The forehatch is a major safety feature for Atalanta sail handling. This is a feature of both the Atalanta and the Titania. It may be frowned upon by a marine surveyor – it opens the wrong way around. Their argument is that water can enter when it is open. You need to be aware that the forehatch is clear of the water when the boat is knocked over to 90 degrees, Little water could enter when your body is closing most of the area off anyway! This feature is important because of the way the sails can be handled without going onto the coachroof or deck. This cuts the risk of falling overboard. So on balance I consider it a safety feature!
Use of Forehatch
Firstly by opening the forehatch the crew can gain access to the forestay, and are able to hank on and remove sails in safety. The hatch is hinged at its aft end, which is necessary because it is so far forward in the bows, but does leave room to reach the stay.
Of course many Atalanta’s are now fitted with roller reefing on the forestay which reduces the need to work on the foredeck (from inside the forhatch in this case). However it is really useful when anchoring and mooring, which is when you are most likely to fall in.
Access to mast
The foot of the mast can be reached by opening the main cabin hatch and standing in the companionway. From here the foot of the mast, the boom, and the mast winches can all be reached easily.
Reefing the mainsail
The original arrangement for reefing the mainsail was roller reefing. The mainsail is wound around the boom. The above photo shows the reefing mechanism which is specific to the Fairey Marine yachts. A ratchet is fitted to the front of the boom, a pawl at the top flips over to stop it unwinding, and the handle incorporates a pawl to rotate the boom.
The advantages of this system are that the reef can be taken in quickly and easily, and there is no loose sail hanging below the boom.
The disadvantages of this form of reefing include a tendency for the back of the boom to droop as the sail is wound around the boom. Battons can of course get in the way as well!
Roller reefing on the boom went out of fashion, and many owners actually use a form of slab reefing.
My preference is to roll the sail around the boom, but to add a lashing at the gooseneck to take the strain of the halyard tension, and a lashing at the rear end of the boom to lift the boom and pull the sail out towards the end of the boom. I think that this gives the best compromise, a well setting sail, reasonably easily reefed.