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post #1 of 70 Old 07-01-2018 Thread Starter
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Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

Those of you with experience sailing with in-mast furling systems, what are the pros and cons?
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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

Pros:
1 In theory, mainsail can be reefed to any size.
2. If you have a dodger and Bimini, it makes putting the sail away much easier.

Cons:
1) costs more than a conventional mast and sail.
2) shortens life of the mainsail even if the boat is most sailed without being reefed, and greatly shortens the life of the sail if the sail is reefed very often.
3) Reduces performance due to less sail area and poorer sail shape.
4) Reefed there is no way to control sail draft so typically sail is too full when reefed increasing heeling and weather helm and too flat for normal sailing.
5) More line to deal with since the outhaul typically ends up being as long as the halyard, and the halyard should be tensioned and slacked every time you deploy and store the sail.
6) While newer in mast furlers have gotten more reliable than the earlier ones, and if used with care, they can be reliable. They still can and do jamb at the most unfortunate times. The worst part of that is that the jamb is likely to be a hiho (half in half out).
7) They are one more piece of equipment to maintain.
8) Add weight aloft and more windage for greater heeling,
9) some make loud noises when anchored in a breeze.

For me, in mast furlers are a deal breaker, but there are a lot of people who like theirs.

Jeff


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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

Jeff any thoughts on structural stays v mandrills for in mast/in boom systems?

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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

IMHO, the tradeoff is worth it on a bigger boat. Sail handling is so much easier.

We had one for 10 years, when we were sailing a 52' boat. We never jammed it, but came close. Tension on the outhaul is key when winding it up to keep it tightly wound. Sure was nice to arrive at an anchorage and roll up the window shade in seconds. Also nice not to mess with sail covers, flaking sails, etc. All of Jeff's negatives are accurate from our experience, but again, tradeoff in making things easy? What's that worth to you?

On our current boat (38') we opted for lazy jacks and a single power winch for the halyard. Simple and easy, and hard to mess up.

So, bottom line, big boat, I'd do it again. Smaller boat, not worth it. Break point around 45-50'.

YMMV.
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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

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Originally Posted by capecodda View Post
IMHO, the tradeoff is worth it on a bigger boat. Sail handling is so much easier.

We had one for 10 years, when we were sailing a 52' boat. We never jammed it, but came close. Tension on the outhaul is key when winding it up to keep it tightly wound. Sure was nice to arrive at an anchorage and roll up the window shade in seconds. Also nice not to mess with sail covers, flaking sails, etc. All of Jeff's negatives are accurate from our experience, but again, tradeoff in making things easy? What's that worth to you?

On our current boat (38') we opted for lazy jacks and a single power winch for the halyard. Simple and easy, and hard to mess up.

So, bottom line, big boat, I'd do it again. Smaller boat, not worth it. Break point around 45-50'.

YMMV.
Thanks Capecodda,

We're considering a newer Catalina 320 for a lot of other reasons, but they are mostly equipped with in-mast furling. I have never sailed with an in-mast furler, but my sense is that aside from performance issues, rolling it in properly may be a technique/training issue.

However, we all know that when the s hits the f, technique and training may fly out the window. My sailing mates are trying to convince me that jamming one of those things always happens at precisely the wrong moment and that the only thing you can do is cut her loose. Any experience in un-jamming?
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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

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Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
Pros:
1 In theory, mainsail can be reefed to any size.
2. If you have a dodger and Bimini, it makes putting the sail away much easier.

Cons:
1) costs more than a conventional mast and sail.
2) shortens life of the mainsail even if the boat is most sailed without being reefed, and greatly shortens the life of the sail if the sail is reefed very often.
3) Reduces performance due to less sail area and poorer sail shape.
4) Reefed there is no way to control sail draft so typically sail is too full when reefed increasing heeling and weather helm and too flat for normal sailing.
5) More line to deal with since the outhaul typically ends up being as long as the halyard, and the halyard should be tensioned and slacked every time you deploy and store the sail.
6) While newer in mast furlers have gotten more reliable than the earlier ones, and if used with care, they can be reliable. They still can and do jamb at the most unfortunate times. The worst part of that is that the jamb is likely to be a hiho (half in half out).
7) They are one more piece of equipment to maintain.
8) Add weight aloft and more windage for greater heeling,
9) some make loud noises when anchored in a breeze.

For me, in mast furlers are a deal breaker, but there are a lot of people who like theirs.

Jeff
Jeff, good list, thanks.
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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

Only had one bad experience and it was with the old Hood system. Coming home from Bermuda on a 59’ Hinckley center cockpit ketch was called up from my berth. Was told another crew was trying to reef the main while broad reaching. Didn’t head up before starting. System was on hydraulics and had vertical battens. He had jammed it with one double fold of sail on either side of the batten. So two layers of sail, then the batten, then two layers of sail. He tried to free it by rotating the mandrill and outhaul in and out but succeeded only to bend the mandrill. Both wind and wave continued to build. It was unsafe to go up the mast although we briefly tried. It was unsafe to leave the sail alone and go jig and jigger and let the main beat itself to death. The noise was amazing. The owner need to be restrained as a knife was taken to it. It ripped up parallel to the mast. The out haul was cut away. Gone.
Met the owner weeks after as we were having drinks and dinner in the same restaurant. He told me the whole system was toast and the mast extrusion was bent where the jam was. He replaced it with a conventional mast and slab reefing. Also had to replace deck hardware and parts of deck where those fittings were placed.
People I know who have in mast commonly won’t let anyone but themselves touch it. Even if offwatch they come up to deal with it. Say the lost sleep is worth the inconvenience.

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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

What's not to like about infinite reefing? What's not to like about having no sail cover, lazy jacks or reefing lines hanging off the mainsail?
Unless one is a full-on racer, where every bit of sail area and sail shape are the most important things to them.
I've been sailing this boat for 9 years now with an RF main, and we sail a great deal as a term charter boat, so I believe I speak from experience. I agree with most of what Jeff said, except the point that "They still can and do jamb at the most unfortunate times". "They" do not jamb, the operators jamb them. And most of the time they jamb because the main has lost its shape and is baggy in the center. Well, that isn't something one doesn't know has happened, so one would take extra care when furling or unfurling a baggy main and there would be no problems. IMO, they are about as likely to jamb as your genoa sheet winches are to over-ride under load; both require a lack of attention and proper operation.
I love the infinite reefing, just in or out an inch or two can make all the difference in keeping the boat footing along on her lines. But one of the most valuable things about RF mains is the fact that one need not come up into the wind to drop (furl) or set the sail. This I believe compensates for Jeff's thought on the RF main's wearing out faster, as the sail rarely if ever flogs! Anyway, I can set or reef/furl our main on any point of sail, including DDW, if the wind is light enough. Boy, is that nice!
If you are the sort that takes care when operating equipment and doesn't force things if there is a problem, then there is no good reason why you shouldn't have an RF main. But if you are the 'bull in a china shop' sort of sailor, then stay far, far away from RF of any kind.
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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

Hey wing, as I said I'd probably not want one on a 32ft boat, but I don't think it's a disaster either.

You maybe should try it and see how it works on this setup. I assume it's not some sort of power furl at that size, some sort of line wraps around the mandril in the mast. Also, I assume you're thinking coastal sailing with this boat.

I've had the nightmare that Out describes, but luckily so far only in my mind. But I know it can happen.
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Re: Pros and Cons of In-Mast Furling

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Originally Posted by capecodda View Post
I've had the nightmare that Out describes, but luckily so far only in my mind. But I know it can happen.
Exactly my point. The system didn't fail, the operator made the error. I surely wouldn't let just anybody operate the RF main, especially offshore, any more than I would our electric Lewmar 65ST's.
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