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Reefing: hook or traditional continuous reef pendant?

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A column created by Philippe Echelle

For the reef pendant

By Franck Bauguil
VP Yacht Ownership & Product Development

Since catamarans have no longer been just racing machines or considered “weird” and have become true cruising sail boats for both ownership and charter, the reefing has been a source of discussion for all builders. First, monohull (half boat :-)) sailors had to get used to the lack of heeling, therefore, the absence of clear sign of an overpowered sailing boat.  Then, builders made sure to post large signs around the nav table, showing reefed main sails, according to the force of the wind, and make reefing as obvious as possible to the users. At the beginning, our cruising catamarans were equipped with standard reefing systems, with reef lines directly tied around the boom and reef points at the luff of the main sail, hooked to a fittings at the goose neck, a system issued directly from cruising monohulls. Later, the reef point at the tack of the main sail was inserted in a strap, secured onto the main sail, and a snap-shackle . The Leopard, destined to charter fleets or private owners, have been, early on, equipped with two reefs, each reef line being continuous, led back to the helm station, allowing the reefing of the main to be fully executed from the helm station, without having to go on the roof or to the mast. After several hundred Leopards delivered, this system has been proven to be satisfactory, for the large majority of owners, as well as for charter customers.  It follows the specifications of the brief, which is basically one hundred per cent reliability, ease of maintenance, simple usage, and operating of the entire reefing system from the helm station.  Besides, an important and mandatory step of the development of new Leopard models, is a full, scale 1 mock-up, assuring that the position of the halyards, sheets, reef lines, traveler lines, in relation of the winches, steering wheel, and the skipper is perfect. However, the chafing and subsequent breaking of the reef line during a long passage is a real problem.  The professional crews, used to transatlantic, transpacific and other long crossings, usually simply strap the reef point in the leach of the main sail directly around the boom.  A solution also utilized by the owners for long navigations, which requires a more delicate manoeuver to do and undo, and involving stepped on the top of the roof and get to the mast step. The emergence of reef « hooks » on racing boats, provides a final solution to the problem of setting a reef easily which will last.  They better suited to handle the huge loads from larger than ever rigs, they eliminate the disturbance of the air flow caused by the reef lines, the additional weight and finally, the stretching, chafing, and ultimately, breaking of the reef lines. These techniques, coming from racing, can now be applied to cruising catamarans, and bring solutions to the preservation of ...

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