1. a marijuana cigarette
2. running a yacht into a coral reef
3. a short, close-fitting coat or jacket of thick cloth
4. a person who reefs the sails

No, this blog entry is not about #1 -- but I got your attention. This entry is about our reefing system and why we selected a single line slab reef vs. in-mast furling mainsail.

Before I get into the details and options, let me explain to the non-sailors about reefing. Reefing simply means reducing the sail area (power) of the boat. This is done to prevent too much heeling (potential knock down) of a monohull or to prevent catamarans from, well, flipping over in high winds.

I love to sail Hobie catamarans. It's a blast. They are light, fast, and can flip over relatively easily in gusty conditions. This is can be fun on a Hobie, but not so fun on a 9-10 ton yacht in the middle of the ocean. My ‘pucker factor’ gets real high even thinking about this happening to our boat.

As with most decisions – a lot can be debated – and in some cases get real emotional for some people. The pros and cons are factual. How we decided on the traditional slab reef is outlined below.

First, performance is important to us. We don’t want an elephant on the water. I have been almost fanatical about keeping weight down on our boat (see here). Less weight means better performance. We will have at least 4 people on the boat at all times. Adding more weight in ‘stuff’ and provisions. Every little bit of weight we can jettison or extra sail area we can grab I’ll take it. We will need it.

Second, sailing with Sarah and kids, ease of handling (reefing, raising main) is important. This is essentially parallel with performance.

Below is a table outlining the pros and cons of each system. This was an important factor in weighing our decision.

Click to Enlarge
One of the statements that just flat drives me crazy is “The performance between furling vs. traditional rigging is about the same. You really won’t know the difference when on the water.” This is 100% subjective, 0% factual. It is physically impossible for this to be accurate – assuming same conditions, same boat, and same reefs.

There is a method used to measure relative power of a boat – based on sail area and displacement. The formula is below.

            Sail Area in sq. ft.
SA/D = -------------------------------------
           (Displacement / 64)^0.6666

This calculation indicates the power of the sailplan relative to the displacement of the boat, regardless of length.

The following chart shows comparative SA/D ratios for a number of different boats of similar length. The chart uses mainsail plus jib (standard measurement for most boats) for sail area and the ‘heavy’ displacement for each boat.

Click to Enlarge
Please note that this ratio only provides power of sailplan. It does not mean that a lower powered boat (Antares) will be slower than a higher-powered boat. One of the reasons for this is due to hull shape. In general, the narrower the hull the faster the boat. Antares has much narrower hulls than the Lagoon, FP and Leopard and would be faster with similar power.

In summary, the reefing system on the Antares 44, with all lines leading to the cockpit, powered winches, maintamer and the performance gain resulted in our decision.  There were lots of debates on this between other owners, and in some cases it got very vocal.  After our research, discussions with North Sails, and owners who have had both systems, we are confident in our decision and look forward to our sea trials later this year!

In closing, some comments made by others about this decision - from both sides... :)

"I've sailed an in-mast furling mono and would never recommend that set-up for any boat as it really strips the performance (and consequently the fun) out of sailing. You can't cut an in-mast furling sail nicely, nor can you properly batten it, so you're stuck with something that you can't trim and looks plain awful. There are better solutions: lazy jacks, power winches or in-boom furling."


"Just between you an me. I really loved in mast furling on my Catalina 380.  Main never stuck, as some say. It always worked great and would get another one in a heart beat. Until you you have had one of these. It's just a no brainer."


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