Reefing is a topic which is widely and well covered on the internet so there’s no shortage of great articles to help sharpen your skills.

What is reefing?

A decent description from Wikipedia:

“Reefing is the means of reducing the area of a sail, usually by folding or rolling one edge of the canvas in on itself. The converse operation, removing the reef, is called “shaking it out.” Reefing improves the performance of sailing vessels in strong winds, and is the primary safety precaution in rough weather. Reefing sails improves vessel stability and minimizes the risk of damage to the sail or other gear. Proper skills in and equipment for reefing are crucial to averting the dangers of capsizing or broaching in heavy weather”.

When to reef

Captain John shares five golden rules for helping to remember when it’s time to reef.
Types of mainsail reefing systems

Broadly there are two types of reefing systems on yachts:

  • Slab reefing
  • Single line reefing

This article explains what they are.

How to reef; mainsail and jib

Three articles on how to reef. The first gives a general overview. The second has similar content, but also explains how to reef the jib, and how to figure out which sail you should reef first. The third is a video giving a nice practical demonstration. After reading this lot, you’ll know exactly what to do. Now all that’s left is to practice! Don’t wait until it’s windy and you’re under pressure, give it a go on a nice calm day.

  1. Essential reefing tips for cruisers
  2. How to reef the jib, and which sail should you reef first?
  3. A video demonstrating how to reef the main (slab reefing system)

How to reef going downwind

You’ll have noticed that many of the articles suggest coming onto a close reach in order to reef. What though if you’re going downwind, and coming up onto the wind isn’t really practical? Tom Cunliffe explains how to go about reefing with the wind aft in this article.


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