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Old 27-01-2010, 02:17   #1
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Reefing the Jib Instead of the Main?

Ok excuse the general lack of sailing knowledge here... but I went for my fourth sail today, I'm sailing singlehanded and the boat is a 35 ketch (albion) I'm currently in moreton bay which has island protection from everything but a northerl, wind was forecast for <10 knots west in the morning and then turning easterly max 14 in the arvo and it ended up being 17-23 north north east from about midday onwards.

First of all, twas a great sailing day, not sure if i would have gone out had the forecast been for what conditons actually were, but had a great time all the same. I also put my first real reef in the main in(tried once before sorta unsuccessfully). Well firstly it's a mite difficult reefing a sail in 20+ winds, secondly, after having the reef in for 10 minutes or so i noticed that the main was putting a bit of pressure on the spreader wire. I then decided to try furling the jib about half way and hoisting the main back up all the way instead.

Which brings me to the question, is there any reason not to do this? I realise that in 25+ knot winds i should have a furled jib and a reefed main but most times when i hear people talk about reefing it's always the main. But with full main and half jib up boat seemed to balance nicely and was still chugging along at 4-5 knots pretty happilly. Especially as with a ketch the main seems a fair bit smaller then the jib so reducing sail area on the jib should in theory mean less heel.

Any pointers on reefing with a ketch or reefing in general?

ps:- I've been out in winds a bit less then this before ie 15-20 which the boat handled fine and didn't feel like it needed a reef, only reason i reefed today was because there was a bit of swell and i was heeling a fair bit with the waves. How much heel is too much? Think it would have been 25 degrees at the bottom of each wave maybe? Not sure, was about 10 without the waves.

pps:- also learnt that i should be locking all the hatches regardless of weather forecast, the bow submarined a bit turning into the wind to reef the sails and got a few litres of water in a closed (but not locked) bow hatch and even a bit thru the hatches mid way.

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Old 27-01-2010, 02:33   #2
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I don't think there's any right or wrong answer - it just depends how your boat likes to sail. On many boats it's a quite normal first step to just reef/furl the headsail and leave the main alone.

The reason I personally reef the main first (actually at the same time as the headsail) is exactly what you're referring to in your post - the more the wind gets up, the trickier it is to reef the main. Reefing earlier = reefing easier so if you need to reef at all, and you think the wind might continue to lift, then getting the main reefed is generally a good idea.

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Old 27-01-2010, 02:49   #3
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Ah that makes alot of sense, think i definately need to start reefing a bit earlier. Um also, which knot do you use to reef the main? Square knots or anchor bends are my go-to knots atm, but neither of them seems suited for reefing as I can't seem to tighten a square knot quick enough before the sail starts moving too much and an anchor bend just won't work.
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Old 27-01-2010, 03:07   #4
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I would always reef the main first - this will reduce the amount of weather helm and reduce the rounding up in gusts and keep the boat more upright. It will sail just as well and might even go faster.

In fact, if I am single handed, I will usually put the first reef in the main anyway - the difference in performance is negligible unless the wind is very light.

When you ask about knots for reefing, I presume you are talking about for the reefing points across the sail. The correct knot is the reef knot - hence the name.
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Old 27-01-2010, 03:30   #5
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From what I've read over the years youare suppose to reef the sail that the wind hits first. I normally reef the main at same time because it is less trouble to do it early.
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Old 27-01-2010, 03:34   #6
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reef knot=square knot.

for you former boy scouts out there.
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Old 27-01-2010, 03:43   #7
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Ah woops, just looked up reef knots and then square knots.. .and i've been tying sheet bends not square knots... Will give reef/square knots a go next time ^^.

tq muchly.
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Old 27-01-2010, 04:36   #8
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Well, I'm not a real "expert" but having just sailed the Thorny Path (high winds on the nose) I'll add my $0.02. Always reef early! If the winds are up or for night sailing in most conditions we'd put the 2nd reef in right away. Reef the main first because, as noted, it's a lot easier in lighter winds. When you partially furl the jib, unfortunately, that actually messes up the sail shape and orientation a bit. So, in principle, it would be best to have multiple jibs for different wind conditions. But having said that, we sailed a lot on a half furled Genoa Jib.

It's easy for beginners to be confused about reefing the main. So, I wonder if you are actually doing it right. The reef is actually accomplished by shortening at the tack and the clew. Different boats have different ways of doing this. We use the ram's horns at the tack and lines to the cockpit for the clew. Once the corners (tack and clew) are tight, the reef points are secured to clean things up and keep the loose sail material from flapping around. On most sails, if you use the reef points to hold the sail reef you may rip the cringles out in a strong gust or very strong winds. Having said that...the reef know (square knot to boy scouts) is the knot to use on the reef points.

For sailing, probably the most useful knot is the bowline. It's probably worth practicing that one until you can do it in the dark.

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Old 27-01-2010, 05:58   #9
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Originally Posted by troymclure View Post
------after having the reef in for 10 minutes or so i noticed that the main was putting a bit of pressure on the spreader wire.
I'm having a hard time visualizing why this would happen with a reef in the main more so than without a reef? Or am I misunderstanding you?
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Old 27-01-2010, 06:31   #10
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Surely an important point to mention here - doesn't this all depend on the type of rig of the boat?
A fractional rig with a small jib compared to the main will require the main to be reefed first. A boat with a large genoa and a small main would require the jib to be reefed first. It depends on which is the primary "driving" sail.
Once you have got used to the feel of your boat, you will learn when and how much
to reef each sail. Feedback through the steering will show when one sail is pulling too much relative to the other, either by too much or too little weather helm.

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Old 27-01-2010, 06:39   #11
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I am also struggling to understand exactly what the problem with the reef in the main was. I don't believe that you mention what type of reefing you have. If you have jiffy reefing, the reef knots that you tie are only to keep the unused sail contained. Some very old boats that use slab reefing that requires manual tying down of the tack and clew actually uses the reef points to transmit some of the load but this is only common on gaff rigged boats.

As far as the order of sails to reef goes, it is important to look at how reefing affects the rest of the boat. If you reef the main first, your CE moves forward which will help deal with weather helm, if you roll up the jib first, your weather helm will worsen. Ideally, your boat will maintain a relatively neutral helm with a tiny bit of weather helm as the wind builds and you are forced to reef. In extreme weather, you need to make sure that both sails are reefed a lot so that you do not overstress either one.

In the original post you ask about reefing with a ketch. Traditionally, ketches drop the main first and sail under "jib and jigger" meaning jib and mizzen. Many ketches have reef points in the main so if you are trying to fine tune, you can reef the main rather than drop it outright. Once the main is down and you still need to reduce sail, you reduce sail in the jib and mizzen in order to keep the boat balanced.
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Old 27-01-2010, 06:48   #12
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The time to reef is when the first thought that 'hey, maybe I should take in some sail' strikes you. Don't delay, cause it will only be more difficult when the wind picks up and you can always shake out the reef if the wind stays the same or dies down.
I usually reef the main first because it takes much more doing then just rolling in the jib. With a ketch I would almost always reef the main first or take it down altogether. Most ketches sail pretty well under jib and mizzen.

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Old 27-01-2010, 07:57   #13
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There is a common misconception about windspeed. The system here and I believe elsewhere is the mean wind speed is forecast with a 5 knot +- and gusts 50% higher than the mean can be expected. So 20 knots could be actual 25 gusts to 30. That assumes the forecast is that accurate.
The other point is that if the boat is balanced without excessive helm or heel, and the sails are within their designed wind range so that you are able to make the expected speed, ie you are in the maximum wind without overpowering for that sail area, then each 7 knot increase will call for reducing the sail area by 50%. So say the boat handles 18 knots at 25 the sail area should be down 50%.
There still has to be balance between the sails, to avoid excessive helm. It is unlikely the required sail reduction and balance could be achieved with just adjusting one sail.
While boats differ a ketch because the mizzen is so far back allows a greater reduction in the mainsail area than the other sails. Ten to 20% heel is not excessive but at 20% the boat may well sail better with a reef. Also with limited experience and singlehanding being conservative is probably a good idea.
The other trap I should mention is that 20 knots true wind would be say 14 over the deck downwind, but say 25 upwind, which can trap you when changing course, and things suddenly change from being easy to on your ear.
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Old 27-01-2010, 08:09   #14
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A look at how race boats do this might be instructive. The first step is to change down from a #1 (genoa = 150%) to a #3 (jib = 100%). At the same time you would flatten the main. The second step on most boats would be to reef the main.

You asked about how much heel is too much. That's the wrong question. You should be concerned about helm, not heel. A balanced rig will result in very little weather helm, something that will require no more than 10 degrees of rudder correction.

You've been getting some bad advice above, along with the good. The best advice was from those who explained that shortening the foresail while leaving the mainsail full would increase weather helm rather than reduce it. You correct for this on a race boat by lining the rail with human ballast and having your most skilled crew member constantly trim the mainsheet traveler. On a cruising boat, you reef the main, and you reef it early. It's all about keeping a balanced helm, and shortening the main is the way to control weather helm.
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Old 27-01-2010, 08:45   #15
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The reason to reef both main and jib is that your boat was designed to be balanced with both sails at their maximum surface area. If you reef just one you change balance.

Now, the tricky part is that the balance of most boats is hugely influenced by heel... much more by heel than by sail area ratios. (the under-water part of the boat becomes asymmetric when heeled). This means that you must change balance to correct that. If your boat is rounding up in gusts, try luffing the main a bit and compare that to luffing the jib a bit. It'll quickly tell you that you need to reef the main before the jib.

Also: you should think about improved reefing systems for you main. I do not mean furlers, I am talking about lazy jacks and discarding cringles. That will probably only work when you order a new sail but keep in mind that reefing the main can be much much easier than what you experience now. We have a huge main (I mean huge) and I can easily reef it without help in 50 knots of wind.

On ketches: ketches rule when it's time to reef. First thing to try is dropping the main and checking how the boat feels on mizzen and jib. Is it balanced? If so, you can start by just reefing the main.
A second test is keeping the full main up and dropping the mizzen and jib. Is the boat balanced now? Try motor-sailing and see how high you can point that way. Just a (reefed) main is one of our storm strategies and we can sail 50 degrees to true wind (35 apparent) without using the engine when wind is 35 knots this way. We even do this downwind sometimes (in steady trades without shifts in wind direction).
When you have a ketch and use a sail combination that only has a sail on one of the masts, you MUST check if that is allowed with your boat. Traditionally, ketches had their rigs designed so that the load was split over both masts. When you only use one mast on such a boat, you might overload things and loose that mast. The possible points of failure are the chainplates and/or the rigging wire. I would upgrade that if my boat would depend on both masts sharing the load.

Best boat performance is almost always achieved when you fly each working sail, also when reefed down. But many cruisers are looking at comfort and safety, not optimal performance. I need to go on deck for reefing the main but not for reefing the jib or mizzen. So when conditions are bad, the main often comes down first. At night, we often lower the main even if there's no need to reef. It's because we're cooking dinner and making ready for a comfy night, rather than clocking as many miles on the log as possible. There's only two people on the boat and work to be done tomorrow so we go as easy as possible.

I have a nice little story about it: some sailors have the urge to race us when they see us "out there". I understand that because I was like that too. At sundown, in the last light, I see them heeling in race mode behind us while I lower the main. During the squally night I see them passing us and can imagine their cries of joy and satisfaction, but also their sail changes during the squalls. The next morning I wake up at first light when Josie tells me we're just a couple miles out so we tidy up, lower the rest of the sails and motor in. I see the other boat at anchor (they must have entered in the dark) with no life signs on deck and the dinghy in the davits. We anchor, rig the sun awning (no bimini on a ketch) launch the dinghy and go ashore for clearing in and some grocery shopping. When we come back with fresh French bread etc. I see cushions all over their boat in an attempt to dry them (it's salt, will never dry) and a very exhausted couple. While enjoying our breakfast in the cockpit we see them lowering the dinghy which they barely manage and they go off for clearing in. Just as they go ashore it starts raining and I see their hatches are open... at least it'll wash the salt out of their cushions. At happy hour I hear their tales of trouble with nasty officials during check in and about the bad weather and failed boat parts during the passage. In only a very few cases they mention passing us and I think I once noticed a glimmer of joy in their tired eyes when they tell that story ;-) ..... when we meet them years later, they changed and do it our way. When they can't change themselves, they aren't out there anymore and live ashore again.

Morale of this story: years of experience of cruising turns all of us cruisers in relaxed sailors (a bit of island time helps..) who do their passages with defensive sailing (reefing is our friend), enter port during the day, are rested, showered with a fresh set of clothes on (long trousers in most countries), friendly, smiling and shaking hands during check in.... and still get pissed off when someone passes us during a passage, especially when we are in cooking/night-mode and they are racing ;-)


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