that equal the size of a triple reef it is easier to handle. I ordered 3 reefs in my last main, partly because the hardware for the first 2 was already fixed on the boom, and I didnt want to move them. My limited experience with trysails has me convinced that I would never waste the money to have one made. I feel that trying to claw off of a lee shore with a trysail would be committing slow suicide. A deep reefed main (2 or 3 reefs) has a much better chance of making it up wind in a blow. There is a good thread about trysails over on the hardware and sails forum. ____Grant.
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Old 23-03-2012, 10:14   #8
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

Definitely three reefs. Yes you will not need that 3rd one very often(hopefully) but boy when you do you'll be very grateful!

Cruising can find you in some difficult offshore situations, long passages less accurate weather forecasts. For the extra cost and minimal extra hassle of sail handling I would absolutely go with that 3rd reef.
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Old 23-03-2012, 10:16   #9
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

Three, or at least make your second one as deep as a third would normally be. Reefing is your only throttle; it's that important.
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Old 23-03-2012, 10:23   #10
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

I have 3 reefs, but I feel I would be better off with 2, using Erik's system of a deep first reef and a second reef where the third is now. I find that the first reef is fairly useless and when I did the math on static stability (it's a cat) the first reef, although 2 meters deep, gets me very little in comparison to a full main. 2 reefs would eliminate the weight of a set of reef points as well as the clew line. It would also mean less clutter in the cockpit.

I have 2 reefs in my mono (Catalina 30) but again find that the first reef is fairly useless. Most times I end up tucking in the second reef before leaving the mast after I have put in the first. Then I wish I had a deeper second reef a few minutes later! It is a stock sail so I didn't get to choose where the reefs went, but if I could I would have put in a deeper first reef and much deeper second reef.
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Old 23-03-2012, 10:34   #11
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

3 reefs if sailing the oceans. I often would not have the third reef rigged and only intended to rig it if crossing an ocean/long offshore trip. With a cutter rig, two reefs was enough to 40+ knots. I've always wanted to try a short first reef... maybe 2 ft to flatten the sail etc, a little more than a flattening reef ......then just 2 more fairly deep ones. That would keep the top reinforcement and cringles etc a little further down. All that fabric does have some shape compromises... The first reef would be for going to weather and close reaching.
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Old 23-03-2012, 11:29   #12
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

Maybe the 2 vs. 3 issue is related to the boat size too? I mean, on a bigger boat, having more reef lines adds the benefit of having less sail area to handle when the reefing time comes. I can imagine that on a big mainsail the area to pull down between the reefs may become too much to handle.

Just guessing as my own boat is small and most of the big boats I sailed on were either strongly crewed or else in-mast / in-boom reefed.

My other observation is that maybe at times the ocean going mainsail should have a much deeper first reef. (Then, automatically, the second reef becomes a "2.5" point reef). I say this because I noticed that in our ship (where reef points were the standard set-up) I had to reef once and then very often reef again - the first reef was simply too little. Then again, I think that with the variety of hulls / crews and sailing areas there is no definite answer and one finds his way by guessing and adjusting.

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Old 23-03-2012, 11:52   #13
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

Yeah, it's boat specific for sure. I was thinking the other way though with the first reef just a couple of feet. I often felt the boat was just a touch over powered, too much heel, wife trying to cook, a little more weather helm than I wanted ... etc. a couple of feet off the main and flattening it would have been kinda cool...
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Old 23-03-2012, 12:11   #14
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Maybe the 2 vs. 3 issue is related to the boat
Its like gears on a bicycle. There are two questions to ask.

#1 what do you want for your top gear (like how big do you want your full main Sa/d ratio to be) and your bottom gear (how deep should the deepest reef, so your deepest reef sa/d)

#2 the how how many gears do you want in between. This usually depends on two things. First, if you are racing or seriously 'performance' cruising, you want more gears, so you can more precisely pick the optimal sail area (but at the cost of more work). And second, if the boat is more tender you need more gears to keep her at optimal heel while if the boat is stiffer you can use less gears.

The thing I see is that some people do not realize these are pretty much independent. That is you can have a very deep 2nd reef with only two reefs, or you could have a very small deepest reef even with four reefs.

We use 2 reefs - but with very stiff boat and a desire to minimize fatigue and no particular need to get the last .1kt of boat speed.
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Old 23-03-2012, 12:19   #15
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Re: Mainsail - two reefs or three?

Went with three reef points because I wanted to be able to reef down to a really small sail should the need arise. The reef points are at 5', 10' and 16' up the 35' luff sail. Fortunately, have never had to use the third reef point because of high winds. It's proven to be a great steadying sail size when powering in the open ocean, however. It doesn't bang and slat like the full or lesser reefed main and really dampens the motion in spite of it's small size. Have used the 1st reef point the most with occasional use of the second.

On our previous boat, had a three reef points but the first was a shallow reef point mainly for flattening the sail ala racer. Never once used that reef point as we always needed to go to the 2nd reef point which was a deeper normal 1st reef point. Would have liked to have had two normal reef points with a deep 3rd reef.

I wouldn't want to go with only two reef points if the 2nd was equivalent to the third reef point on my sail. Would be taking away way too much sail area and hurting performance with only two reef choices. I'm a cruiser but don't like to leave money on the table when it comes to sail area and speed. It's .1 knot but more like a full knot of lost perfomance.

Because of the shape of my mast, can't mount a track for a storm trysail. Doubt that I would in any case as trying to set a storm trysail requires padeyes on the deck and access to a winch. For many that would be an additional winch as the primary winch will be tied up with the storm jib.
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