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Old 07-23-2004
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roller furling vs hanked on headsails

I have very mixed emotions about roller furling. I have sailed on a number of boats where the furlers have jambed at inopportune moments and the headsail had to be wrestled in or out. (Wrestled out so that it could be dropped to the deck.) That said the newer, better quality furlers, in particular, Profurl and Harken, seem to be a lot more reliable than the earlier furlers that I had problems with. I like the convenience of the furler for daysailing or coastal single-handing where you rarely have to make a headsail change.

Much of the utility of a furler is dependent on the particular boat or sail. In most cases a genoa can only be rolled in 10%-15% and maintain any kind of useful sail shape. On most boats that require 130 or larger headsails to sail decently, that means making sail changes as the winds get up over 20 or so knots for prolonged periods.

These days most of the authorities on heavy-weather that I have been reading lately seem to agree that the furler should be stripped of all sail (except a storm jib) in very heavy going. That really begins to take some of the advantage away from roller furling sails offshore.

If I were making frequent major passages offshore or passages that took me far offshore, I would seriously think about going with a hanked on jib because a sail change can be made more reliably. If I went to hanks I would rig a downhaul on the jib to assure that I could drop the jib to the deck from the cockpit and perhaps set the jib up so that it could be reefed down some.

Some of the issues against using a furler for offshore headsails can be worked around. I have seen headsails made for use with furlers for offshore use that have straps that pass around the headfoil. This keeps the dropped sail on board and allows a single person to flake the sail.

Jeff

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