When to Reef


One of the search terms I’m seeing here pretty regularly is ‘when to reef Catalina 22’.

There’s really no magic answer to this, but the boat will give you clear signals if you know how to read them.

The most obvious is excessive heel.  Madsu seems to have a sweet spot at around 20° of heel.  Up until that point, the boat is running efficiently.  Once she starts to heel more than that, potential speed decreases, even though it doesn’t always feel like it.  Keep in mind that Madsu is an older model Catalina 22 – narrower in the beam than MKII models.  She’s also a swing keel.

If you have a knot meter or GPS on the boat, you can easily see the results of reefing. Putting that reef in the main decreases heel and weather helm, and the boat actually goes faster than when it was on its ear.

Just when you’ll hit that spot on your Catalina 22 depends on your sail inventory, condition of your sails, and your trim.  Flattening the main and moving the centre of effort forward as the wind pipes up is the first thing to do.

Since I sail alone a lot, I tend to reef early, particularly when it comes to deciding whether to change head sails.

Reefing the main should be easy.  Heave to and practice it.

There’s nothing more satisfying than popping a reef in, flattening out the boat, then sailing past someone who’s heeled over like crazy.  Not that I’m competitive or anything.