Reefing a Mainsail


Reducing the Main Sail

The area of the mainsail is reduced by a technique called reefing. This is much easier than changing the sail. Reefing is done by lowering the mainsail, establishing a new tack and clew using control lines, and hoisting the mainsail again with the bottom part no longer exposed to the wind. The two control lines are the reefing downhaul and the reefing outhauL Some boats have a tack hook at the gooseneck instead of a reefing downhaul. Reefing Downhaul - The reefing downhaul line goes up through a cringle on the luff of the sail and is used to pull down and secure the forward edge of the sail to the boom near the gooseneck. Some boats have reef tack hooks instead of reef downhauls.

Reefing Outhaul - The reefing outhaul line goes up through a cringle on the leech and and back to the boom to pull down and secure the back edge of the sail.

Steps for Reefing the Main Sail

  1. Set course to a close reach. (Sails are in fairly tight)
  2. Ease out the main until it luffs.
  3. Ease off the main halyard. If reefing downhaul us used, lower until reef downhaul cringle comes to about 6 inches above the gooseneck and secure halyard.
  4. Hook reefing tack on gooseneck or pull in and secure the reefing downhaul to get the tack reef point as close to the boom as possible. On downhaul models this should tighten the luff, if not, raise the halyard a little more and try again.
  5. On boats with reef hooks tighten main halyard to achieve luff tension.
  6. Pull in and secure the reefing outhaul to get the clew reef point as close to the boom as possible. (A tight boom vang can prevent you from pulling in outhaul properly.)
  7. Trim the mainsheet, roll up the left-over sail bunt, and tie it up with the reef ties. Once the reef has been set, the boat will be much easier to control. In addition to to being easier to steer, it will heel less and move more efficiently through the water.

Some main sails may have more than one set of reef points. If this is the case, you may have separate control lines. If there is more than one reef, the bottom one is called the first reef, the next one up is the second, etc.

The important thing to remember when reefing is to get both the tack reef point and the clew reef point as tight as possible to the boom. This is for two reasons.

1. The tension at the bottom of the sail should be at the two corners. The corners are reinforced to hold the tension but if they are loose, the tension transfers along the bottom edge to the reef ties. The reef ties are not designed to take the tension. If too much is put on them, the sail distorts and can even be torn. The reef ties should actually be kept a little loose.

2. The other function of reefing besides reducing Sail area is Sail flattening. A flatter Sail shape Will help to prevent the sail from catching too much wind. The sail is made flatter by having ail three corners pulled tight. Flat sails help make the boat more controllable in heavy wind.