Skipper’s Tip, Reefing Underway

Reefing Underway

With the summer winds starting to blow, we thought we’d touch upon this very important subject. Allowing the sails to flog for extended periods greatly shortens sail life and leads to torn batten pockets and lost or broken battens. The noise & perceived confusion during the evolution can also lead to the fraying of other things, such as tempers & patience! We recommend practicing at the dock or in an upwind slip before you head out so shorten the time that reefing underway will take and get your crew pre-trained before you need to reef out on the bay. Before you start, take a look at all of the lines that will be needed and prepare them so that they will run free and not tangle with each-other. A well-practiced crew should be able to reef down in less than a couple of minutes if all lines are prepared before starting. Follow these steps to keep things running smoothly:

  1. Prepare all lines & assign crew-member duties.
  2. Bring the jib in tight and put yourself on a close-haul – not head-to-wind (It’s amazing how often we ask people about reefing and the first thing they tell us is “Go head to wind”. Never give up control of your boat to the elements if you can avoid it). If your reefing lines are on the boom, pay attention to which side they are on. Sometimes it is easier to reef a boat on a particular tack so that you have access to all of the lines.
  3. Pay out the main-sheet until there is no pressure on the mainsail. Most boats will try to head down at this point, so make sure the helmsman is expecting it and holds a course as close to close-hauled as possible.
  4. Check the topping lift! Always inspect the topping lift before you release the halyard.
  5. Lower the main halyard while tightening the tack reef line – or if the boat has dog-bones and hooks, lower the halyard enough to hook the tack at the desired reef point. On boats with single-line reefing systems, it often helps to pay out the halyard as you pull in the reef line.
  6. Tighten your main halyard.
  7. Pull in the clew reef line. Don’t forget to make sure the boom vang & main sheet are loose enough to allow the boom to move up to the sail. Remember you are not lowering the sail at this point, but raising the boom!
  8. Haul on the main-sheet and you are back under-way with a reefed main.

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