Reefing under way.

Leaving the sails to flog when reefing down is a major cause of wear and tear on the sails. On many boats, it will quickly lead to the inner end of the battens tearing through their pockets and damaging the sail.

The noise also causes stress and can lead to frayed tempers!

The easiest approach is to plan everything in advance. Brief the crew and have them positioned before releasing any lines.

The correct course is to sail close hauled, so haul the headsail in tight, then turn close hauled, not head to wind! Once the mainsheet is released, the boat will try to turn downwind, the helmsman must be briefed to keep the boat driving close to the wind. This ensures that the sail blows clear of the mast and minimises drag.

If the halyard has been laid out, it can be lowered as soon as the mainsheet and kicking strap have been released. If the halyard is marked at the correct point, it can be lowered fairly rapidly. The crew at the mast should not have to pull the sail down against the tension in the halyard!

Once the reefing eyes are hooked down at the front of the boom, the reef pennant should be hauled taught. This may be easier if the topping lift has been raised to take the weight of the boom.

Once the reef is in, the boat can go back on course, as the sheet is reset. The topping lift, kicking strap and the other reef lines can be adjusted once back on course.

A well practised-crew should be able to reef in under 1 minute-provided everything is prepared before any ropes are released.

Learning to reef quickly will not only save wear on the sails. If you are in a narrow channel, and need to reef quickly you do not have room to mess about. is free to use, but if you feel you would like to contribute to the running and development costs you can donate via Paypal:

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