The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Reefing Questions and Answers

Reefing is one of those areas where the devil really is in the details. Over the years we have answered dozens of questions about reefing. In this chapter we highlight a few of those and provide our answers.

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More Articles From Online Book: Sail Handling and Rigging Made Easy:

  1. Six Reasons To Leave The Cockpit Often
  2. Don’t Forget About The Sails
  3. Your Mainsail Is Your Friend
  4. Hoisting the Mainsail Made Easy—Simplicity in Action
  5. Reefs: How Many and How Deep
  6. Reefing Made Easy
  7. Reefing From The Cockpit 2.0—Thinking Things Through
  8. Reefing Questions and Answers
  9. A Dangerous Myth about Reefing
  10. Mainsail Handling Made Easy with Lazyjacks
  11. Topping Lift Tips and a Hack
  12. 12 Reasons The Cutter Is A Great Offshore Voyaging Rig
  13. Cutter Rig—Should You Buy or Convert?
  14. Cutter Rig—Optimizing and/or Converting
  15. Cruising Rigs—Sloop, Cutter, or Solent?
  16. Sailboat Deck Layouts
  17. The Case For Roller-Furling Headsails
  18. UV Protection For Roller Furling Sails
  19. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing—Convenience and Reliability
  20. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing —Performance, Cost and Safety
  21. The Case For Hank On Headsails
  22. Making Life Easier—Roller Reefing/Furling
  23. Making Life Easier—Storm Jib
  24. Gennaker Furlers Come Of Age
  25. Swept-Back Spreaders—We Just Don’t Get It!
  26. Q&A: Staysail Stay: Roller Furling And Fixed Vs Hanks And Removable
  27. Rigid Vangs
  28. Rigging a Proper Preventer, Part 1
  29. Rigging a Proper Preventer—Part 2
  30. Amidships “Preventers”—A Bad Idea That Can Kill
  31. Keeping The Boom Under Control—Boom Brakes
  32. Downwind Sailing, Tips and Tricks
  33. Downwind Sailing—Poling Out The Jib
  34. Setting and Striking a Spinnaker Made Easy and Safe
  35. Ten Tips To Fix Weather Helm
  36. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 1
  37. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 2
  38. Two Dangerous Rigging Mistakes
  39. Rig Tuning, Part 1—Preparation
  40. Rig Tuning, Part 2—Understanding Rake and Bend
  41. Rig Tuning, Part 3—6 Steps to a Great Tune
  42. Rig Tuning, Part 4—Mast Blocking, Stay Tension, and Spreaders
  43. Rig Tuning, Part 5—Sailing Tune
  44. 12 Great Rigging Hacks
  45. 9 Tips To Make Unstepping a Sailboat Mast Easier
  46. Cruising Sailboat Spar Inspection
  47. Cruising Sailboat Standing Rigging Inspection
  48. Cruising Sailboat Running Rigging Inspection
  49. Cruising Sailboat Rig Wiring and Lighting Inspection
  50. Cruising Sailboat Roller Furler and Track Inspection
  51. Download Cruising Sailboat Rig Checklist
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chris freeman

I have come across a clip by Skip Novak on Youtube . His mainsail reefing system is slightly different than yours and both are proven in tough conditions. If you have seen this I would welcome your observations on the differences.

Denis Foster

Hello John,

Having read again your excellent articles about the importance of reliable mainsail reefing downwind. To avoid going the upwind route in heavy weather seems very appealing.

We have a HR46 with hydraulic inmast furling and I am trying to adapt and practice reefing going downwind. For the moment I have always gone upwind when above 10 knots.

I know your prevention regarding these furling systems vs slab reefing. Nevertheless a good number of reputable offshore cruising boats have these systems.

Would you or an other well weathered give a few tips for the offshore use in heavy weather to reef downwind with inmost furling system.

My questions are while going downwind:

  • trying to have a stable boom around 45° to boat axis.
  • using our hydraulic vang to receive the leech but avoid creases.
  • oversheeting the (heavily furled ?) head sail or our cutter stay sail in order to backwind the main.
  • using motor to better control boat direction.
  • using autopilot

I hope my questions are not a recipe list to disaster and probably interest many readers of AAC that have in mast furling.

Best regards.


Arne Mogstad

Hi. I seem to always get the reefed bunt of the sail caught in between the clew eyelet and the reef line when I’m cranking it in. This means I have to move away from the mast and towards the end of the boom to pull it free or arrange the bunt of the sail differently. One tack is always easier, as the wind pushes the bunt away from the boom and reef line, but the other tack will have the wind pushing it towards the reef line.

On the first reef, I even need to lean over the side to reach it (or sheet the boom in too hard). If I’m sailing upwind while reefing, it’s a bit less of a problem, but then it’s a much more dangerous procedure to fix if it gets caught, since the boom can move, sometimes quite violently. So it’s not a desirable thing to do anyway. If the conditions are too rough, I tend to not crank in the reefing line all the way, but this means I don’t really get the foot as tight as I would like. Not a huge issue downwind, but more if going upwind.

Is there any tips on avoiding this, or I just need to live with it?

Thanks, Arne.

Arne Mogstad

Hi John, thanks for a swift reply!

This is pretty much my exact setup. The problem is the line that goes from the dead end on the boom, and up to the eyelet on the reef-clew, works as kind of a “lazyjack”, catching the sail (mainly on the tack opposite the side of the reef line). When I then crank it in, a part of the bunt tends to get pulled through the eyelet with the rope if I’m not careful.

I don’t really see much solution to this other than manually pulling the sail out away, and/or leaving a bit of slack on the reef line, so that I don’t pull the new clew all the way down to the boom.

The slack-method works, but I feel that the sail is not really flat enough (or I could move the dead end further aft on the boom, but that’s not ideal either), and it cause the boom to “drop”, decreasing the distance between the boom and the water (just at the time when I want the boom even higher with the building sea state).

Anyway, I guess this is just something I have to live with. I just had a faint hope that you would have a magical solution that would fix this…. 😉

Thanks, Arne 🙂