Don't Reef the FCL Jib

Last week we found out that 20+ knots of upwind with one reef in the main and a fully rolled out jib equaled too much sail for our newbie family sailing. Previous experience suggested that reducing sail area by partly furling away the jib wasn’t a good option. But what would have been? I asked the knowledgeable people over at as well as Elvstrøm Sails, the provider of the Hanse’s FCL furling jib.

Don’t Reef … Unless

Here’s a summary of what (the very nice!) Jochen from Elvstrøm Sails had to say:

  1. Reefing of the self-tacking jib is, indeed, not the best idea.
  2. When partly furled, the foot gets shorter but you can’t adjust the sheet point forward, meaning more vertical loads on the foot. This is ok (the cloth is strong enough to handle it), but: less load on the leech means the top of the sail will open up, it will “flap as crazy” and might be totally destroyed in a few hours of sailing (!).

He added, though, that in case of emergency, typically in heavy thunderstorms, do reef, if that is what is needed to protect your crew and your boat.

“Better the sail is disintegrated than your boat, your crew/family and you yourself are in danger because of grounding somewhere in heavy waves.”

Depowering the Hanse Way

So, as wind speed increases, what are the best ways to depower the boat? Here are some tips from members of

Go through main reefs one and two before thinking about the jib:

“Full blade jib followed by reef one and then reef two. In fact my ‘next gear’ after than tended to be to drop the main completely and sail under self tacking jib alone. in 27 knts or so she would then be beautifully balanced and probably sail nearly as quick.”


“My strategy is to reef main first and only think about reefing the jib after putting the second reef in the main.

I don’t have a third reef fitted to my main.

24kts true upwind is probably something like 30kts apparent and I’d definitely want the second reef in the main by then!

Although I have used the jib partially furled, it’s not something that I have needed to do often, and I don’t like doing this because I do feel it places stress in the sail (and of course the shape of any partially furled headsail isn’t great).
Remember these boats have a relatively large main which compensates for the lack of overlapping headsail so you may need to reef earlier than you are used to.


Maybe get a third reef in the main?

“[…] I had a third reef installed on the last boat, which was never used, and a third reef installed on the Hanse (& I doubt I will ever use it either ;-)”


“On other threads, people have said the same as my practice. 1st reef main, 2nd reef main, 3rd reef main and only then think about furling the jib.

This is how I set up a third reef. As one of the previous comments, it only gets used about once a year, but it is nice to have that facility.
Also follow the link to how I control the jib.


Depowering the Elvstrøm Way

I have to say again that I was very pleasantly surprised by the good and customer-minded attitude of Elvstrøm Sail’s representative.

In addition to answering my questions (in quite long and elaborate mails!), Jochen also offered their own solution. A sail for cruisers who want less headsail area, in the most hassle-free way as possible, with decent sail shape, without getting buckets of salt water inside the boat: the Elvstrøm Sails wing jib!

The wing jib is two-parted and hoisted around the furled sail on the furler. According to Jochen, it’s not that fun to get it up in strong wind and high waves, but definitely easier than doing it the conventional way, changing the furled jib to a normal heavy weather jib. Also, if you foresee the heavy weather, easier still to do it before leaving.

For the Hanse 388, he recommended “2 x 19,4m² in strong, double-layer Dacron 320AP HMT”. It’s a third less than the self-tacking jib, and very flat shaped “for really shitty weather”.

(Images from Elvstrøm Sail’s web site)

Some Final Advice

I didn’t remember seeing any sail care manuals in the boat (maybe there are and I just didn’t find them yet), so I took the opportunity to ask Jochen if he had some further advice about what to do and not to do.

Here’s his reply:

1) Please protect against sunlight, when not in use. Jib is with sewn-on UV Cover, but main needs closed Zippack/MainDrop system. With cover round mast too, otherwise the head area with extremely high loads is not protected.
2) Make sure, sail is not flapping, especially high frequency vibrations. This will “murder” the leech area very soon, needs tension on leech line in stronger breeze. And in light air and before furl-in, please release again.
3) Both sails need high halyard tension in strong breeze upwind, but please unload a bit with open sheets, thin air and before furling-in to prevent luff from overloads. And furling is much easier with depowered bearings.
4) In strong breeze, a 5-second trip downwind to unload the jib by mainsails wind protection and much less apparent wind speed makes this job again easier. Please hold sheet a bit under tension to prevent the clew from rising up/folds in top.
5) If possible, do not furl-in the jib wet and leave for weeks. This is the perfect environment for microorganism, creating mold and mildew. No technical disadvantage, but looks ugly and hardly possible to remove without harm the cloth.
6) Last, but not least: If you have space enough, please keep the sails over wintertime rolled. No problem to fold them for days or weeks folded (not too tight), but for longer periods rolled without folds is better. Lengthens life time and hold shape in better condition. Can be done from top to foot alone, but easier with two of you.

Jochen, Elvstrøm Sails

So, a big thank you to all for your advice! It will be so fun to go out and try everything in practice.

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