Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Slab reefing...Scratching the Surface.

See how the top batten can get caught...
I reef and unreef alot, too much some people say, often a couple of times an hour.. but I hate the boat slopping around and I hate pushing too hard, Snow Petrel carries abit to much weather helm at times (I have ideas to fix this...) so getting the mains'l area right is important.

I have dealt with a lot of mains, from the 1500 square foot gaff main on Soren Larsen (putting a third reef in with 40-50 knots needs about 12 people and half an hour..) to a fully battened, fully batcared, all lines led to the cockpit setup on the ex open 60 "Spirit of Sydney" so I have a good idea of what I like...(this really just means I am obnoxiously opinionated)

I find reefing and unreefing my main a fairly painless process,  alot of this is because the boat and sail is small. Another reason is that it is moderately well set up. I am always amazed at the processes and stuffing around many people seem to go through to reef the main.

First thing, you can reef while sailing down wind if the system is set up well. In fact I think you must be able to reef down wind. In a decent sea with a Genoa poled out the last thing you want to do is have to come into the wind. In flat water coming onto the wind can work fine, BUT do not come completely head to wind, keep the jib slightly luffing, and the main just out to leeward - heading right into the wind is the mark of a novice, as the sail slats around over the deck and the slack reefing pendants sweep the cockpit, upsetting the shouting and gesticulating skippers beer, and then tangling in the engine controls.Much better to have it safely out to leeward, where it can be seen and at least the cockpit and the windward side deck are clear.

To reef down wind I slack the halyard abit, pull down the luff abit, pull in the reef pendants (including the other reefs) abit, then repeat until the sail is reefed, having a removable tackle on the luff is really helpful. The main point is to never drop the halyard too far (mark it at the reef points), because it can be a devil to get back up, especially if the headboard or a batten gets caught under a spreader or shroud. The sail should be designed to reef well clear of a spreader. If your sail has battens watch them carefully, they can blow through the shrouds and get caught, or bend too much and snap (ideally design the sail so the top batten is too long to blow through the shrouds, and with no headboard). Keep the leech as tight as possible with the reefing pendant. I have had problems doing this when using single line reefing, so don't much like it for this reason.. but I must admit it was a poor setup and, any feedback on this would be appreciated.

A dodgy trick I have found on bigger boats is that sometimes I can just luff up enough with a poled out Genoa to backwind the main slightly making reefing really easy - BUT you are a hairsbreadth away from getting the Genoa caught aback on the pole (this can snap a pole or worse). Having a staysail or something set to leeward can also help backwind the main. Also Rolling away some genoa, or easing the pole forward can help. But try it in flat water with a light breeze first.

I got a two year old to draw it...

If I see people fiddling with slides I know they haven't got a good system. There should never be a need to remove slides from the track unless the boat is very poorly set up. I use a lacing system to slacken of any slides that would otherwise need removal. Most of the slides can be fixed, just the awkward ones near the luff cringle need a jackline lacing (I use 3mm spectra) that slackens off when the sail is dropped. The sailtrack should go as close as possible to the gooseneck. If you have a clever sailmaker this may only be needed on the third reef, because they can space the slides to not need a lacing for the lower reefs. I also like a webbing loop (or spectra lashing) with two rings (one on each side) sewn through the tack cringle, this clips onto a horn on the goosneck that I have made from a big welded on Stainless Steel clip.This stops the luff ring dropping off the horn if the luff goes slack.

I am not enormously fond of leading all the lines to the cockpit, but some people I respect swear by it... make up your own mind. I can't be bothered with all the extra friction when I want to shake out a reef, and usually have to run forward to clear a tangle anyway, or overhaul some lines. And all the extra lines make my cockpit even messier, with them at the mast I can kind of spread the mess around abit. I also find going forward to reef gets me out of the cockpit, looking at stuff, and while I'm at it I like to go around the boat and check everything is Ok, If all my lines where led to the cockpit I probably wouldn't bother until it was to late...  But then saying all this one day I may change my mind and lead all my lines from my junkrigged boat into a nice warm pilothouse with carpet...

Also I don't normally bother tying any reef points, or putting a lacing around the bunt of the sail, unless the weather forecast is looking really bad. If I do I use one long lacing and I tie It around the reefing pendant cleat, and also the tack ring horn so that there is absolutely no possibility of forgetting this line, unreefing and ripping the sail at the reef points... I usually put reefs in sequentally, Ie if I go straight to the third reef I make sure I put in no's 1 and 2, even if I have to finish it after I have put in the third reef. I also make sure I pull in the slack reefing pendants as I go, otherwise they can get tangled.

Make sure the reef pendants stretch the foot of the reefed sail tightly, I like belly bands (or reef bands) through the sail for this reason (they control the stretch), although I note that most sailmakers don't.... If the foot is not reasonably firm you end up with two much shape in the sail, and to much power. In a strong wind the main should be flat.

So basically If reefing the main seems like a big deal that you tend to put off, and need to wake extra crew for you may need either a smaller boat or a better system. I have really only scratched the surface of all the options or ideas, and each boat and sail setup is so different. But make sure your system is effective.

Fair winds


1 comment:

  1. I have just found this..

    Once again John at AAC is well ahead of me... But it is interesting how similar my system is, and I have even been toying with splashing out for another winch to give double sided reefing,and modifying the main halyard winch to make it easier to use from both sides.

    I will try sheeting in the main before reefing downwind, It would reduce the friction and chafe, and may make the loads on the reef pendant lighter? but then again it may upset the windvane steering...

    On Ed sellings topping up the boom system (mentioned in the comments), I have had a few people say it works well, but it seems that you might end up with a slightly loose foot, and a baggy sail, rather than the tight foot that I prefer... again I must try it and then I can comment properly.