Join Date: Dec 2002
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Here''s my two cents.
I installed roller reefing and modified an existing 150 genoa (used, but still serviceable, not a "race" sail) to it. Added protective covering to the edges, shortened the luff, and attached a luff tape suitable for the furler extrusion myself. Enjoyed doing it and am pleased with the results.
I sail and race (beer can racing) on the potomac river, notorious for light air, so the extra sail area comes in handy. As Jeff will point out, a roller furled sail will not have the best shape, and if you depower by partially furling, it will be impossible to keep a good shape in the sail (no luff tension, for starters). Nonetheless, we partially furl the genoa in wind over 15-18 knots to depower the boat (don''t yet have the capability to reef the main, which would be nice, and is a planned upgrade this winter). It''s not optimum, but it works, and the best thing is on downwind legs we can unroll it instantly to increase sail area on a run or reach. Don''t have to mess with sail changing (sailing with a pickup crew, you can''t expect them to do sail changes very quickly or well).
Now Jeff H. and others wary of roller reefing will point out that for sailing in really windy conditions, you can''t expect to depower the jib and still have a useable sail area by rolling it up, say, 50 percent or more. This is a valid point, I''ve never been out in so much wind that I felt the need to roll up the sail that much, but I''ll take their word for it. For the type of sailing I''m doing now, I''m pleased with what I''ve got (and, realistically, on my budget, a new sail, 1000 dollar furler, and paying someone to do the work wasn''t and isn''t an option).
A word about racing, since sailingfool brought it up: It''s certainly true that you won''t see a roller furler on many supercompetitive race boats. AC and other hotshot racing owners opt for changeable headsails, to extract that extra half, one, or two percent upwind speed you''ll get over a roller furled sail. In a handicap fleet, you do get an adjustment if your furler is mounted above deck, but you are still losing a little on boat speed. But an experienced sailor in our Hobie fleet always reminds new racers intent on cracking open their wallets to buy a lighter boat, new sails, and other gofast gadgets that the first component you need to work on is the one attached to the other end of the tiller (not the rudder). I''m sure you can find lots of smooth hulled boats with crackly new sails racing here and there that don''t perform up to their potential because the skipper/owner doesn''t know how to extract the most out of what they have. Probably 70-80 percent of boatspeed is not how new your equipment is, but how you use it. And racing results depend not only on boatspeed but tactical decisions as well.