Reefing and reduced sail area

As this topic is of greater importance to fun-sailors and dinghy cruisers and wee have a larger share of those among our members than in the usual club or association website forums, I'm opening this thread.
Some discussion has already arisen under the "maximum wind speed?" thread and I find that Cliff's two links should be repeated here:
(an excellent document which I have downloaded to read more carefully some evening) and

which, as the title states, discusses the subject specifically relating to a Gunter rig.

Cheers, wishing all a pleasant Sunday afternoon,

Gernot H.

curlew's picture

I have successfully used slab reefing of the mainsail for many years. I have reef pendants and a row of points just like a traditional gaff rigged craft. I have two halliards on the gaff which are attached at the two places, for full sail or reefed sail. I also have twin topping lifts, which guide the gaff down. It is possible to basically reef in about 30 seconds; tying in the points tacks a couple of minutes but is not essential if you are under pressure.
I also have slab reefing on the jib, but it is not easy to do it at sea.
Sorry, I don't know how to upload photos.

Are you the fellow with the mirror mods video? If so, you were my inspiration to join this forum!

curlew's picture

Yes. Welcome aboard.

beermatt's picture

Brilliant article Cliff. Can see me referring to that a few times on various subjects!

Will try to keep this threat on topic, although I'm pretty busy and have other jobs need doing on the boat first (such as a broken oarlock :-/ might post a thread about that soon!) so probably be a while before I get chance to look at my reefing again. When I do it'll probably be simply drop the halyard a bit, mark positions on the sail for the reefed tack and clew, then send it to a sailmakers.

I know it's better to have a 2nd halyard as in Curlew's mods video but not being the best at DIY I'll probably settle for the gaff at a lower angle. I understand that would compromise some windward performance, but easier to implement.

PuffinInTegel's picture

Matt: I have experimented with this as can be seen in the 2012 JollenFlottille video and in this picture:
roller reef .
Not having reef points, I rolled the main around the boom before setting off. This meant unshackling the mainsheet block and doing away with the boom vang: things which are virtually impossible to undo underway to "shake out a reef" when the wind drops, so I had to sail all the way back (~ 5 naut. miles) with that configuration. As you can see, the boom hangs lower and even if your reef points are located to preven this, the battens will no longer be correctly aligned and will lead to poor sail set.
I had thought about getting a line with parrel beads ( on it and fixed a bit below the halyard connection (so that it does not interfere with the mast-top sheave) to keep the gaff near-vertical when the sail is reefed. Of course it would have to be fixed to the gaff in a manner that does not weaken it at that point.
Even with the regular jib up, the helm was fairly well balanced in the configuration shown in the picture and it was a comfortable trip "home".

Gernot H.

sail_and_oar's picture

To make the gaff stand vertically when reefed requires only a second gaff band, four screws and a little bit of string.

If we look at Gernot's sail it clearly shows the main halyard coming out of the mast sheave and tied to the gaff band.

If a second gaff band were to be fitted about level with the top sail batten and the halyard lashed to it (no need to disconnect from the normal gaff band) then the gaff will stand upright. There will be a couple of things to check before going this route

1 The gaff tapers towards it's peak. Will a normal gaff band fit?
2 That when the halyard is fully hoisted in the reefed position, the normal gaff band doesnt gouge chunks out of the mast.

The attachment of the gaff band is a bit strange in that the aft fixing holes line up exactly with the groove in the sail track. Short screws are necessary or the sail won't be able to slide up and down the groove. The forward screws take the lions share of the load and these should be a "proper" length. Just make sure they don't meet in the middle or you'll never get them tight. A little bit of paint, glue or varnish down the screw holes will protect the wood from rot.

It is usual to roll a bit of webbing into the sail when it is rolled around the boom. The kicking strap can be attached to this. An easy way to form an eye in the webbing is to tie a figure of eight loop in it. 25mm webbing would be fine.

Broadly speaking webbing comes in two grades. Cheap stuff which floats (polypropylene) and much better stuff which sinks (Polyester or nylon). The polypropylene is OK for a while but sunlight will weaken it quite quickly.


Hi Cliff
Was reading your article on reefing and all measurements etc is there any chance
you could do a diagram with these dimensions , make it easy then look at and understand, I
am a newbie to dinghy sailing but not a youngster any more, more mature, if you can help
many thanks Paul W

curlew's picture

Hi Euan, nice to hear from you. You mention jib reefing and I wondered what you do. I have reef points in the jib but they are tricky to do at sea.

PuffinInTegel's picture

I like that video - looks like cool (literally) weather!
After my son capsized the boat by stepping off the dock onto the deck near the mast, I'd be unhappy about going so far forward as to fiddle with the jib at all, and certainly not in any heavy weather.
Puffin sailed fairly balanced with the full jib and three turns of the mainsail around the boom. However, as can be seen in the picture above, there were no means of keeping the gaff up against the mast, so the centre of effort will have been a bit further back than with the gaff near-vertical.
I note that you leave the jib cleated and let the jib back when going about, I find it preferable to let the jib fly first and use the momentum of the boat to carry me through the tack - but that may be because I try to get every inch of upwind distance here on our restricted waterways. I have also experienced a very unpleasant near-capsize because I couldn't let the jib out when an unexpected puff hit me (this was before I learned to knot the ends of the jib sheets together).
May I enter "Muckle Moose" (assuming that 67379 is the correct hull/sail number) and her skipper in the roll call ?
Gernot H.

sail_and_oar's picture

I would agree with Gernot that going forward of the mast on a Mirror is asking for a swim but changing jibs is OK.

I always change jibs lying on my chest on the foredeck so that I can just reach the forestay chainplate. I do this on the port side of the foredeck and the boat will be lying-to on port tack with the boom let out almost to the shroud. It just isn't a problem.

My storm jib was cut from a standard Mirror jib. I drew a line parallel to the leech 14 inches into the sail and cut it. I had to remake the head and clew corners and give the leech and foot a little hollow so they wouldn't flutter. This sail was sewn by machine but I've done several others by hand. It takes quite a while but it's one of those jobs you can leave in a heap in the corner and do a bit more sewing from time to time.


curlew's picture

Although I use reef points in the jib, my method is similar to Cliff and Euan - heave the boat to then lie out on the foredeck. I drop the sail 50% to tie in the points, and it all takes about 2 minutes, during which time the boat looks after herself. If it is choppy, however, waves come over the foredeck so it is no good.
I would like to try using the reefed jib set flying to avoid having to go forward. It could be launched from the comfort of the cockpit, although when things get rough any sail work becomes really difficult.

muckle moose's picture

Hi all,
seem to have disappeared from the forum along with my previous posts! The wonders of technology! One of the reasons we love the simplicity of our Mirrors where batteries are not required!