Our two foresails can be rolled in or out depending on the strength of the wind. More wind needs less sail so as the wind increases we can roll more foresail away and thus keep everything under control.

The mainsail needs to be lowered to reduce its size. This is called reefing and initially appears a little more complicated. Basically you have reefing lines that you use to pull a part of the sail down and then to keep them tightened down. The methodic is:

  • turn up wind to take the air out of the sail,
  • take up the weight of the sail and boom on the topping lift – line specially for this,
  • release the downhaul – line that pulls the main sail down,
  • pull in reefing line while gently releasing main halyard – the line that pulls the mainsail up,
  • release the topping lift,
  • re-tension the downhaul,
  • turn back downwind.

It sounds like a lot to do but we can now have a reef in a few minutes after deciding we need one. This is however definitely a case of “practice makes perfect” and we have now have plenty of practice.

reefing lines and the downhaul
reefing lines and the downhaul

While crossing the Bay of Biscay we broke the first reefing line. It was already damaged and Heidi is really strong 🙂 In La Coruna we bought a new line and yesterday we replaced it. Our first reef is a “one line reef” which means you only pull on one line and it cleverly pulls down on both ends of the sail at once. That sounds simple but makes the actual mechanics much more complicated. The line runs backwards and forwards and round pulley after pulley. Trying to get the new line in without losing the ends or breaking anything was a real challenge and Neill needed a piece of chocolate to recover once it was done.

But today, when the wind got up, everything worked perfectly.


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