Reefing Trysails

Hi Steve, In Surviving the Storm you suggest that yachts under 40 feet will find that they should set the trysail instead of a second reef when the wind gets into the upper 20-knot range. You also suggest that a small trysail is needed for really heavy air. Is this a contradiction? And can it be resolved by using a reefing trysail? I know Donald Street advocated this and I see that the Pardeys used a reefing trysail in their recent trip around the Horn. But apart from these two examples I’ve never seen reference to reefing trysails in any of the literature. What are the pros and cons of reefing trysails in your view? Love your books, David

Hi Dave: This is a difficult trade-off. Yes, you can reef a trysail, but in most cases you will have to do it before you set it as reefing the trysail after the wind forces you to do this would be difficult in most scenarios. The second problem is the wear and tear of the extra weight and hard spots caused bu the reef. They add weight, and make the trysail’s life more difficult the 95% of the time they are not in use. My preference is to size the trysail for what it will be used for 95% of the time, and then drop it or the jib when conditions become too much for the full sized trysail. But picking the correct size for the trysail is a function of knowing your boat and the conditions in which it will be used. Now, as to the apparent contradiction you point out, there is going to be a range of conditions under which you are probably underpowered with the trysail. However, this can be mitigated with the size of the headsail being flown. The real issue is improving the life of the mainsail–hence my suggestion to use the trysail early in the wind regime, rather than late (and then balancing out the sail area needs with more sail area). Steve

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)

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