Roller Furling

Roller Furling

1) What roller furling system do you use (if any)?

We have two furlers on “Moonhshadow.” The headsail furler is original equipment, a Reckmann, and the staysail furler is a Harken which I installed in ’95.

3) What do you like and dislike about roller furling?

What I like about roller furling is that, most importantly, it is easier and safer than hanked-on sails. We sail mostly double-handed, and I occasionally single-hand. Even when we are two, only one of us is usually on watch. It would be much more difficult to handle our 62 feet without roller furling, particularly in any sort of blow. In addition, we can do all our headsail handling from the cockpit, which is much safer and dryer than the foredeck. Sailing deep, with the headsail in the lee of the main, one of us can easily furl our 140% genoa without even using a winch. The other advantage of roller furling is the ability to quickly shorten sail in a squall, or furl to slow down to land a fish or negotiate a reef pass. We also do a quick furl of our genoa to tack or gybe it more easily around the baby stay. Folding sails, particularly on a pitching deck is a drag. The negative side of roller furling is the maintenance and repair aspect. While both of my furlers have been quite reliable, they have more moving parts than piston hanks, so require some occasionl work and $ to keep them in good working order. Weight and windage aloft hurt us a bit when we are racing, but I keep reminding myself that we are a cruising yacht. For me, these are worthwhile tradeoffs.

4) Can you sail efficiently to weather with a roller furled jib?

We try to avoid sailing to weather whenever possible, but sometimes there is no getting around it. With a relatively short stick, shallow keel and narrow beam, we are not exactly a brilliant upwind boat to begin with. We find that our upwind VMG (Velocity Made Good) deteriorates as wind and heel increase, so we shorten early when beating. Our old jib is not great upwind, but gives us respectable performance since it’s recent “tummy tuck.” Our staysail is in very good shape, but doesn’t have an ideal sheeting angle for pointing up high.

5) If not, how close to the wind can you efficiently sail roller reefed?

While we can sail to within 35-45 degrees of the TRUE wind, we find that in winds above 15 knots our VMG is not so hot at those angles. When seas get above 3 feet and the wave frequency short, we pound. Depending on schedule, conditions and the level of comfort we desire, we will use a couple of different strategies. If the sea state is settled, we will sail it with reefed main an a full jib. The next step is to furl the jib an use a full staysail. That will keep us moving well upwind in up to 25 knots of true wind. The other option is to motorsail bare-headed with a single-reefed main. We can usually do 6-8 knots (depending on sea state) comfortably at 10 degrees off the true wind. This is a much better VMG than 7 knots at 45-50 degrees.

6) How far down are you reefed when sailing to windward?

In warm tradewind temperatures and conditions, we can sail very well upwind in up to 15 knots of true wind with a full main and full 100% jib. In 15 to 22 knots of true wind, we do well with a single reef in the main. At about 25 knots, it’s time to furl the jib and use the staysail. At 28 to 30 knots, we double-reef the main and start furling the staysail to tune to the sea and wind conditions. I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually used the second reef point.

7) Do you have any form of special luff padding on the jib to help when
roller reefed and if so, how does it work?

My old jib and genoa have pretty wimpy padding on the luffs. It is more or less useless. Headsail shape suffers badly if we partially furl either of these sails when sailing to windward. The next set of headsails will have substantial luff padding. My five year old staysail has excellent luff padding and holds pretty good shape when it is partially furled. I have only experienced conditions that required partial furling of the staysail on two or three occasions.

8) How do you handle your storm canvas?

We keep it safely stowed in the lazarette! In all seriousness, I have never actually used any of my storm sails. Once every year or so, we take them out, hoist them up and inspect them for. . . I guess dry rot, mouse holes or just for the heck of it. The only chafe they get is from going in and out of the sail bag! They are all brand-spanking-new, 15 year old sails.

Unless we had some fairly advanced notice of severe weather approaching, enough crew on board, and calm enough conditions to allow for headsail changes, I doubt that we would be able to use much of the storm canvas. Our main has three deep reefs. The third reef doesn’t present much more sail than the storm trysail, and is much easier to deal with than another bag on deck. The staysail is very heavily built of 11 oz. dacron and has three marked reef points. The third reef on this baby presents less sail area than the storm staysail. Given the choice between stripping the baby stay and bending on the storm sail, as opposed to rolling out a hanky of the staysail, in a short-handed situation I would opt to stay safe and dry in the cockpit.

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