Late 60’s style roller reefing booms, what were the issues. - SailNet Community
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Late 60’s style roller reefing booms, what were the issues.

Looking for people who actually used these systems properly back in the day (67’-75’). What were the issues with them? I’ve always had slab reefing on my boat but the current one has a functioning roller boom on it but no sail for it so I can’t get first hand experience with it. Just curious about why they didn’t catch on and what the problems were with the idea.

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Re: Late 60ís style roller reefing booms, what were the issues.

My previous boat, a 1974 ketch, came to me with this system. I tried to use it a few times before converting to basic slab reefing.

I found it took too long to reef, and was quite cumbersome trying to manage the crank, and the extension lines off the mast-track sail slugs, all while bouncing around in high winds/seas. It all just seemed slow and unnecessarily complicated.

I assume I would have become more proficient with the task if Iíd stuck with it, but slab reefing is just simpler and faster.

Why go fast, when you can go slow.
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Re: Late 60’s style roller reefing booms, what were the issues.

I had it on a 1974 Grampian 30, it had it's limitations, but I liked it well enough. It wouldn't be a deal breaker for me. I used it frequently.

For me the cons were:
-it was a bit slower to reef
-Adding a boom vang is a bit of a pain
-Sail shape gets a little bit funny with deep reefs

Pros:
-Lots of reefing options in the same sense as modern in mast reefing
-I didn't have any reliability issues, it always worked, but I guess that can be said for slab reefing too

This isn't the best pic, but I can't find a better one. It kind of shows what I mean about sail shape, the sail bunched up a bit at the luff. I didn't find this to be a major impediment though, the boat still sailed well, more unsightly than anything.
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Interesting picture. Yeah it seems pretty simple to me but I can definitely see how it would be slower. One Hand on the winch handle, one hand on the halyard and no hands for you or the boat.

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Re: Late 60’s style roller reefing booms, what were the issues.

I had several boats with them and tried to use them in high winds. They were a bad idea that was over promoted. There are a bunch extremely good reasons that this ill-conceived fad died on the vine.

Slow is not the right term. Impossibly slow is closer to it. You could only reef a small amount at time easing the halyard a foot or two and then cranking the book.

Then there was the issue that in order to get a smooth furl the sail needs to be slightly loaded and reefing slightly loaded was a lot of work.

The bigger issue is that there is no outhaul once you start to roll the sail so you end up with a very powered up sail shape that got worse as you sailed with it since the clew would creep towards the mast. That powered up shape meant that you could only fly less sail area and would tend to heel more and point more poorly.

To overcome that poor sail shape. we tried dropping the sail entirely, rolling in the reef with one person on the leech and one at the luff. That worked better in terms of sail shape, but it was a lot of work and the sail shape was not all that much better.

When you reef you want the clew end of the boom steaved upward more than when un-reefed. But with roller reefing, the end of the boom inevitably ended up lower.

It was almost impossible to rig an effective boom vang. The lack of a boom vang meant that you needed a deeper reef and more sheet tension to control sail shape and heeling.

It put proportionately high torsion loads on the boom so round booms were needed and torsional boom failures were not uncommon in heavy air.

May roller reefing booms rest in peace, where they deserve to be.....

Jeff
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Re: Late 60’s style roller reefing booms, what were the issues.

Worst things among many was you ended up with a big balloon in the middle and an over tensioned leech. All the sheet tension was on the leech and stretched it out ruining the sail. With big draft in the middle you got exactly the opposite sail trim that you'd want for conditions when a reef was needed. Really don't understand how this reefing system gained any popularity in the '50s & '60s. It had no redeeming sailing value.

Best thing about it is you could convert to slab reefing fairly inexpensively.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
I had several boats with them and tried to use them in high winds. They were a bad idea that was over promoted. There are a bunch extremely good reasons that this ill-conceived fad died on the vine.

Slow is not the right term. Impossibly slow is closer to it. You could only reef a small amount at time easing the halyard a foot or two and then cranking the book.

Then there was the issue that in order to get a smooth furl the sail needs to be slightly loaded and reefing slightly loaded was a lot of work.

The bigger issue is that there is no outhaul once you start to roll the sail so you end up with a very powered up sail shape that got worse as you sailed with it since the clew would creep towards the mast. That powered up shape meant that you could only fly less sail area and would tend to heel more and point more poorly.

To overcome that poor sail shape. we tried dropping the sail entirely, rolling in the reef with one person on the leech and one at the luff. That worked better in terms of sail shape, but it was a lot of work and the sail shape was not all that much better.

When you reef you want the clew end of the boom steaved upward more than when un-reefed. But with roller reefing, the end of the boom inevitably ended up lower.

It was almost impossible to rig an effective boom vang. The lack of a boom vang meant that you needed a deeper reef and more sheet tension to control sail shape and heeling.

It put proportionately high torsion loads on the boom so round booms were needed and torsional boom failures were not uncommon in heavy air.

May roller reefing booms rest in peace, where they deserve to be.....

Jeff
Quote:
Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
Worst things among many was you ended up with a big balloon in the middle and an over tensioned leech. All the sheet tension was on the leech and stretched it out ruining the sail. With big draft in the middle you got exactly the opposite sail trim that you'd want for conditions when a reef was needed. Really don't understand how this reefing system gained any popularity in the '50s & '60s. It had no redeeming sailing value.

Best thing about it is you could convert to slab reefing fairly inexpensively.
The early attraction was likely convenience. I hadn’t thought about sail shape while reefed. Looking at it, I guess there really isn’t a way to properly tension it. To me it looks like even modern roller booms and in mast reefing are a HUGE compromise.
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Re: Late 60’s style roller reefing booms, what were the issues.

Curious what folks opinions are of modern boom vs mast furling. We have in-mast, along with its reputed issues. Probably 3 good jams in the past 10 years. Not too bad. Itís actually performed much better than advertised and I like it.

Iíve always wanted boom furling, motivated by a sturdier mast, a full roach sail with battens and a presumably more reliable way to drop the sail on the deck for a mid-furl failure.

Iíve been aboard boats with boom furling. I recall my first, where I then realized how perfectly you must set boom angle, with the vang and/or topping lift. Otherwise, the sail tries to extend, like you were rolling a crooked carpet, but there isnít room in the boom for it.

So, if you had to choose one, would it be mast or boom?


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