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V- I'm not arguing with the option as there are hundreds of years of hank on history...just the characterization of furlers as less reliable. You will note that Ellen's staysail is also on a furler.
Cam, we should remove Ellen MacArthur's foredeck arrangements from the discussion, because it's a sure bet that her boats customarily travel three times the speed of ours and that even her staysail would likely tarp over our entire vessels. I am arguing (much as I would argue in favour of a manual transmission in Africa) in favour of the option of hank-ons in vessels of 42 feet or so and under.
For most...the reliability of a furler outweighs the safety issue of needing to go forward in bad weather to deal with sails.
I understand that, but I would argue that furlers inherently are more breakdown-prone than hank-ons, and that certain types of offshore sailing are made actually easier (option of a deck-sweeper, reefable foresails, storm sails) via hank-ons than the "all things to all people" furling yankee, which is cut to an ideal windspeed range (and desire for visibility) and is in some boats "not enough for light air and too much for heavy".
If you are a 60-year-old couple on a big boat, hell, yes...buy the most reputable furlers you can find (and size them up one class!). But I've had too much experience with multiple foresails on "long J" IOR style boats to pretend I don't feel how compromising a yankee jib can be. And as I said, by leading a downhaul and the halyard back to the cockpit, it is as easy to reef or douse a foresail with hanks as it is to furl.
The question it seems to me is: Am I more likely to get into trouble at sea if my furler doesn't work or if I MUST go on deck to change sails in 30 knots of wind and 8-10ft. seas....and what are the odds.
That's an excellent question each voyager must answer for him or herself, and which depends greatly on safety gear, deck design (some are far more exposed than others), personal experience of foredeck work (my little wife has little problem even with our 150% Kevlar genny on the old boat, which is equivalent to the entire main on the new boat), and of course, the prevailing conditions and one's preparedness. I am also strongly influenced, I will freely admit, from the cruising stories of the Roths, the Hiscocks, the Smeatons and the Pardeys, all of whom have opted for "bullet proof" over "convenient", possibly because of expense and age, but also, I think, because furling can be from a sail efficiency point of view, somewhat limiting.
In the context of the original post...a remain baffled by a decision to eliminate a furler for safety yet compromise a backstay for communications.
(I have a "compromised" backstay 'cause I didn't know the alternatives...but at least I have a spare! (split backstay)).
Yeah, I don't get that bit either. I have two backstays (not split, but two complete backstays going from both stern quarters to the masthead). Even with that redundancy, I will hoist an SSB antenna for transmit purposes off the spare main halyard rather than saw into 5/16th" of stay. It seems an unnecessary compromise, like replacing a furler would (to me!).