reefing advice and topping lift

Hello everyone,
I have been sailing my 51 yr old mirror for 3 yrs now and want to play with the rig to make it more useable for the type of sailing I do.

Topping lift: What is the best way to rig one ?, attaching at the top of mast ?.

Reefing: I have a good set of sails with 2 lots of reefing points 18" and 3' up. How do you rig the gunter/gaff to cope with 3 separate positions that can ensue ?, so it can still pull tight to the mast.

Cheers. Jules

PuffinInTegel's picture

I used an additional line tied to the shackle of the main halyard, then passed around the mast, through a block attached to the same shackle and then down to an additional cleat.
I have a new mainsail and was loth to put reef points on it, so I "roller" reefed it, then raised the gaff and pulled the gaff tightly against the mast with the additional "halyard". The disadvantage is that I have to move the boom kicker to be able to wrap the sail around the boom, so that there is no boom kicker and the boom lifts on a beam course, otherwise the solution worked OK.
However I have not reefed underway but set off with a reef and "shook out" a turn underway. It was a bit difficult to re-insert the pin of the gooseneck.
Here's the set-up in action:
But easier to see on the beach after that ride (looks deceptively calm, doesn't it? ) :
reefed boat on beach
I should take some close-up pictures!
Hope this helps,
Gernot H.

sail_and_oar's picture

My gunter rigged Westerly 22 has double topping lifts which work well. A line is attached to the aft end of the boom, starboard side. It passes over a cheek block attached to the starboard side of the mast about three quarters of the way up. It comes down to a turning block near the base of the mast and back to a cleat. Another line does exactly the same on the port side. A length of rope is spliced into the port and starboard lines about half a boom length from where they join to the boom. This forms a loop which hangs under the boom and catches the sail and gaff when they come down.

On my Mirror I took the route of sliding the sail down the gaff when it is reefed. The main halyard does not get adjusted when reefing. I fitted the peak of the gaff with a sheave and the forward face of the gaff with a pair of fairleads above gaff band height. A Reefing Halyard is attached to the head of the sail with inglefield clips. It passes over the sheave, through the fairleads and down to a cleat on the mast. This system doubles the tension in the main halyard so everything needs to be in good order.

conventional lacing at the luff of the sail is a problem when the sail is being reefed. I use seperate robands for each eyelet. Each roband has a loop and a toggle for fast attachment and consistent tension. When reefing it is necessary to heave to, stand up by the mast and fasten the upper roband, not as precarious as it sounds. If you decide to use this form of lacing, the spinnaker pole ring needs to be at gooseneck level or it will foul the robands as the sail is reefed. Use 3mm line for the robands.


Thanks, do you have any photos of the setup ?. Cheers. J

PuffinInTegel's picture

I realize that this layout restricts the size of pictures, but you can access the full-sized picture by copying the URL and entering it in the browser's address field.
In Firefox, click-right on the picture and select "copy graphics address" (or something like that ... I have a German Firefox) in the context menu that is opened. Place the mouse pointer in the address field and click left, then either
a) hit ctrl+v
b) click left and select "paste" and hit the return key
c) click left and select "paste and go" and hit the return key.
If you do that with the picture above, you should see the full-scale picture with the URL: in which you can see my set-up more clearly.
Not sure whether it works in a similar fashion on Chrome or Internet explorer.

sail_and_oar's picture

Hello Jules,

I have a few pictures which may be of some help but putting them on this website is not straightforward. Normally I'll just stick a link to a web page on the public domain into the message but I can't find anything useful.

I am currently writing a document on reefing which is packed full of pictures. All the sail work is done, photoed and written, the rig was tested in a force 4 yesterday but there are a few more words and photos on the spars needed and a photo shoot of putting the reefs in on the water. Once complete I'll try to get it planted in a public domain website and I can link to it. It's one of those projects which has to be done in odd moments and may take some time.


thanks, cliff.

After lots of looking at what others do, I am thinking of running a stainless wire on the back of the gaff that will be able to slide as the sail is reefed down.

All the examples of this I have seen use loops of wire around the gaff, clearly this will not work as a fixing on the mirror due to the sail slot on the front face of the gaff.

So my question is: How best to fix the wire to the back of the gaff ? .

Cheers. J

sail_and_oar's picture

On our Westerly we have a hounds fitting at the peak of the gaff and another one about half way along it. Between them is strung a length of rigging wire called the gaff span. It is tensioned with a turnbuckle. The gaff span is the same diameter as the standing rigging. This boat, like the Mirror has a slot for the sail. With this arrangement it is difficult to hoist the gaff fully vertical. It's very hard to get the gaff span tight enough. A lot of the old gunter rigged boats had 4 sided sails to accomodate this. You might get away with it on a Mirror sail if you get the gaff span bar tight and use a tiny gaff span shackle but the sail might set with a nasty crease across it

I have a link to a picture of a hounds fitting! Make sure it is securely attached to the spar. You really want a bolt through the holes at the ends of the "arms"

And a gaff span shackle to ride on the gaff span


That's really helpful, thanks Cliff. Cheers. Jules

curlew's picture

The method I use seems have been used by a number of others and I think it is a standard fix to the problem of topping lifts and reefing.
I can send you drawings by ordinary email if we can somehow make contact in that way.
Basically, I use a twin topping lift, which controls the yard very nicely as it comes down. The topping lifts are adjusted on the boom.
There is a second reefing halliard, which connects to the yard at a higher position, and this takes over the load from the ordinary one when reefed. There are reefing pendants for pulling down the reef, just like of a gaff cutter. I have used this for ten years and it is excellent.

That would be great if you could David.