Reef dimensions

After much shilly-shallying, I have finally lined up a sail maker to add one set of reef pendants into 57868's mainsail. I would appreciate any advice on instructions to give the sail maker as to exactly where the pendants should be located. I've read somewhere "18 inches up from the foot of the sail", that the first reef should reduce the sail area by about 75%, and that the pendant on the leech should be relatively higher than the pendant on the luff.

Also, I am wondering if it is worth putting in reef points. My past experience in other boats was that when we put in a reef we were too busy to get around to tidying up the reef points. Perhaps that was just slovenly laziness which won't do on a Mirror.

Any measurements and/or advice much appreciated.

Many thanks


Mainsail reefing dimensions query

62816inBerlin's picture

The obvious way of setting off with reduced sail area on a Mirror is to step the mast forward and do without the jib.
The only reason for putting reef points and cringles in a mainsail I can think of is that one intends to take longer cruises in unsettled weather conditions which may necessitate reefing while your're out on the water.
I am loath to let my new mainsail be tampered with, so I make do with the second-best solution which is to roll the main around the boom. However I've only done this in conditions where I had to set out in very heavy weather and the weather report promised reducing wind forces for the day.
Any form of reeing also calls for some method of keeping the gaff up tight against the mast. I use a small block shackled to the gaff and a line passed around the mast, through the block and down to a cleat below deck level.
At around 3:12 minutes into the video there is a brief scene of me sailing the boat in this configuration. We had just weathered some severe rain squalls on the Strelasund ( before the scene was taken.
If the sailmakers had offered Mirror sails with reef points, I'd have opted for that version. However the class is generally considered to be for sports/regattas rather than messing around/cruising, so offering special "cruising" sails is probably not economical.
Gernot H.

beermatt's picture

Love the video Gernot, skipping along nicely with the improvised reefing system! I might give that a try myself, I doubt I'll ever get to modifying the mainsail, but simply adding a block to the gaff and wrapping the sail round the boom is probably within my reach! (Figuratively speaking)

Just adding another minor point to the discussion, another advantage of main reefing rather than stepping the mast forward is that it performs better into the wind with the jib still up (or so I understand). Especially useful if the wind drops a little!

Hi - for future reference, Trident Sailing UK make a 'Club' main out of a softer fabric than the racing main and can put reefing points on the main to reduce the sail area by 25%.

They also offer an option to insert a flat foam 'float' into the top of a mainsail to reduce the risk of inversion. The latter works with a full main, but obviously if a sail is reefed then it's too low on the mast to be effective.


Reefing is a major pain on most boats, and a Mirror is worse than average because of the gaff and the lacing below it. Rolling the sail round the boom makes using the vang problematic too, which is why tying it off with reef pendants is arguably better than rolling, but slower to carry out. I've had a few ideas for improving things, though none of these have been tested by anyone.

(1) Use an extra halyard to pull the sail up the gaff, passing it over a pulley fitted above the top of the gaff - this would allow you to leave the gaff fully up where it wants to be.

(2) Add a few extra eyelets into the sail higher up from the existing ones for lacing it to the mast.

(3) Replace the lacing with clips on bands round the mast so that they can be detached from the eyelets and reattached to different ones in an instant.

(4) You really want to be able to roll the sail round a pole fitted to the boom rather than round the boom itself - this would be the hardest part to design, but what I'm actually imagining for the ideal cruising setup would be a wishbone rig with a round pole in the position of the boom to roll the sail round. There would no longer be a vang, but the outhaul would still function along the round pole, and twist control would be moved to the attachment point of the wishbone at the mast (on a band slung below the bottom of the gaff).

PuffinInTegel's picture

A boom vang was invented to control the shape of the mainsail for maximum performace. If you have to reef anyway, there's more than enough wind to keep you going at hull speed or faster. So optimum sail set is not a priority, but staying mast up is. My gripe about the roller reefing system is that on a tapered boom, less sail is rolled up towards the leech so the boom sags lower, no matter how well you pull the gaff up against the mast. You have to be even more careful to avoid a concussion when going about.
Unpinnig and pinning the gooseneck is also difficult with wind in the sail and the boat bouncing around.
As I spend more time sailing in favourable conditions, I think I'll make do with my present set-up. As can be seen in the video, the boat skips along quite nicely with it.

Gary 57868's picture

Thanks for the thoughts and advice and for the video link. I am pursuing the reef pendant path for a few reasons. My mirror is rigged with a centre mainsheet arrangement, so rolling the main round the boom (which I see works quite well) is possible but would require me to retrain my brain to cope with a different mainsheet orientation. Port Philip Bay in Victoria Australia where I sail is a large body of water adjacent to a large land mass. A common weather pattern here is a manageable morning breeze, which kicks up as the day progresses. So to sail further and/or longer, it would be nice to have a flexible way of reducing sail area, to stay "mast up". And, to be honest, I like tinkering around with the boat. Anyway, thanks again, cheers Gary

sail_and_oar's picture

Hello Gary,

If you mark your sail out as suggested below it will end up the same as the first reef in mine which I think will serve you well

Measure up the luff 830 mm from the centre of the tack eyelet. Put a mark here. This will be the centre of the reef tack eyelet

Measure up the leech 905 mm from the centre of the clew eyelet. Put a mark here. This will be the centre of the reef clew eyelet.

Draw a straight line (we'll call this line 1) from the mark on the luff to the mark on the leech with a soft pencil.

Draw a straight line parallel to line 1 and 30mm below it. We''ll call this line 2

Measure from the luff 550 mm along line 2 and put a mark here. Measure 1100mm from the luff along line 2 and put a mark here. These two marks are the centres of my reef point eyelets.

Do make sure the bottom sail batten won't interfere with the aft reef point. It just about clears on mine. Sails will vary a bit.

Hoist the sail fully on the boat and leave the tack downhaul loose. You will want an extra lacing eyelet just behind the luff rope and about 2 inches below the bottom of the gaff.

My system for lowering the sail is remarkably similar to David's suggestion. Each of my lacing eyelets is fitted with a line which has a loop at one end and a toggle at the other. My tack and reef tack have these too. The line I reccomend to use is 3mm polyester.

I normally reef hove to (mainsail 3/4 of the way out, jib to windward tiller tied to leeward) The boat will go to sleep and self steer and you can fiddle with the rig, make a sandwich or whatever.

Other methods are available and have been discussed here (if I remember correctly) under the titles Reefing and Maximum Wind Speed.


Hi Cliff, a very good article, and I am seeing my sailmaker today.
I have a question over the reef penant dimension however. You state 550 from the luff for the first penant, and 1100 from the luff to the second.

Update, sailmaker wants to spread reef penants evenly over the distance, so all is fine.

Thanks Ian

Gary 57868's picture

Thankyou Cliff for the measurements and set up advice. I have marked up the sail as you describe. The end of the bottom sail batten is indeed very close to "line 1" but I think it will be ok. Now off to the sail maker, and then the fun can really begin.



62816inBerlin's picture

When you retrieve the sail from the sailmaker, take a picture or two please, showing details of the reef points and cringles (if added) and how the sail looks with the reef tied.
If you have an account at a service such as google photos, facebook or similar, you can upload the pictures there and link them into a post here (see ) so that they are shown here.
If not, you can send me the pictures as e-mail attachments and I'll upload them to this site and publish them.
Wishing you and all readers and contributors to the forum health, happiness and good sailing for 2017!

Gernot H.

Gary 57868's picture

Hello Gernot,

Indeed, I will add posting photos of the modified sail and set up to my New Year's Resolution List. Because of the New Year's holidays here it might take a week or two to come back and for me to get organised with the other fittings.

Best wishes for 2017 and thanks for the wonderful forum which I have found inspiring as well as very useful in restoring my boat.


Gary 57868's picture

Hello Gernot,

Apologies for delay. It took a while to overcome an instinctive reluctance to drill the necessary holes in the spars to accommodate the extra fittings, but it is done and so far I am pleased with the results.

The sail maker did a very thorough job. He moved the cringles down from the locations recommended by Cliff. The sail maker was of the opinion that I should not come so close to the batten pocket, and I deferred to his experience. So the reef is not quite as deep as Cliff suggested.

57868 reef points and cringles port
57868 reef points and cringles starboard

And here is the sail reefed.

57868 reefed port
I have solved the problems turning this image ... hooray!

57868 reef starboard

I am looking forward to giving this a good work out. Thanks again to everyone for the valuable advice and to Cliff for the clear directions which gave me the confidence to proceed.



NOTE: This item has been edited by an admin to relocate the pictures.

Looks great

62816inBerlin's picture

Hello Gary
Thanks for the photos. Sorry that I hadn't answered your request for help with posting them. I'm just juggling between two computers and some mails got mislaid.
This should be a great help to all who are in the "cruising" fraternity.
Greetings from icy Berlin.

Gernot H.

sail_and_oar's picture

Nice job, well done. I think you will enjoy this when the wind freshens.

I think the installation looks pretty useful. I like the short bits of webbing in the reef tack and clew rings. These add a lot of strength. I thoroughly recommend adding robands at the tack and reef tack to secure the sail the correct distance from the mast. I prefer to tie the reef points under the sail but not around the boom. The reef is a sensible depth. Everyone has different opinions of where to put the reef in the sail.


Gary 57868's picture

Thanks Cliff.

Indeed, I will add robands at the tack and the reef tack, and make sure not to tie the reef points round the boom. Thanks once again for good advice, much appreciated.

No worries Gernot re image posting queries. I discovered by trial and error that my Dropbox "public" folder will display images on the forum. It was very satisfying when I finally found a solution.

Keep warm, best wishes


curlew's picture

I use the system of having a second halliard. I have two pendants and reefing points. I also have a twin topping lift. I can user this system with either the normal Gunter rig or with a Gaff rig. A video of reefing at sea with the gaff rig is at the following link, but everything is the same with the Gunter.

Gary 57868's picture

Hello David,

Indeed I closely copied your set up with the second halliard, and it works very well. Thankyou for making the details available.

I am extremely pleased with the difference that being able to reef the Mirror makes in terms of comfort, not getting too excited/terrified, and not having to work so hard to keep the boat mast up. My gps tells me that the boat still moves along at a fair clip when reefed. This morning I was reaching home, with the reef in and the jib down, at between 3.5 and 4 knots, which is plenty for me.

Here is a very rudimentary video of 20 seconds of that ride that shows the reef in action.

Thankyou for your very instructive videos - they have been very helpful.


curlew's picture

Thank you, Gary.
By the way, I notice your jib is still up a bit and a down haul would solve that problem.
I also have videos with "wearing ship" and safe gybing, if of interest,

Gary 57868's picture

Thanks David.

Yes indeed, a down haul, properly cleated off, would solve the flapping jib problem. I have the downhaul, but I did not cleat it off properly, with the result that the jib started to creep its way back up the forestay. User error I am afraid.

I have viewed all your "Mirror Cruising" Youtube videos including the "wearing ship" one. Heaps of useful information and inspiration in there. Thank you for making them available. I am looking forward to the next installment.


Hi, I am currently fitting this reefing system to my Mirror. However I am unsure where to place the second halyard attachment on the gaff.
Could someone let me know how to work out where this second attachment point should go, (or an approximate dimension). Thanks

The position of the second halyard attachment depends on how high your reefing points are (if you have a line of ties for this on the sail), and that may vary. If you don't have those and intend to wrap the sail round the boom instead, you need to try it out to see how many rotations round the boom you want to use. Either way, this will dictate where the halyard attachment point has to be. With luck, someone who already uses roller reefing round the boom may be able to give you a measurement for a certain number of rotations, and tell you whether they think they may have put theirs a bit too high or too low.

Thanks David. Reefing points and cringles will be fitted.
I am not sure if I am thinking this through correctly, but the only method I can see (currently) on how to set this up is to lay the whole rig on the ground, tie in the reef in on the boom then set the gaff attachment point from there. Am I on the right track? thanks Ian.

I've never done it, but it sounds like the right approach. I don't think there's any danger that the attachment point will be too low if you pull everything tight. A lower attachment point means the sail will be higher and more tight, but if you've managed to get it to work flat on the ground, gravity isn't going to make it harder when you do it for real, so it should be fine. The bigger danger is if you put it too high by not pulling the sail tight enough, and the sail won't go up far enough - once reefed, there's no adjustment possible other than the height you tie the top corner of the sail in the gaff, and that won't let you take up any slack, so tightness is important.

As I said though, I've never done it, so I'd like to hear someone comment on this method who has actual experience of it before going ahead with it.

Thanks David. I will be setting it out when the sail comes back from the sailmakers. Blocks etc will be fitted to boom and mast this afternoon !

Gary 57868's picture

The distance between the existing tack cringle on my sail and the new reefing one is about 66 cm.

I wanted the reefed tack cringle to be close to the boom - on the basis that there would be no need to allow for downhaul adjustment when reefing - so to get an idea I measured 66 cm from the existing gaff band and added a bit, about 3 cm. I fitted the sail once I got it back from the sailmaker with the new reef point and trial fitted it using a clamp, to be sure I was happy with the location. I used a c clamp with some bits of ply so as not to hurt the wood of the gaff. The location does depend on how you have fitted the block to take the second halyard, so trial with a clamp would be the way to go.

Measuring along the gaff, my existing gaff band is at about 107 cm from the mast end, and the reefing gaff band is at about 176 cm. I have found it works very well.

Apologies for being so slow responding. I hope all goes well with the reefing project.


curlew's picture

By the way, it is a good idea to have twin topping lifts.
If not used, I suggest pulling down the aft pendant first to lift the boom.
It is also possible to pull down the aft pendant in order to raise the boom for rowing.

seivadnehpets's picture

I have concluded that a sensible compromise for gunter reefing is to drop the sail, and use lanyards on the yard to adjust the position where the halyard fixes to the yard, thereby keeping the yard upright. This was suggested by one DCA man after I had reviewed many other possible solutions, that were all good, but none was for me. The lanyards I have used are simply shoelaces cut in half with an eye spliced in each cut end secured on a small ss screw on the side of the yard.

The biggest part of my system is the lazy jack which has only taken me 6 months to fit. It is not a topping lift as I won't use it for that, it is only to catch the sail and yard, what adjustment need be made can be made where it meets the boom. A light line passes through the gap under the main halyard sheath in the mast, the fore part goes port and the aft goes steurbord, both ends are secured to a double loop located around a block on the boom that holds the kicking strap. A shorter line passes through an unused hole in the end of the boom and I have spliced eyes in either end which can ride on the longer line.

I have extended the track on the boom that carries the clew outhaul. I have two jockeys tied together, the aft jockey holds the out haul that works for all reefs or none, and the other has a short line that passes through the clew and back down, and up again, (tying off on the clew is easier than tying off on the jockey).
The tack is easily secured with the original primitive downhaul.

I lay down my solution here to rest alongside all the other work on the subject of Gunter Reefing, but I think for the lightweight and often singlehanded Mirror sailor, this is a good achievable system, where searoom allows I would reef afloat as explained by Sailandoar, otherwise I will pick up a mooring or go aground, but always reef early!

The difficulties I've had setting this up also emphasise the fact that my previous method of rolling around the boom was satisfactory notwithstanding the difficulty in reattaching the gooseneck in a blow. And my most important lesson has been that the jib also needs to be reduced or disposed of, the Mirror will plane, and with the sails not balanced, or with lee helm, this will be catastrophic! Without the jib the Mirror will come up to the wind when control is not maintained.

PuffinInTegel's picture

It's good to hear various approaches to a reefing solution.
Could you provide one or more detail pictures of the set-up, please?
There must be a point at which the Mirror develops a lee helm when the main is reefed, I agree. However even with two turns around the boom, my boat still had an inherent weather helm when heeling (due to the chine rocker, I assume) in strong winds. This can be seen at 03:00 to 03:20 in the video of our Rügen cruise ( ). All the same, in the most severe gusts on that day, I did have to hike out quite a lot and maybe a bit more reefing would have been safer.