At age 91, our beloved old salt from Denmark, Ken Jensen (W1348  Maitken) continues to sing the praises of
Roller Reefing
updated: 20 May 2020

Try getting a jiffy-reefed mainsail to look this ship-shape!
Ken out alone 13 Oct 2019 in MaitKen off Copenhagen's Kastrup Airport.

Uncle Al's note: Ken Jensen has arguably spent more time sailing a Wayfarer than anyone else in the history of our Class. Since 1966, in the frequently windy waters of Scandinavia, Ken has racked up about 60 sailing days per year, a total of about 15,000 sea hours in W1348 Maitken.  Nowadays, at the age of 91, Ken mostly sails his Wayfarer - often single-handed as seen above - in his home waters east of Copenhagen's Kastrup Airport where he - often with La-iad (below) - does some serious fishing while out sailing. Ken is the voice of intelligent experience and well worth listening to!

Although this may be of interest to only a few, as slab/jiffy reefing is by now more common,  this updated version has been written in response to questions about modern Wayfarer roller reefing.  I am not campaigning to convert W sailors to roller reefing, but do want to explain a simple, functional reefing alternative which has partly been forgotten - an option without loose lines and loose sailcloth!! Of course, as is the case with other reefing systems, the boom must be prepared for its use.


Best Wayfarer regards,  Ken



Roller Reefing
This is a system that still works well, a system with no lines or sail cloth hanging loose and no bungees or sail tie-downs needed!


The original Wayfarer way of shortening sail is roller reefing, the method Frank Dye used (above) in the movie Summer Cruise in 1964.  Please remember that this system pre-supposes boom-end sheeting with the swivel-link at the aft boom-end (above left). These pictures of Frank Dye in W48 Wanderer are fantastic and historically wonderful, especially for me seeing also the silhouette of one of the most windy corners of Norway (Cape Stadt) where it always blows 8-12 knots more than anywhere-else on the very long Norwegian Coast.  BUT this has very little to do with modern roller-reefing, and that should be quite clear for the reader!  Ken W1348"Maitken"


It is, however, also possible to roller reef with centre sheeting. In that case, you may need to use a snap/cliphook mainsheet block attachment that will allow you to more easily transfer the centre-sheeting block from a mid- boom-fitting onto a 'plier'-type claw ring (above left) for easy attachment around the rolled-up sail on the boom (above right). (We once used this method on a German single-chine Pirat dinghy with centre sheeting that we sailed from Copenhagen to Flensborg Fjord.)

Apart from the relative lack of specialized gear and set-up needed for roller reefing, this method has other advantages: The skipper can tailor the size of the mainsail to the day's conditions rather than being limited to what the sailmaker has provided. Roller reefing - which can be done in under two minutes - with boom-end sheeting will moreover give increased cockpit space (especially with the forward side benches removed and replaced by "seachests" as seen in the picture below). 


Main halliard Coiling. After hoisting full mainsail, arrange the main halliard as shown in the picture above: The main halliard exits the mast foot (A) and goes up to be cleated on the mast (B). The halliard has a marked loose-part length between the cleat and the green halliard bundle (C) hanging alongside the starboard king post. This loose-part length has been made just long enough to allow quick, easy and orderly roller reefing to the lowest batten by uncleating the halliard from the mast cleat but without the need to undo the coiled halliard bundle. 

If you have an old-style mast with an adjustable gooseneck, this system permits you to roll part-way just to raise the boom (and gooseneck) to make more head room for yourself and passengers. If a hasty reef is wanted free the kicker, pull and cleat the flat/mini reef line, roll, pop boom onto gooseneck and tighten the halliard again. For a short close-hauled sail, there is little need of the vang/boom-stabilizer, but off the wind sailing (see # 3 below) the boom stabilizer should be attached!

For roller reefing past the lowest batten, that batten must be removed (as Frank Dye struggles to do above),  and  the halliard bundle must naturally be undone to free up halliard as required to accommnodate further rolling. (My coil is done in such a way as to be easily undone with only one hand. An identical bundle knot is used on the light grey painter extension hanging to the left of the mast and down by the king post in the photo above). But if it gets that windy, it is now time for the solo sailor to stow and secure his mainsail and hoist the W-trysail instead.

Roller-reefing step by step (explained from the point of view of a solo sailor)
Al's note: Please note that when Ken talks about being hove to, he means the following:
1. Luff up and ease both sails to stop all forward movement. When fully stopped with sheets fully eased, bow about 45° to the wind, put tiller fully down to leeward, tiller extension also swung out, so with the lee heeling of the boat it will remain there for at least some 30-40 seconds. While moving forward in order to quickly furl the foresail, I raise the CB at least half way up as I pass by.  This action is done  in one 'sweeping' movement from the time the decision has been taken.  Now I can move back to secure the tiller to leeward which is quite safe once the boat has lost its forward momentum with the mainsail luffing and the boom out at about 45° to the centre-line.
However when solo-sailing (and always while fishing alone), I rig my steering line which lets me steer from any position in the cockpit. (Al's note: you can see an explanation of this system in the first image of Ken's Cruising Cockpit Layout page.) With this line, I can steer into the pre-reef position mentioned above from my seated-to-windward position, and then cleat the steering-line to hold the tiller to leeward while I furl/remove the foresail and roller-reef the main
2.  Ease off and remove the kicker/vang from the boom. Remove the tack pin of the mainsail, and pull/stretch the mainsail footrope as far out as possible on the boom using the outhaul. To avoid a drooping boom -  less chance of catching the waves - I also recommend using the Flat/Mini-reef if you have one, by pulling its line which goes through a cringle in the leech about 30 cm above the boom. This goes to a separate cleat on the side of the boom near the position of the boom-fitting for the kicker/vang. When pulled hard, this flat-reef line helps to further stretch the mainsail's new foot. These actions help you to end up with a rolled mainsail that is flat and beautiful. 

3. On W1348 the outhaul line is stowed in a neat bundle near the cleat and when freed, the line is left hanging into the cockpit - after really pulling/tightening and cleating the outhaul line. (This line ought to be long enough for rolling to the lower sailbatten without the loose end disappearing into the sail when rolling.) Now take the boom off the gooseneck and bring that boom end forward to the windward side of the mast while rolling the sail onto the boom, easing the main halliard as required (see Preparations above, and previous set of three pictures of Frank Dye at work).
4(a) With a sliding goose-neck: When the sail has been rolled a suitable amount, place the boom back onto the gooseneck and hoist until the boom is a few centimetres higher than normal and re-cleat the halliard. Now tighten the gooseneck screw. Lastly, take the twisting pressure caused by the rolled mainsail off the boom by hooking the cunningham tackle into one of the now empty tack pin holes at the inboard end of the boom and then adding suitable tension.
4(b) With a fixed gooseneck:  YouŽll have to hoist the boom with the rolled sail a little higher than the position of the fixed gooseneck and  'judge-cleat' the halliard to make put a little tension on the main luff when you then pull down on the boom and pop it back onto the gooseneck. It may be necessary to adjust the halliard until you can manage a proper luff stretch and still be able to fit the boom onto the gooseneck.

5. After this, you attach/tie the hanging outhaul-line to the fully freed kicker and pull+tie very tight, before tightening the kicker-tackle properly, thus creating a boom stabilizer - which is not a real/proper kicker/vang but rather a means of keeping the boom from lifting too much while sailing a reach or run!  

6. The whole operation is done in the stable position under the luffing mainsail only (see # 1 above), while you are standing to windward by the mast,  and it works even in a high wind and a rough seaway - with a maximum of half CB down to create a 'square' drift,  creating the 'slick' which reduces the steepness of on-coming breakers (if any)!

7. If even greater sail area reduction is needed, the lower sailbatten must be removed.  Removing a batten can be quite tricky for a solo sailor in a seaway! If it gets that windy, the best choice is - as previously noted - to drop and stow the mainsail, and to use the W-trysail instead.
Wish you all a wonderful W-sailing season.  Ken, W1348 Maitken