Reducing Sail and Reefing

Sailboats are designed to sail in a wide range of wind speeds. In lighter winds more or larger sails can be flown. As the wind velocity increases sail area has to be reduced to decrease angle of heal, tilt, caused by the winds increased pressure on the sails and mast. Steering control is also affected by loss of the effectiveness of the rudder, also a result of the increased heal. In lighter winds, Liberty can comfortably carry its compliment of 5 sails, mainsail, jib topsail, jib, staysail and main topsail. As the wind speed increases sail area needs to be reduced to maintain balance the boat and ease the pressure on the helm, making steering less difficult. The main topsail is the first to be taken in or struck. Secondly, the jib topsail would be struck. Because Liberty has such a large mainsail, the next step in reducing sail would be to reef the mainsail.

Reefing is the process in which a section of the mainsail is secured to the boom reducing the amount of sail area exposed. By reducing the effective area of the mainsail the balance of the headsail and mainsail driving force is maintained and the force on the helm is reduced, making it easier to steer, and the angle of heel is reduced. The mainsail is constructed with sections or “shelves” that have re-enforced cringles ‘(grommets) that serve as a new tack and clew. Also sewn along the sail at the reef “section’s upper edge are lines that allow the sail to be gathered and tied so that the reefed portion of the sail is secured. If weather conditions make reefing necessary, it is easiest and safest to reef before leaving the dock. Unfortunately, there will be times when out sailing that the wind velocity increases and sail area will need to be reduced by reefing, it must be remembered that if reefing is needed it is because the wind, waves or heal of the boat have made sailing the boat both uncomfortable and difficult. Reefing is done while the vessel is sailing either close hauled, on a close reach or when the vessel is hove to. Safety must be a top priority during this procedure. Life jackets and lifelines may be required for the safety of the crew while reefing.

Reefing a Gaff Sail
1.Tighten the topping lift so that the boom is supported.
2.Clear the Throat and Peak halyards so they will run free.
3.Attach reefing line to reef tack, attach reefing tackle to the pennant for reef
4.Ease the Throat and Peak Halyards to the designated mark on the halyard.
5.Tighten the tack pennant so that the reef section tack is secured at the gooseneck.
6.Haul clew-reefing tackle and secure reef clew at boom.
7.Tension both Throat and Peak Halyards.
8.Using a reef knot (square knot) gather and secure the loose sail material. Pass
the lines under the sail foot of the sail and tie. Tying the sail to the boom can
put too much strain on the cloth.
9.Adjust topping lift.

Taking Out a Reef (Shaking Out the Reef)
As the wind speed lessens the reef will need to be removed or shaken out. Even though wind speed and perhaps waves have lessened, crew safety is an important consideration during this procedure
1.Take up the topping lift.
2.Clear the Throat and Peak Halyards and make sure reefing pennants and
tackle are free to run.
3.Untie all reef points so that reef shelf is free.
4.Because the Peak will be at an angle to the throat it may be necessary to lower
the peak to a horizontal position to ease the effort in raising the sail.
5.Release the reef tack and clew and haul Throat and Peak Halyards following
normal mainsail raising technique. Ease mainsheet as sail is raised.
6.Secure halyards and trim mainsheet for point of sail.
7.Ease topping lift.