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Reefing/dousing the mainsail downwind Messages in this topic - RSS

Dick
Posts: 253


3 days ago
Dick
Posts: 253
editing error for previous post: last sentence should read: "mains in (boom) furlers"

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Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
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Dick
Posts: 253


3 days ago
Dick
Posts: 253
Hi Neil,
Good to hear from you.
As to being able to get the mainsail down without rounding up and other maneuvers where having slippery track makes sail handling much easier, I have started to put slippery track in the realm of "safety" equipment. Too often I look at offshore cruising boats and see a ton of money spent on instruments and electronics (or other non-essentials) and the boat still sports conventional sail track. It is hard to anticipate how much difference slippery track makes ahead of time: I know I did not.
When we bought Alchemy, the PO had installed the slippery track: I thought it was kind of cool, but in no way had a clue how important I would later believe it to be to the feeling I could handle the mainsail with ease in gale and above conditions. I would now place slippery track as an essential safety feature of an offshore sailboat.
(And please do not consider this an indirect endorsement of roller furling mains or mains in furlers.)
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
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neilm
Posts: 22


4 days ago
neilm
Posts: 22
We have Harken Båt cars and ball-bearing slidesa. Reefing downwind works as Bill and Dick describe. Pulling hard on the leech reef lines as the sail drops is essential
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neilm
Posts: 22


4 days ago
neilm
Posts: 22
We have Harken Båt cars and ball-bearing slidesa. Reefing downwind works as Bill and Dick describe. Pulling hard on the leech reef lines as the sail drops is essential
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Dick
Posts: 253


6/3/2015
Dick
Posts: 253
Bill,
Thanks for the feedback.
You are correct to be thinking about an accidental gybe. My boom is so well prevented: restraints to each side deck and the mainsheet pulling straight down that I do not worry much in that regard. I should probably worry a bit more and everyone should be aware of that possibility. Once the sail starts its downward journey, however, it picks a side, usually the same side it was on, and from then on the worry is bringing it down and not getting the wind on the wrong side.
My best, Dick

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Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
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Bill Balme
Posts: 143


6/3/2015
Bill Balme
Posts: 143
Dick,

Great write up. I especially like that you identify the scary aspects of all this - and how you like to avoid that - coming from someone as experienced as you gives me some comfort - I get scared easily!

We do roughly the same aboard Toodle-oo! - who has the Tides Marine Strong Track. We don 't bring the boom is as far as you by the sound of it - in my mind that gives greater resistance to an accidental gybe. If left to her own devices, the main would come down quickly to below the reefing point, so in our double handed configuration, my wife tends to ease the main down, controlled with a wrap or two around a winch, while I winch on the outhall, trying to keep the leech reasonably tight as the sail comes in to prevent battering the sail and battens against spreaders etc.

We have marks on the halyard and reefing lines so that we know when we 're close to the right position for each line. Finally we synch up the tack line.

We 're able to reef DW without any hassles and would absolutely agree that it 's far less daunting than turning the boat around to reef. It takes us about 2 minutes to take in a reef (44ft boat).

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Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!
Outbound 44 #27
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Dick
Posts: 253


6/3/2015
Dick
Posts: 253
Also attached as a PDF file.


Alchemy: mainsail reefing/dousing downwind (without having to round up)
Dick Stevenson, May, 2015
Below, in outline form, is how we reef and douse our mainsail downwind (DW) without having to round up. We consider the ability to accomplish this a major safety advantage as we no longer need to turn upwind to stream the sail to reef and douse. The equipment improvement that allows this is slippery mainsail track.
As an aside, in practice, it is my take that most of us are over-canvased going DW. It takes surprisingly little wind to get close to hull speed, so if you reef the main earlier, you will have a much easier time of it and it will be easier on the sails and on the boat and auto-pilot.
1. Advantages to this system
a. Continuing DW gives you a relatively stable & predictable platform, so:
i. You can do your work slowly and safely with things under control at all times
ii. It is much easier on the sail and boat and much less prone to damage in general
1. Jib just stays in place, no need to have it flailing about or need to furl it and deal with a pole, both necessary if rounding up
iii. It feels far safer, therefore reducing sail does not get postponed
1. Also, the boom is locked into position and not swinging free as it needs to do if rounding up, improving safety.
iv. If you are doing this in 25 knot true, the AW is likely to be 18-19 kn rather than the 30+kn or so if you round up.
v. Crew are freed up as you continue to use the autopilot without course adjustment and there is no danger of steering errors
b. You do not have to round up into the wind:
i. This maneuver always scares me in higher winds/seas
ii. Huge apparent wind increase is always unsettling at best
iii. The boat gets thrown about and heels dramatically in unpredictable ways, and you have not had time to get in sync with this new motion.
iv. Likely wet and slippery as much more likely to have waves/spray be part of what you have to deal with
v. Lots of room for error/damage as the sail and lines are flailing about in initial chaos and with great energy.
vi. Because of above, you are always attempting to move fast and get it over with. Damage to person or boat seems more likely.
2. Requirement: my experience is that reefing/dousing of the mainsail DW requires slippery track/cars.
a. We have Antal track/cars. They are 15+ yo and seem as good as when 1st put on. I also know Harken works. I have heard second hand reports that the much less expensive and easier to install Tides Strong Track allows reefing/dousing DW also. There may be other systems that work.
3. To start: center the boom (in higher winds this may be a challenge, but get as close as possible and definitely prevent the boom from jumping around: ie more than a tight sheet)
a. We use lines from the boom to side decks as preventer/boom vang lines to lock the boom in place. Really pull hard on the control lines as you will be working near the boom end and this is essential for safety.
4. When there is crew, one person eases the halyard till the sail hangs up while the other is pumping (shaking it back and forth) on the leach of the sail or working the reef outhaul lines. This pumping unloads the sail and the tugs gain you a few feet at a time as you pull the sail away from the mast and spreaders where the sail gets hung up. Incrementally this adds up to a reef or dousing slowly and safely
a. Single handed one just goes back and forth from halyard to boom end.
b. If you want more control, use the reef outhauls.
i. While loosening the halyard, give the reef outhaul lines a tug by hand (or pull in on the reef outhauls with their winch). This frees the sail to bounce/slip down (on Alchemy outhaul reef lines are led to the cockpit). In very high winds it helps to pull (put sustained tension) on all reef outhauls as this pulls the sail away from the mast/spreaders, straightens out the battens and decreases the friction that keeps the sail in place.
ii. The above (dousing the whole sail from full hoist) is usually not necessary as the reefs will have been gradually put in over the time the wind has increased, so in the higher winds, you are likely not looking at a full main to be doused.
iii. For us, taking in reefs as the wind increases, has allowed us to do everything largely by hand, not using outhauls to pull the sail aft. Every boat is different so take your time and play with different ways of releasing the sail to come down and figure what works best for your boat and crew.

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Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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