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

I''m somewhat of a traditionalist and somewhat more of a pragmatist. So lately I''ve been considering installing roller furling on my boat. I like its convenience. What I don''t like is the stories I hear of it getting stuck at the most inopportune moments. Any opinions?
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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.


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

Funny you should mention the downhaul. That''s exactly the arrangement I have now; a hanked on jib (or genoa, as the need dictates) with a line that runs from the sail''s head down to a block at the base of the stay. The line then runs back through a fairlead to the cockpit. One yank and the heads''l drops pronto.
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Old 07-23-2004
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roller furling vs hanked on headsails

I''m curious what the more experienced people''s opinions are for a cutter-rig that either has both headsails on rollers, or has the jib on a roller and uses hanks for the staysail.

This way you can put a large 130+ on the jib, and then roll it all the way up and use the staysail, either partly furled or with a hanked-on storm sail in heavy weather.

Trade-off is of course the extra work involved in tacking the jib, but in a cruising boat tacking is often a once-a-week chore.


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

I think JeffH stated recently the advantages/disadvantages under the discussion of furling vs. hank-on. At the risk of repeating, my preferences and observations are:
1. Genoa furling - the genoa will typically only decrease by about 30% to a 100% (with ''marginal'' shape) on even the very best sails ''cut'' for furling. Above those conditions the windage of the rolled sail becomes apparent, especially if you need to heave-to - as it will require a larger exposed cross section of the mainsail to balance. In full gale conditions you know that the huge ''wad'' on the furler is affecting trim, but its usually now too late to do anything about it. I try to get the genoa completely off long before such conditions occur and replace with a smaller sail.
For my furling attachment I have cut/sliced the luff tape at the head and foot so that I can get an extremely tight roll ... as only the ''middle'' of the luffl is connected to the foil.
Especially when shorthanded, when stripping from a furler, you dont want to be ''dancing'' with a heavy, wet, monster on a bouncing foredeck.

2. I prefer hanked-on staysails (with reef points). This is a bombproof & least complicated attachment system that is simplistic to the extreme & will allow the stays''l to be dropped without blowing overboard. (I prefer a boomed/vanged staysail - but lets not go there).
When feeling lazy, I use just a mainsail/staysail combination .... and simply make the main as flat as necessary to balance with the staysl. My staysl is self tending on a boom so I can short tack until the cows come home and wont be exhausted.

3. Regards tacking, I prefer a tricing line that bunches the foot of the genoa towards the luff and makes it pass quite easily between the forestay and the jibstay. I usually fly the staysail under the genoa. When tacking during long beats, I usually run the sheets "outside of everything" including the forestay and simply gybe through a 270 in the fashion of the old ''square riggers''.

For travelling I really now prefer a cutter for its ''versatility''. Most well thought-out ''travelliing'' is essentially tacking downwind anyway, so for me a cutter works best.
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Old 07-23-2004
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roller furling vs hanked on headsails


I use a downhaul like yours on my 22 foot sailboat because it is not much canvass to manage on the deck. I use a furler on my 34 ft boat because there are times during a day when it is quite sufficient to trim the headsail with a few wraps. Furler does not mean you give up changing out headsails: if the marine forecase is calling for strong winds, I spend 30 minutes the night before removing the 150 and loading the yankee jib on the furler, giving the same trimming flexibility to a smaller headsail. I would say if you sail in highly variable winds go with a furler and if you sail where the winds have some sort of consistency you may want to stay with a set of hanked headsails. As far as reliability of furling gear, the conversation rarely comes up in my sailing circles, but then we are coastal cruisers not blue water sailors.

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

I think furlers are the way to go, hands down. I have a cutter rig on my 65'', with both genoa and staysail on furlers. The staysail is self-tacking, so upwind work is just turn the wheel, no ropes to pull. Downwind, having a furled sail is much less of an issue, even in Gale force winds. It really doesn''t matter if windflow is perfect over the luff, because you''re going downwind. If its heavy wind, you could hoist cardboard scraps and the boat will keep moving. I''ve had great reliability and functionality with both Harken and CDI furlers, with no equipment failures. In my experience, when there is a furler problem, it''s really an installation or poorly led line problem, and not a faulty furler.
As for changing sails, most furlers have twin luff grooves, and you can rig a downhaul on these just as easily if you like. You also have the added advantage of being able to run downwind with twin poled out headssails, and no worries.
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