Reefing Downwind

Sometimes when sailing downwind with a poled out headsail or even under spinnaker you may wish to put in a reef whilst continuing in the direction of your destination.

As well as keeping you heading in the right direction this also reduces the apparent wind strength and therefore tend to be more comfortable.

This technique will allow you in light to moderate winds to take in a reef without the need to de-rig your pole.

REEFING WITH AND WITHOUT A TOPPING LIFT

Reefing with a topping lift

For your average cruising sailor this is a simple, safe and low stress method.

  1. Place the boat on a stable downwind heading typically with the wind fine on the windward quarter
  2. Ease the boom vang (kicking strap)
  3. Tension the topping lift, ensuring the boom is raised by an exaggerated amount above the horizontal (this is known as scandalising)
  4. Ease the mainsheet to depower the main
  5. Tension the mainsheet, which will centre or blade the mainsail – this will have the effect of scandalising and depowering the mainsail
  6. Lower the main halyard until the reefing cringle is level with the ram’s horn – at the same time bring in the reefing line so that both the luff and leach are reduced in unison (this will almost definitely involve pulling down on the tack and or foot of the sail).
  7. Attach the reefing cringle to the ram’s horn and re-tension the main halyard
  8. Continue to tension the reefing line until the sail is tightly bound to the boom – be aware there may be a need to ease the mainsheet a fraction to allow the sail to be reefed tight to the boom
  9. East the mainsheet to allow the mainsail to fall out to leeward
  10. Ease the topping lift
  11. Re-tension the boom vang as necessary
  12. Tidy up the lines
  13. If appropriate rig a preventer

Reefing without a topping lift

Where you are sailing on a boat without a topping lift or when your topping lift has been disconnected for some reason, this method will allow you to put in a reef safely.

  1. Place the boat on a close reach and trim your headsail efficiently (if poled out this may involve moving the pole down and forward).
  2. Ease the boom vang (kicking strap).
  3. Ease the mainsheet right out so that the mainsail ‘floats’.
  4. Lower the halyard until the appropriate reefing cringle is level with the ram’s horn at the gooseneck of the boom (this will almost definitely involve pulling down on the tack of the sail).
  5. Attach the reefing cringle to the ram’s horn.
  6. Re-tension the main halyard.
  7. Tension the reefing line to the point where the sail is tightly bound against the boom, checking to make sure the sail is not ‘pinched’ between the reefing line and the boom.
  8. Trim on with the mainsheet.
  9. Re-tension the boom vang.
  10. Tidy up lines and if necessary tie up the ‘bunt of the sail’ with sail ties through the reefing cringles and around the foot of the sail.
  11. Bare away onto your course and re-set the sail and or pole.
  12. If appropriate rig a preventer