Originally Posted by builder dan
Most first reefs dont reduce the sail area much I usually go straight to the second one.I have two furlers up front so can reduce or increase the sail area very easily to suit conditions.
I'm having a new offshore-grade (think extensive reinforcements, triple stitching and 9 oz weight) main made at the moment, and in consultation with my sailmaker
, I decided on just two reefs.
The first one is considerably deeper than a typical first reef, taking off about six feet off the luff. The second is just short of where most third reefs would be.
The logic may not apply to your situation, but this was mine: We have a rather heavy steel
full-keeled pilothouse cutter
with a modest mast height. We already know we can carry a full main into the low 20-knot range; let's say 22 knots, because our SA/D ratio is relatively high. I therefore want to keep the full hoist longer than most. When we do reef, not only do I hope it's early, but we want a real decrease in sail area. If we are barrelling along at hull speed
and we expect more wind
, on passage
, we are perfectly prepared to take a speed penalty in order to have a less stressful ride AND because in many cases, the next step would be heaving to.
The second reef takes us down to just about trysail area; that, a fully doused yankee jib
and a storm staysail mean we can run off at 40 knots or so, should that be considered a good idea.
Now, how often you sail in these conditions is unknown to me, but my experience in an IOR-type boat, where I never used more than the first reef of three in my tall, skinny main even once in 16 years, even in 40 knots, suggests that a deeper first reef is going to be used a lot, and deeper than that is not going to be so common if we are watching our weather
forecasts. So much depends on your willingness to stay out in the heavy stuff, your need for comfort and the particular attributes of your boat (and specifically, can you heave to and how much main is required to do so effectively) that it's hard to give advice, just examples.
The short form is: we rarely reef, but when we feel the need, we like to reef deeply, because we're lovers, not fighters!