Sailing Basics - How to Reef Your Mainsail the Right Way

Visit http://www.skippertips.com for more sailing basics and cruising tips like these. Imagine sailing down a narrow channel in 25 knots of wind under reefed mainsail alone. All of a sudden--Pop! Snap! You watch helplessly from the helm as your mainsail slugs snap off of the boltrope like popcorn in a hot skillet. And then to top it off, your mainsail rips from luff to leech! What now, skipper? Captain John with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website at https://www.skippertips.com and sign up for his highly popular Sailing Tip of the Week. Discover how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, videos, FREE e-Books and much more!

Sailing Basics - How to Reef Your Mainsail the Right Way sentiment_very_dissatisfied 14

Sailing 7 years ago 27,599 views

Visit http://www.skippertips.com for more sailing basics and cruising tips like these. Imagine sailing down a narrow channel in 25 knots of wind under reefed mainsail alone. All of a sudden--Pop! Snap! You watch helplessly from the helm as your mainsail slugs snap off of the boltrope like popcorn in a hot skillet. And then to top it off, your mainsail rips from luff to leech! What now, skipper? Captain John with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website at https://www.skippertips.com and sign up for his highly popular Sailing Tip of the Week. Discover how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, videos, FREE e-Books and much more!

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Most popular comments
for Sailing Basics - How to Reef Your Mainsail the Right Way

Gerald Chopik
Gerald Chopik - 6 years ago
Newbee sailor and that all makes sense to me. THANKS!
Captain John's Skipper Tips
Captain John's Skipper Tips - 6 years ago
Glad it helped, Gerald!
sweetbrandigirl
sweetbrandigirl - 6 years ago
Well done Sir
bruce sinclair
bruce sinclair - 7 years ago
Hello cap John

Thanks for the tip. But I do it a little bit different.
Say 'I'm reefing from full main to first reef
1 I loosen the vang
2 I tighten the 2nd reefing line this lifts the boom making it easier to reef the 1st reefing point but keeps tension in the leach of the sail. lock off 2nd reefing line
3 I lower halyard and similar tighten up 1st reef until reef is fully tighten,
4 Once the sail is in the correct position all corners fixed I realise the 2nd reef and retension the vang

This way the sail is under control the leach never is flapping uncontrollably

bruce
Captain John's Skipper Tips
Captain John's Skipper Tips - 7 years ago
Great idea, Bruce! Indeed, lifting the end of the boom up by tensioning the 2nd clew reef cringle will make reefing the first clew cringle a lot easier.
Kevin McC
Kevin McC - 7 years ago
I wish I had seen this two weeks ago. I was entertaining family on my 10M and I had not applied sail ties in ALL my reef grommets and as a result someone cranked too hard on the halyard resulting in a slight tear at the reef patch. Another words don't crank the winch to tight when raising the halyard.
Captain John's Skipper Tips
Captain John's Skipper Tips - 7 years ago
Keep the reef ties really slack. You should be able to slide a full hand between the ties and the sail and still have some wiggle room with the sail hoisted and beating to windward. Read my reply to Islander Sailboat below.
Islander Sailboat
Islander Sailboat - 7 years ago
The part that I've never done in real life is bunching up the loose sail at the bottom. Can you confirm that you should only tie reefs around the sail, and not around the boom? I sort of struggle with the concept of "loose-footed"

e.g. "...On Nikki, I use dedicated buntlines: small-diameter lengths of line that pass through a horizontal series of cringles in the sail, between the reefed tack and the reefed clew, and tied with reef knots. Their only purpose is to store the “bunt” — that excess sailcloth that hangs down from the finished reef — to increase visibility from the helm and reduce flopping. For mainsails without buntlines, the sail can be gathered and secured with sail ties rove through the appropriate reef points, or through cringles in the sail, which serve the same purpose. Either way, buntlines or sail ties should never be pulled tight before tying, because they will strain and eventually tear the sail at the cringles. Your reefed sail should be left loose-footed, although the buntlines or ties can be knotted under the boom or only around the bunt itself, which I prefer. When I race Nikki, I leave the bunt untied because it doesn’t get in the way and it reduces the time to take another reef in or shake it out..." http://www.cruisingworld.com/seamanship-101-reefing-main?image=3
Islander Sailboat
Islander Sailboat - 7 years ago
Thanks, it's starting to make sense, guess I just have to try now :)
Captain John's Skipper Tips
Captain John's Skipper Tips - 7 years ago
Loose-footed means that the foot of the mainsail between the tack and clew does not attach to the boom. In other words, that side of the sail is free except at the tack and clew. If you have a loose-footed main, tie off the excess sailcloth (called "bunt"), directly beneath the sail. If not, you will need to secure the reef ties beneath the boom. Leave an inch or two of slack in each reef tie. An easy test is to slide one hand between the reef tie and sail. If you can do this without strain, then you have things about right. Of course, you do not have to secure the bunt at all. It does neaten up things, as pointed out in the excerpt. Wait until you can pull the boom near the centerline. You do not want to be tying off the bunt with the boom over the water.
Coast Life
Coast Life - 7 years ago
What did you do wrong that caused the tear? So we know what not to do :)
Captain John's Skipper Tips
Captain John's Skipper Tips - 7 years ago
Not enough luff tension relative to leech tension. Just hoisting the mainsail isn't good enough. That luff needs a lot of tension. Watch the part of the video where I show you how to grind on the winch until you just begin to see a faint vertical crease build along the luff. At that point, ease off on the halyard just a bit until the crease disappears.
msnpassjan2004
msnpassjan2004 - 7 years ago
I hear this on sailing vids all the time, always wondered what it is. Thanks Captain John !
Captain John's Skipper Tips
Captain John's Skipper Tips - 7 years ago
You bet.
Bob Linton
Bob Linton - 7 years ago
Keep them coming Captain John! Thank you.

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