There is a new entry in the Tips and Modifications section by Rob Legg on the best way to reef the mainsail, and the need practise in good conditions so as not to be caught out in strong winds.
Also some notes on the complications of boat modifications.
Good advice Rob. Thanks.
Being a novice and having to put a reef in twice so far I understand the difficulties. First time was a total disaster as forgot to hook in the topping lift which comes from the back stay (will eventually get one permanently attached from the mast head) and the second was successful but took some time. We did it head to wind and even had trouble getting going again – an experience issue!
Also, appreciate the issues with a headsail furler. Really like the convenience and I guess will stick with it but recently had the furling line wrap around under the base due to misalignment of the feeder. Spent 5 minutes freeing it up. Luckily we were furling due to no wind in very safe conditions and not due to too much. I have corrected the feeder but also the lesson here is to check the line and correct if necessary after unfurling so there are no surprises later.
You say: "We had used the flattening reef often and knew well enough its effect in strong winds but never practiced the moves necessary to set a full reef in bad conditions". What do you mean by a flattening reef?
I have used your advice in freshening wind by letting out the traveller and the main, raise the keel a little to minimise weather helm with reasonably good effect except that my only headsail is (I guess) a #1 genoa so once the wind gets around 17 to 20 knots we need to reef in a fair bit. So far I am definitely not comfortable in anything over 20.
It is important to understand that making a sail flatter(less camber) should always be the first option as the wind freshens, and is just as important as reducing the actual area.
You will find on most sails a cringle(large eyelett) 15 to 20 cm up from the foot of the sail on the luff (also called the Cunningham eye) and another cringle abour the same distance up the leach.
The idear is to haul down on the luff, and down and out on the leach quite hard, this takes a lot of the fullness out of the sail, and by doing so reduces the heeling pressure, and moves the centre of effort forward, reducing weather helm. On your 28 you have a back stay and tightening this also helps reduce camber and frees the leach. ( this does not apply to mast head rigs).
You should find some good articles on flattening reefs on the internet that may explain it better than I have.