Tuesday May 6, 2014
Another one of those blustery spring days in Santa Cruz. With anticipation, I watched how windy it was all day long and this evening would not disappoint! I had a request from another boat earlier in the day for extra crew, so I took one of my crew members with me and went to his boat. His boat was nearly ready to go as we arrived. I was impressed to see that the sails were already reefed and the reefing ties were already cinching the sail around the boom at the pre-determined first reefing point. We started the motor and headed on out of the harbor. Many of the boats were already out as we hoisted our sail. Most boats were already reefed in preparation for the predicted wind.
With the wind blowing from the North, I called for course 14: Start, Gov, Blacks, finish. With the wild wind, even though ample time was given for the start, boats were all over the place. Few boats were right on time at the line and the boat I was on was just as far from the start as any others. Sailing Pair a Dice romped ahead of the rest, and from my perspective, it looked as though they never gave up the lead. They finished ahead of Emeritus (2nd place) and Pacific Spirit in third.
We met at Crows nest afterwards for a brisk but chilly discussion outside on the deck.
What are the elements of a good reefing system? It should be quick, simple and easy to do! As the wind pipes up, these are not easily accomplished unless you have an appropriate reefing system in place. Every boat has its proper sail set up as the wind pipes up. Do you reef the main or furl in the headsail first? This is all determined through experimentation. On Pair a Dice, we find we can sail with a properly balanced boat up to 27 knots of wind with a full 135 Jib and one reef in the main.
One common misconception with novice sailors is that you lose speed when you reef. The opposite is true: Nothing is less efficient than a sailboat sliding sideways through the water. By standing the boat up more, you move forward more and point a lot better.
Most of the boats use a jiffy reefing system. This system uses a line tied around the boom, going up through the port side of the leech cringle, down to a block on the boom, then along the boom to a block on the starboard side of the boom at the gooseneck, up through the luff cringle, down to a block on the deck and preferably back to the cockpit to a cabin to winch. You can use a hook in the end of a line that can be used as both a Cunningham and to help keep the luff of the sail taught when reefing. This is the system I have on my boat and it takes less than a minute to put the first reef in with any wind up to 30 knots. For this to work flawlessly, it is critical to not deal with a topping lift. This is taken care of by installing a solid, spring loaded boom vang. From my experience, it is not usually necessary to use ties to cinch the sails to the boom. If ties are used, they should be tied only AFTER the sail is hoisted and the reef is in. The purpose of the ties is to tidy up the sail mass. If tied before the sail is hoisted, undue pressure is put on the tie cringles and the sail can be easily ripped.
The most interesting time I ever had reefing was crossing the Santa Barbara Channel in 40 knot winds and 12-15 foot following seas. We were making good progress with a single reef in, but were going so fast surfing the waves, that as the boat rounded down in the trough of the waves, water was flooding over the corner of the cockpit. Though the mainsail had cringles for a second reef, we had never put the second reef in. I climbed on the cabin top and with one end of a line tied around the boom, attempted and finally succeeded in threading the line through the second reef leech cringle, with sail flogging wildly in the wind. We tied it down as well as possible and used the Cunningham hook for the luff. Later an experienced sailor told me that you should always have a light line looping through the first and second reef cringle with a loop tied in this line. No need to deal with a flogging sail, put your reefing line through the loop in the line and pull it up and through the cringle. No fuss no muss.
We’ll see what next week has in store for us.
See you next Tuesday.
Sailing Pair A Dice