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  #11  
Old 10-21-2004
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

Chas:

"Jack, I would ask, regarding mast cross-section, have you any idea of what type of cross-section gives the most problems?"

As with any other complex system, my sense is that it''s about each of the pieces and how they work together, rather than a single design issue. The mast you mention has to have a closed section for structural integrity, so I''m not sure what you mean by ''cowl shape''. You''ll see some systems designed as ''add-on'' systems and attached to the aft end of an existing spar, while other systems are designed from the ground up and it''s the better ones in this category that I would want to consider.

For a decent benchmark when comparing systems, I''d suggest looking at the detail (first hand if possible, at a boat show) of the Selden system: top/bottom rollers, access to mechanism for servicing & inspection, good sized cross section, well-manufactured parts...and even with all this, they are still recommending specific lofts as they know the sail has to be considered an integral part of the system, as well.

Jack
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

Jack,

The cross section of the mast I''m referring to is a double walled U-shape, sort of like putting a lower-case ''u'' inside an upper-case ''U'' and sealing the ends together. It forms a shape like a cresent with its points drawn together so that the inner curve becomes a u-shape. As I recall it was a single extrusion and looked pretty robust. I am told it was sailed for several years throughout the Carib and the east coast of S. America as far as Buenas Aires.

I was told that the sail was bent on a system nearly, or exactly, like a jib roller furler. The sail fits into the convexity of the mast but is not enclosed as it would be in a mast with a c-shaped cross-section. The after aspect of the furled sail is fully visible from aft of the mast, but not at all visible from the sides or front. This creates the "cowl" effect that I was talking about.

About problems with certain cross-sections, I was really wondering if there are certain mast cross-sections that have proven weaker, or more prone to jamming a sail. Amoung those you know who would not sail an in-mast furler in the ocean, did they tell you what exactly had dissuaded them from using in-mast RF, such as structural problems, jammed sails, or poor quality or poorly designed couplings?

But I really have a broader question. While I realize there is a low-level debate as to whether RF or hanked-on headsails are better suited for blue water cruising, it appears that the battle for the hearts and minds of cruisers has been won. Rarely do I see blue water boats without RFs. So, if the jury is in, and after all considerations, RFs are used by cruisers in preference to hanks, why is there such a resistance to using RFs on mainsails? Has the state of in-mast technology not yet caught up with headsail systems? Or is it a sales & marketing issue? Or is there some consideration that makes RF mainsails an irreconcilably bad idea?

Thanks,
Chas.
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

Chas, I''m not familiar with the mast cross-section you described tho'' your description was certainly clear; sorry.

I''m surely no more than a student of in-mast furling/reefing systems altho'' I''ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of ocean crossing boats now and talk with some of their crews. And I''ve also tried to regularly do homework on the systems I can at boat shows (last at Southampton last month; next one is London''s blow-out show in January). Thus, my growing sense of the issues and the usage history.

"Rarely do I see blue water boats without RFs. So, if the jury is in, and after all considerations, RFs are used by cruisers in preference to hanks, why is there such a resistance to using RFs on mainsails?

Lots of observations can be made in response to that; I''ll offer four. First, I think you''d be amazed at how often you see a hanked sail on an offshore boat...and yet your observation is quite correct that most crews do have a RF/RR unit for their headsail. Almost always, the offshore boat is going to have a RF/RR headsail system AND an inner stay. Richer crews might have that inner stay permanently installed and with its own RF/RR system...while poorer folks like me might have a release lever, stow the inner stay - tensioned - on the side deck, and then set up stay, sail and sheets before going offshore. But the point I''m making is that the inner stay is what frees folks up to go offshore with a single headsail on their RF/RR foil and usually not experience tons of grief in heavy weather.

Second, we''re talking headsails here - and they''re very different from mainsails, which are usually supported on two of the three sides, or at least on one side plus at the clew. Headsails can do their work efficiently without battens; mainsails can not. And remember that one of the criticisms we use to hear was the weight on the bow plus the windage that a furled headsail put on the boat. One reason you hear less about that now is that boat sizes have grown over the last 2 decades and can better handle the weight; another reason is that a furling system is such a ''given'', as you point out, that it''s now simply viewed as a norm rather than a choice.

A third reason, it seems to me, has to do with the state of technology for mainsail furling systems but not in the way you implied. As folks in earlier times worked their way through the first generations of jib furling systems, old/heavy/awkward/furling but not reefing systems were tossed as the learning curve climbed, the grapevine passed the word, and the wheat was separated from the chaff. While there are, I think, some excellent mainsail furling systems today, we''re still in that weaning process insofar as I can tell, where the minimally capable systems are often seen in greatest abundance (gracious me, look at some of those Beneteau and similar units, just to mention one of many...), we''re still in a place where mainsail furling is viewed and discussed generically (my earlier point), and the sailor is just not yet as educated or discriminating as s/he will become.

And finally, a jib reefing/furling system is a simplier system as it lacks an external spar and makes fewer line control demands, and so there are simply more things that must be right or can go wrong. (And let''s not forget the sail: a poor sail choice will produce a terrible result on a reefed headsail just as it can on a reefed/furled mainsail). Related to this, the greater complexity of the mainsail system also adds additional cost - especially if the system is built cleverly and with quality hardware - and so there''s a cost barrier sailors face with mainsail furling that doesn''t exist to the same degree with jib furling.

You''ll notice that I haven''t offered any reasons that relate to performance. My impression is that, in the real world for most sailors, coastal or offshore, ease of handling and the perceived security and safety of furling over going on deck to douse or reef is more important. Thus, to offer the rationale of lesser performance as a ''reason'' why folks avoid mainsail furling is, again just as I see it, usually not correct...altho'' we hear it frequently.

You''ll also notice I didn''t say anything about the mainsail being the more critical sail in heavy air. On more modern designs with sloop rigs, I''m hearing people say they often douse the main and sail under reefed headsail (or staysail or solent sail) across or down the wind in a serious blow. I rarely hear people talking about heaving to, something that used to be far more common and often requires using the mainsail, but then this often refers these days to boats with far different underbodies. So again, while I may hear non-users saying they don''t want to risk their critical sail (aka: mainsail) to a possible failure in heavy air, in reality I wonder how many owners of mainsail furling systems actually deploy only a small segment of their reefed/rolled mainsail in serious weather.

I would surely be interested in what others have to offer on this topic.

Jack
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

Hmm, this is very interesting.

I wondered if people allowed less efficiency in their headsails because they so meticulously maintained the appearance of efficiency in their mainsails.

But for skydivers, parafoils inflate to a wonderfully efficient foil depending entirely on the flow of air to give them their shape-- and they have no battens. I know that at one time gaff-rigged boats relied on three structural sides to support and help shape their mainsails, now it''s two sides, mast and boom (two-and-a-half, if you count battens). But it seems to me, that the same simple kind of design that allows the flow of air to inflate and give shape to a headsail, and give it its aerodynamic pull, can do the same thing easily and inexpensively for a club-footed, in-mast furling mainsail.

I, too, would be interested in what in-mast furlers people have, whether they use them to reef and if they''re pleased with sail shape and performance.

Chas.
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Old 12-20-2004
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

Thought you might be interested in my contribution, as I have a behind mast reefing system. (Unlike the majority of people who decry it I have actually tried it)

First lets deal with one of the main criticisms - it adds weight up the mast. I refer you to http://www.zsparsuk.com/sec02.htm for a yacht of 36-38ft. The mast with in-mast reefing (Z800)is 3.5mm thick and weighs 8.3kg/metre (this is the heavier of the two options for a boat of this size) The mast for slab reefing (Z701)is 4mm thick and weighs 7kg/metre Thus the difference on a 43 ft mast is 37lb. - The lighter section (Z700E) would only be 14lb heavier. If you are concerned by this much extra then dont mount the radar up the mast cause the scanner for that weighs considerably more!

Admitedly the behind-mast add-on which I have on my present boat, does add a significant penalty, but I dont plan to go deep water with that.

Sail shape is another thing that people whinge about. A modern sail designed for in-mast reefing should also have full length vertical battens - these provide a much better shape, and also a handy guide to reefing!. I would accept that perhaps the shape is not quite as optimum as full length horizontal batterns, but the diffeerence for a cruiser is marginal, and more than overcome by the ease of reefing/increasing sail.

Loss of sail area - again a behind mast system will lose a certain amount of sail, but there is no reason why a proper in-mast system should be any smaller than is conventional slabed rival.

Yes they can get jammed if you do not follow a couple of very simple rules - when increasing sail, make sure boom is at 90 degrees. when reefing make sure that kicker is loose. A kicker line that is controlled from the cockpit soon solves that problem.

In short, in-mast systems are coming of age as are in-boom systems. They offer tremendous advantages to short handed/more elderly sailing with very few real major disadvantages. I have been using mine all this last season, and am convinced that it has been a good investment. My boat for further affield will have an in-mast furler.
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

And for you Anglophobes, <em>kicker</em> does not refer to what one does to wake the sleeping off-watch crew, but rather the boom vang... :^)
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Old 01-16-2005
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

This discussion reminds me of the old discussions in the computer world about the horrible transition from 5.25" floppy disks to 3.5" floppies, to "no" floppy disk. In Mast furling is the shape of things to come. It is the future. My guess is that most of the people commenting have no experience with the in mast furing system. (They think that changing 5.25" floppy disk to 3.5" was heresy). The facts are that in mast furling works. I have used it and I am sold on it''s ease and improved safety. It is also a fact that "newer used" boats are hard to sell if they don''t have in mast furling. The change has come. Its time for change. Its time for all those old timers to admit that they are living in the past much like the opponents of the 3.5" floppy disk transition. Actually, they are much worse, they are like the breed who believe that you still need a 3.5" floppy. In mast furling is here to stay and it will gradually become major selling point for boats that have it. Tim
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

This discussion reminds me of the old discussions in the computer world about the horrible transition from 5.25" floppy disks to 3.5" floppies, to "no" floppy disk. In Mast furling is the shape of things to come. It is the future. My guess is that most of the people commenting have no experience with the in mast furing system. (They think that changing 5.25" floppy disk to 3.5" was heresy). The facts are that in mast furling works. I have used it and I am sold on it''s ease and improved safety. It is also a fact that "newer used" boats are hard to sell if they don''t have in mast furling. The change has come. Its time for change. Its time for all those old timers to admit that they are living in the past much like the opponents of the 3.5" floppy disk transition. Actually, they are much worse, they are like the breed who believe that you still need a 3.5" floppy. In mast furling is here to stay and it will gradually become major selling point for boats that have it. Tim
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Old 01-17-2005
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

The change from 5.25" to 3.5" discs was an *improvement" in technology. A change to in-mast furling is a great step backwards if you value having good shape to a mainsail ... or a leech/roach that is adquately and properly supported by battens.

For those that have no idea that the white triangular things that sticks-up on the top of a sailboat are important and need precision tension on the edges to be set and shaped by halyard , etc. tension .... in mast furling will be fine.

Let me ask this question to those who favor in-mast furling: ..... how do you change the luff tension to affect the position of maximum draft (fore or aft) while sailing and already partly reefed so that you can effect proper helm balance in changing wind and sea-state conditions ???? At the extreme, this is a vital ''safety consideration'' ... and you cant do it with an in-mast furler! .... or do you just reef all the way in, turn on the engine and scurry back to the marina ???????????
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Old 01-17-2005
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In-mast furler; to buy or not to buy;

You may have experienced success with your in mast furling but that has not been a universal experience. In talking to a gathering of experienced delivery skippers who have taken in-mast furling systems offshore, there was near universal agreement that the current state of in-mast furling should not be taken offshore and probably is not a great idea even for coastal cruisers. Most reported experiencing cases of serious jambing problems in extreme and not so extreme conditions, and a degrading of sail shape after as little as a couple hours being furled. One described having to cut a hiho jambed mainsail off of the mast in 50 knot winds to save the boat. Quite a few said that they will not deliver a boat offshore that has an in-mast furler.

At the last boat show, I was told that the percentage of Beneteaus sold with in-mast furling peaked in 2002 and has been dropping ever since. In talking to sailmakers, there seems to be universal agreement that in-mast furling results in a shorter sail life and makes it near imposible to get proper sail shape since in-mast furlers are not as tollerant of the kind of sail shaping techniques that can be applied to roller furling jibs or to conventionally mounted sails.

With the advent of easier to use and more reliable sail handling systems (such as two line reefing combined with the Dutchmen flaking system) I think in-mast furling will either need to get a lot better, or it will go the way of roller reefing booms of the 1960''s. Not all new technology is an improvement.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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