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Old 30-04-2024, 13:50   #1
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Reefing? Just for Safety?

I grew up sailing on Long Island in small boats. As soon as small craft warnings came out, my friends and I were like, "YEAH! Lets go!". Now, Long Island Sound wasn't exactly the high-seas, but a laser or phantom in a strong wind was a blast.

Now, years have gone by and I finally got a larger boat and I sail in San Francisco Bay regularly. I have to admit, I've never reefed my sail. I think it's an extremely easy place to sail, since the wind is always there and you can zip back to the marina in a flash if things get too rough.

Last week, I was pretty far away and when I came back, it was pretty windy and the forecast had it getting a bit moreso. I figured I "could" put in a reef, but it would be really hard to get back, working against the tide with half my sail tied down.

I have been wondering, would a reefed sail actually have helped the performance? Is it just for safety, or will a smaller sail that is trimmed correctly offer more power than a larger sail that has been let out?
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Old 30-04-2024, 13:59   #2
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

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I have been wondering, would a reefed sail actually have helped the performance? Is it just for safety, or will a smaller sail that is trimmed correctly offer more power than a larger sail that has been let out?
Yes, a properly reefed sail will improve your sailing performance over just luffing the mainsail in the gusts. For one thing, excess heeling will throw off your steering balance, probably resulting in excess rudder to maintain course, and that will really slow you up. If you have to pull hard on the tiller or turn hard off the wind with a wheel in the gusts you are wasting speed with excess rudder.

It's funny, but I have read so many times of this situation where folks on the West Coast have to learn and practice reefing sails before heading off on the big cruise to Mexico or across the Pacific. Having cut my teeth sailing mainly in New England we had to reef sails practically every time we went out sailing, especially if for more than a day or two. I learned to reef, unreef, and repeat on the first cruising boat I owned. A typical Southern New England day starts off calm, with a nice breeze kicking in by around 10am, becoming a little too much wind after lunch, with a reef often needed by 2-4pm, then quieting down after sunset. Repeat.
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Old 30-04-2024, 14:20   #3
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

I agree. My boat definitely sails faster and more pleasantly when reefed appropriately.
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Old 30-04-2024, 14:26   #4
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

Yes, reef the main and then steer.

Watch for gusts and turn upwind a bit just before the gust hits. (if necessary ease the main at the same time)

May be tough on a heavy pilothouse type boat, but we that used to race light and fast sailboats try and keep our boats at the same heeling attitude/angle when going upwind with a combination of steering and sheeting.

If done properly, the boat stays close to one angle of heel and sails smooth and fast.
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Old 30-04-2024, 16:49   #5
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

Way faster reefed. Also, less likely to damage the sail ($$), or break things.

You said "half your sail down". If you have presently only got one reef point, install another, that takes it maybe 1/3 the way down. Or think about it anyway. On our 36 footer and on this boat we have 3 reefs possible. For your 27 footer, I would think two reefs, at roughly 1/3 and 2/3 would serve you better. Especially so in the Bay, where every afternoon in summer you'll have 25 -30, maybe more with global warming (long time since I sailed there). The boat will sail on her feet, so to speak, you'll make less leeway, and if you have to go to windward, she will make way better progress.

Ann [My Jim and I used to sail our Yankee 30 out of Emeryville]
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Old 01-05-2024, 07:13   #6
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

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Originally Posted by coldfish View Post
I grew up sailing on Long Island in small boats. As soon as small craft warnings came out, my friends and I were like, "YEAH! Lets go!". Now, Long Island Sound wasn't exactly the high-seas, but a laser or phantom in a strong wind was a blast.

Now, years have gone by and I finally got a larger boat and I sail in San Francisco Bay regularly. I have to admit, I've never reefed my sail. I think it's an extremely easy place to sail, since the wind is always there and you can zip back to the marina in a flash if things get too rough.

Last week, I was pretty far away and when I came back, it was pretty windy and the forecast had it getting a bit moreso. I figured I "could" put in a reef, but it would be really hard to get back, working against the tide with half my sail tied down.

I have been wondering, would a reefed sail actually have helped the performance? Is it just for safety, or will a smaller sail that is trimmed correctly offer more power than a larger sail that has been let out?
Humm. You don’t share your point of sail heading home with increasing wind. And whether or not you have crew. Sailing down wind in quartering seas of four ft or higher and of short period often puts great strain on the helm. This is because as the wave nears it pushes the stern down which pushes the bow up some, then boat wants to head up more, etc. You have to put the helm down to stay on course; there’s a lot of strain there then. It can become difficult to keep control of the boat under full mainsail in increasing conditions, which is why watches at the helm might be only 20 min at a time in some circumstances. Reefing is difficult at this late date b/c you have to bring her up nearly into irons to put the reef in while hobby-horsing the seas, etc. Depending on the rig, you may have to go to the mast to ease down the mainsail. So, put it in early if inevitable. Sailing in strong wind and sea under reefed mainsail is pleasant, especially going downwind, and you don’t lose much speed on any point of sail if trimmed with headsail deployed. These days with in-mast reefing it’s likely a little less dramatic. I don’t know if one can accomplish in-mast reefing with pressure on the mainsail traveling down wind, i.e. not turning the boat.
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Old 01-05-2024, 08:53   #7
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Reefing serves two purposes, safety and comfort and with little if any loss of speed.
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Old 01-05-2024, 12:06   #8
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

Reef. Definitely.

First, make sure your boat is EASY to reef. One of my previous boats had single line reefing, and it worked poorly. The solution for that boat was to convert it to a two line reefing system. Then, it was so easy to reef, I almost looked for excused to reef.

Look for anything that's inconvenient about your current setup. Line placement. Excess friction, etc.. A boat reefed to accommodate the wind is a pleasure to sail.
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Old 01-05-2024, 13:45   #9
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

I have had my Pearson 30 In SF Bay for 7 years. We reef often and have been out in 40 knots steadily with much higher gusts. The ideal angle of heel for the P30 is 15 degrees. Beyond that we are wasting power and actually sailing slower.

Any time it's steady over 15 knots we put in the first reef, and the boat still flies. And look no hands on the wheel too.
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Old 01-05-2024, 13:52   #10
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

I have had my Pearson 30 in SF Bay for 7 years we reef all the time. The ideal angle of heel for the Pearson 30 is 15 degrees. Anymore than that we are wasting power and not letting the boat sail. The boat has 2 reef points the first one is very deep and would be a second reef in some boats. But even when reefed we fly at hull speed often. And look no hands on the wheel. The boat likes to sail itself.

I have been under the Golden Gate in 40 knots with gusts going off the scale, felt perfectly fine with the second reef in.
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Old 01-05-2024, 16:02   #11
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

Any racer will tell you, "Flat is fast". Aside from the excellent points made by previous responses with years of experience, I offer this additional point. At some point you will desperately need to reef in growing bad conditions. Knowing how to do this efficiently, quickly and safely may save your boat. I suggest every sailor should know how to shorten sail so easily they would never think of it as a chore.
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Old 02-05-2024, 04:54   #12
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

Yes for safety, but also for efficiency.
If I reef my 140% genoa to the fore triangle I can sheet the sail inside my shrouds and point 2-3° degrees higher.
If Reaching I will sometimes put a reef in my main so the wind will fill my Genoa also.
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Old 02-05-2024, 05:29   #13
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

The old adage “reef early and reef often” made no sense to me as a young man. Now it makes a lot of sense. It just took decades to sink in
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Old 02-05-2024, 10:07   #14
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

I am compiled to add, that sailing to a boat full potential speed is the equivalent of redlining your car. Your vessel will not hold up to getting the max out of speed all the time. Look at race boats, they get beat up, the standing rigging, the running rigging, the hull, the contents inside, and for that matter the people sailing it are under more stress. All these things will have a shorter useable life span.

I crewed with a 4 time circumnavigator who told me when I first met him “ I sail my boat at 80% during the day and 60% at night”. What does that mean? Well when the wind speeds are under hull speed you are getting everything out of it. But when you start to approach your vessels hull speed (based on your boats polars) with the wind building you should be reefing.
At night having the vessel sail very conservative sail plan will ensure the captain an event free time off watch.
This philosophy continues to prove as sage advice too me.

Cheers.
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Old 03-05-2024, 14:30   #15
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Re: Reefing? Just for Safety?

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Originally Posted by Kd9truck View Post
I am compiled to add, that sailing to a boat full potential speed is the equivalent of redlining your car. Your vessel will not hold up to getting the max out of speed all the time. Look at race boats, they get beat up, the standing rigging, the running rigging, the hull, the contents inside, and for that matter the people sailing it are under more stress. All these things will have a shorter useable life span.

I crewed with a 4 time circumnavigator who told me when I first met him “ I sail my boat at 80% during the day and 60% at night”. What does that mean? Well when the wind speeds are under hull speed you are getting everything out of it. But when you start to approach your vessels hull speed (based on your boats polars) with the wind building you should be reefing.
At night having the vessel sail very conservative sail plan will ensure the captain an event free time off watch.
This philosophy continues to prove as sage advice too me.

Cheers.
I never reduce sail at dusk just because…my preference is to keep the boat moving efficiently given the sea state and weather conditions. The longer I am at sea the better the chances are that encounter unpleasant conditions so I like to keep moving. I’m a singlehander so I only have to keep myself happy.
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