Where should your third reef go?

 This is the full text of a question and answer from the Marchh 2007 issue of YM.

The magazine is on sale now and full of useful advice and practical tips.

Q: I refer to Tom Cunliffe’s ‘Sailing Skills’ article in the last (December 2006) edition which had a piece entitled ‘extras you would not want to be without’.

I have recently bought a 2002 HR 34; the mainsail has only two reefs and I had been considering having a third put in before sailing the boat back from Sweden next May so Tom’s article resonated well with my own thoughts. What I have been pondering, however, is what reduction I should ask for. Can you advise if there is a standard metric one should work to – a certain % of the full sail area, say, or a % of the full luff?

Many thanks,

John Young

A: The addition of a third row of reef points is a real issue at the moment as many production yachts are supplied with only two rows. This is driven by a. cost and b. a lot of single line reefing systems supplied by mast manufacturers will only reduce the luff length by approximately 90% of the boom length. With a typical aspect ratio this gives the deepest reef in approx the second reef position. The lower aspect ratio the sail (the longer the foot) allows a deeper reef. As the standard recommendation ORC, IRC etc. call for a reduction in luff length of at least 40%. It is a very low aspect sail indeed to reef to this height.

A true single line system where a single one-piece line ie. no balance blocks in the boom, led from wherever the main halyard is adjusted up the mast to the appropriate reef point, around a turning block, back down and along the boom, up to the reef point again and finally tying off on the boom, can be used for any depth; but the increase in friction when hoisting puts a lot of people off My preference is for individual luff and leech pennants for each reef point.

The sailmaking side is relatively simple. Thought should be given to the aesthetics, matching reef square and patch style and the fitting of blocks where possible to reduce friction. Also the position fore and aft of the luff eye will be dictated by what system is to be used for the third row to secure the tack end; the options being a simple sail tie around the mast and boom, rams horns, single luff pennant, endless line or leapfrogging balance block type single line from first to third reef. Consideration has to be given to luff slide spacing to allow the sail to be pulled right down at the luff and whether the leech eye and strengthening patches interfere with the battens.

Don’t forget that if your system uses the reef pennant tied around the boom you will need an extra reef eye or slot in the foot to allow the pennant to tie around the boom. This is easier than adding eyes to the boom.

Paul Lees at Crusader Sails