Jeff & others...your opinions please?
That''s a tough question and somewhat dependent on the quality of your existing furler. I am not really a big ''furler kind of guy''. I know most people love the things but over the years I keep finding myself on boats with jambed furlers. If you had asked me this question last year I would have said, without a doubt, go to a hank on jib if you are going to voyage offshore with your boat.
The idea of getting nailed in a blow with the windage of a rolled up sail really just seemed to be an unacceptable idea. I also have not been very pleased with the sailshape of partially rolled up sails when things really got nasty.
Then there is that certain simplicity to a hank on jib with a downhaul (so you can douse it without going out to the bow) that is hard to beat. With hanks it is easy to ''walk'' up the leech and neatly flake the sail, fold in quarters and put it in a ''body bag'' type sailbag. You can even leave it hanked on and hauled out of the way with the jib halyard. To me that is the epitomy of simple and sensible cruising setups and would have been my clear preference a year or so back.
But a bit has changed. Up until this year, most of the time that I have spent on bigger boats has been on boats with larger, often racing, crews. As I am getting older and also as I am getting used to having my own a bigger boat, (we probably have similar sized jibs since my boat is a fractional rig) I have found it amazingly more difficult to sling sail bags around the boat by myself. (Heck I have an old heavy delivery mainsail that I can hardly lift off of the deck by myself.) So the ease of pulling a line and having the sail all rolled up and done for the day has begun to have a certain appeal.
I have begun to pay more attention to furlers and there seems to be big differences in the ease with which some work vs others. There also seems to be differences in reliabilty from one maunufacturer to another as well. My sailmaker tells me that there is a lot of work being done on improving sail shape on partially rolled up sails. I think furlers are getting better and the technology will continue to improve.
Still if I let myself I think of myself trying to drop a genoa to the deck by pulling it out of a roller fuller luff groove in gale force winds to minimize the number of knock downs under bare poles I am taking or the amount of deep rolling from the weight of the rolled up sails high aloft, I find it hard to be comfortable with the idea of using roller furling when offshore on boats with the kind of size and displacement found on the boats that you and I own.
Just call me a curmudgeon.