Latest News: Forums Technical Advice: Does reefing deprive you of sail control? Re: Re: Advice: Does reefing deprive you of sail control?


Most racing dinghies don’t have any system of reefing and sail in stronger winds than that, so it is eminently “do-able”, but there is a bit of an art to it.

Firstly, you want to move the genoa fairleads back from their normal position, so that easing the sheet a small amount will quickly dump the top of the sail and open the slot. Next you want a flat main so lost of cunningham, mast bend and outhaul.

Once you’ve got a reasonable setup where the boat feels balanced and you aren’t fighting the helm, try and make a conscious effort to “power” through the gusts. The natural temptation is to pinch into them but it’s a recipe for trouble, as you lose speed and control. Instead try and drive the boat for speed as a gust hits, whilst easing main and genoa enough to keep the boat flat with you both hiking hard. With the boat flat and moving fast you’ll get a nice balanced helm and the boat will be very responsive and controllable.

The three things you should be trying to achieve are:
1. Boat flat at all times
2. Helm central
3. Sailing lower in the gusts than in the lulls.

All this being said, if you have can reef and doing so means you go out when with full sail you’d have stayed at home then go for it, but don’t under any circumstances reef the main before changing to a smaller jib. As others have said it puts the boat completely out of balance – when a gust hits dumping the reefed main closes the slot completely so the airflow over the genoa stalls. This leaves you with 100% heeling moment and next to no drive. Meanwhile the boat tries to bear away uncontrollably as the only trimmed sail is at the front of the boat. Horrible.

If anything you are better off by initially putting a small jib on and sailing with a full main. Then you can ease the main in the gusts without closing the slot, and if the wind pipes up further reefing the main will actually improve the overall balance. Also, with a big main and a small jib you’ll still sail downwind reasonably well – if you reef the main you’ll lose all your power downwind as the genoa doesn’t do much on a broad reach or run.