Reader Tip: Easy Reefing

Here's a look at a mainsail reefing system that can be controlled by one person from the cockpit.

HOS- Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse, a C&C 37, leading a regatta last fall.

I sail a C&C 37 TR on the Great Lakes, and an easy mainsail reefing method is very useful. After some hard-earned, on-the-water experience, here's a description of what I've installed on my boat, Crazy Horse:

I installed a two-line reefing system, with turning blocks to lead both lines to winches on the aft end of the cabintop. I chose to run both reef lines to the port side of the cabintop, as I have two spare winches there along with a pair of jam cleats. I quickly learned to attach the luff line to the port side of the reefing cringle, passing the line under the starboard side of the boom to a swiveling block attached to the mounting ring at the foot of the mast. I found this arrangement holds the reef point very close to the boom. I used 1/2-inch braided line of sufficient length to allow winding on one of the winches and making fast to the jam cleat. For the leech reef point, I attached a swiveling block at the reef cringle, running a 3/8-inch braided line from an eye about a foot ahead of the aft end of the boom on the port side, then up through the block at the reef point to a block mounted near the aft end of the boom on the starboard side.

This arrangement allows a downward and rear-ward pull on the reef point. The line is then run along the boom to the mast, where I attached two additional swiveling blocks, one at the boom and the second at the mounting ring at the mast foot. The line is then run through a deadeye positioned conveniently half way to the aft end of the second cabintop winch and jam cleat. Careful measurement of line length must be observed to allow sufficient tails.

The actual reefing process can be done entirely from the safety of the cockpit. As the main halyard is slowly eased, take up on the luff reef line. (Self-tailing winches make this a one-person operation). Using this technique minimizes the need to readjust the main halyard. Once the luff reef is in, use the other winch to carefully bring down the leech reef. The key thing to watch is the shape of the leech. Easing the vang reduces the effort, but care must be taken as the vang is repositioned so as not to overstress the leech. The entire reefing operation will take about two minutes. Another hint is to be sure that the reef lines are released and allowed to run free the next time the main is raised.

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