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Old 02-03-2012, 01:54 PM   #1
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Default Mainsail for singlehandler: Batten vs Furling

Dear all,
Please share your experience on pros and cons of batten vs furling mainsail for singlehanded long-distance cruising in various conditions.

Thanks!
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Old 02-03-2012, 03:12 PM   #2
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Dear all,
Please share your experience on pros and cons of batten vs furling mainsail for singlehanded long-distance cruising in various conditions.

Thanks!
Also furling genoa as a storm jib?
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Old 02-03-2012, 10:44 PM   #3
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I have a furling jib and a battened main. I have cruised about 5,000 NM in the last couple of years, most of it300 - 800 miles offshore. I single hand. During unexpected changes of conditions I love the fact that I can just furl the jib. The process to reef the main is much more lengthy. All things considered if I had the choice I would go for the furling main.

Most times offshore I have not seen the kinds of light winds (1 - 10 Knts) that I were frequent when I sailed on Lake Michigan. There was either a lot of wind (most frequently 15 to 20) or none and all.

Hope this helps.
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:24 PM   #4
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I have a furling jib and a battened main. I have cruised about 5,000 NM in the last couple of years, most of it300 - 800 miles offshore. I single hand. During unexpected changes of conditions I love the fact that I can just furl the jib. The process to reef the main is much more lengthy. All things considered if I had the choice I would go for the furling main.

Most times offshore I have not seen the kinds of light winds (1 - 10 Knts) that I were frequent when I sailed on Lake Michigan. There was either a lot of wind (most frequently 15 to 20) or none and all.

Hope this helps.
Thanks for sharing! I sailed both types of main. Furling main tends to get stuck in the mast when you unwind it. In this case you need to go to the mast and pull the main out with your hands. Fortunately it never got stuck for me while shortening sail.
Another thing is that without battens when you reduce or increase sail it gets loose and becomes a big bag full of wind.
Most of all I am interested to what extent furling main is reliable in long cruise. How often the furling systems fails and how irrevocably it fails.
And what size are your jib and main that you single hand?

Thanks!
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Old 02-04-2012, 02:02 AM   #5
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Since I have not sailed with a furling main I can't help you with that. I sailed with a 150 jib, now a 135. Used to use a footted main, now use a loose footed. I went to the loose foot so that I could use a stack pack. I haven't had enough experience with the loose foot to really have an opinion yet.
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Old 02-04-2012, 11:56 AM   #6
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Single-handed cruising presents many challenges, and you're wise to anticipate them and get your boat set up before you set out. For those of us who have a partner on board, I can't emphasize enough that for at least 8 hours every day, one of you is single-handing the boat. Single-handing tactics are relevant to crewed yachts as well, IMO.

No doubt that in heavy weather it is better to avoid going forward out of the cockpit, whether on a crewed boat or single-handed. Finding ways to avoid leaving the cockpit is a good thing, provided that should a furling system fail you won’t be left in a worse situation than if you had gone forward in the first place.

Furling jib:

One must be careful when considering heavy weather tactics, and IMO a furling jib is great for light to moderately heavy winds. Over 40 knots (or perhaps 30+,depending on boat and crew), furling to simply reduce headsail area does not usually accomplish what is needed, which is reduced sail kept low and closer to the deck. We had a high-cut Yankee genoa running most of the time, and that was great until one furled it more than halfway – at that point the sail was high and up near the middle of the forestay – too high for really bad winds.

Although sv Watermelon was not a cutter rig we had an inner forestay that we also rigged with a furling unit. When the wind really piped up we just rolled up and secured the headsail and ran with the sail on the inner forestay. When the wind got nasty we rolled that up and put up our storm jib, very small, very low. At the risk of stating the obvious, securing the furled sail is important so that a hard gust doesn't unfurl the sail on you.

Mainsail:

Although I don’t have any experience with in-mast furling mainsails, I’ve seen them jammed and a crew struggling to unjam them in light to moderate weather. I can’t imagine how difficult it could be in heavy weather.

A friend had a boom-rolling main furling system that he swore by, which I would consider before I’d look at an in-mast furling system. If something jammed with a boom-roller, you could still reef the main by dropping it the conventional way. Yet the rolling boom requires that you go forward, too.

I think that the fastest and safest (relatively speaking) is “jiffy reefing” (quote from following link) – “Most large sailboats will have one to three reefing points on the mainsail. These points are reinforced cringles (grommets) on the luff and leech of the sail. The cringles on the sails leech usually have a line through them which passes through the boom, down the mast and into the boat's cockpit. The line may also pass through the cringles on the sail's luff. This is called Jiffy Reefing and the entire sail can be reefed by lowering the main and tightening the reefing line. “ US SAILING website, Weather and Reefing
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Old 02-06-2012, 03:29 PM   #7
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... a roller furling jib can add to the safety on board and the older we get, the more we wish to have a furling headsail on board.

But it is a compromize, especially on a Bermuda-rig, where this sail is the only headsail:
- Light wind performace is not as good, as these sails are never as big as your biggest possible Genoa could be.
- The sailclothweight is a compromize: The cloth can't be light weight, to withstand fresher wind conditions and vice versa: They cant have storm-jib quality...

So, if we are a little into performance, we have to change sails anyway. This is no big problem at sea when changing to a bigger sail under nice friendly conditions and most times it is not even necessary, because a modern gennaker does not need a forestay: just roll up the jib and put out the gennaker! But reducing sails is a bigger problem.
JeanneP mentioned the drawback of a furling headsail under heavy wind conditions. But on on most rigs you need some kind of headsail under all possible wind conditions (maybe not under bare poles...) and on a Bermuda rigg there is just one head stay to use. (IMO it is perfectly wrong to try to manage severe wind conditions just under reduced main sail and the jib rolled up completely, putting the point of sail pressure way back to where you don't want it: Ideal contitions for broaching !
SO, under bad conditions you have to go up front and change a sail anyway! Changing a roller furling jib is a little more work than changing a staysail. Doing this at sea is even more tricky because once you lower the sail, the only points the sail is still tied to the ship is the clew, the tack maybe washed over board and the head swinging somewhere over deck... This can cause dangerous situations on the foredeck.
As experienced sailors try to avoid this situation they change their furling jip to a smaller size while still in the harbour, knowing that they will sail underdressed most of the time...

Sailmakers present compromizes to this problem with storm jibs that can be fixed to or over the rolled up jib: Here ATN Sailing Gear- Gale Sail | Sailing Equipment is one solution - is there anyone around who has tried this under picking up wind- and seaconditions?

IMO roller furling jibs really make sence on a cutter rig: Light- and moderate conditions are managed with the outer headsail and the inner sail handles the fresh to strong winds and they correspond well with the reefed down main sail.

I'm now changing my rig to the configuration we just read in the previous post and if it comes to the point to cange to a roller furling jib system (which we do not yet have), the outer forstay will be the choice and the additionally rigged inner forestay will carry the traditional storm-staysail with hanks...:

"Although sv Watermelon was not a cutter rig we had an inner forestay that we also rigged with a furling unit. When the wind really piped up we just rolled up and secured the headsail and ran with the sail on the inner forestay. When the wind got nasty we rolled that up and put up our storm jib, very small, very low. At the risk of stating the obvious, securing the furled sail is important so that a hard gust doesn't unfurl the sail on you."


And one last aspect:
A roller furling jib has to replace 2 to 3 normal stay sails. The more, the better, because well built furling sails are quite expensive! So, this sail has to work 2 to 3 times more. Then you roll it up and it stays outside for weeks and maybe months you do not sail. Or, honestly, do you put the sail down and away like a normal staysail while it is not at use?
Concidering that I find it quite interesting that many owners rely just on this one sail, or does anyone has a decent backup sail in the locker?

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Old 02-06-2012, 08:55 PM   #8
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On our schooner, we have hanked on headsails and a traditional (I suppose it's called Jiffy reef?) system on both the mainsail (aft most sail) and the gaff foresail. Our headsails range from about 180 sf to 450 sf in size, the headsails are jib out on a bowsprit and boomed staysail on the foredeck, our foresail, unreefed, is a bit over 500 sf, and our mainsail, unreefed, a bit over 600 sf. In all cases, one person can manage changing sail (jibs) and reefing. However, it is nice to have two people working on it.

A couple thoughts about sailing shorthanded:

hanked on sails are easy to work with as long as you've rigged a downhaul to the top of each sail so that you can pull it down in high winds (case of jib) or if a track jams (case of mainsail). Further, we have rigged a tricing line to the jib which allows one to de-power/ scandalize the sail by pulling the clew tight to the jibstay. The tricing line can allow for a temporary and quick de-powering (some old timers call it a "sea furl") while you manage other things during a sudden squall for example. Before we purchased this boat with its hanked on sails, we'd never heard of the need for downhauls or tricing on the headsails. But as I searched about for a safe way to handle the large sails, I learned about these very old techniques. I'm glad of it.

You can see an example of combined tricing line and downhaul here on a small boat. You can see discussion about tricks to make solo sailing easier including headsail downhauls here.

Properly rigged, either tricing or dousing the jib via the downhaul can be performed from the cockpit rather than on the foredeck. Sure, in one case you've got a fluttering jib triced up to the jib stay and in the other case you've got a sail bundle sitting in the nets or on your foredeck. But, it is possible. Our downhaul is set up on foredeck, the tricing line to the cockpit. We've triced and dowsed when needed in fast changing conditions. It works. You can change hanked on sails at sea but we don't like to.

Headsail furlers don't always furl but in general, yes, they do work. An inner forestay on a sloop or a proper cutter rigged boat really makes things much easier to have a heavy weather sail available.

Boom furl systems where you roll the mainsail around the boom used to be very popular. Lots of cruisers have sailed many, many miles with them. They are a bit more "no brainer" than in-mast furling and if the boom furler fails, as long as reefing points have been placed on the mainsail, one can just use a jiffy reefing method anyway. A bit of redundancy there.

Every sail on our boat is rigged with a downhaul to allow us to use a winch to bring it down in high winds and fully loaded with wind (e.g. while running or broad reaching). This is a must, in my opinion for short handed sailing. In one case, we went from broad reaching motor sailing in zero to 5 knots of wind in heavy sloppy seas (with all sails up, of course) to broad reaching in 30 knots of wind within a few minutes. We had to use the downhauls while running before the wind in order to reef or drop our sails. It worked a charm. The main blanketed the foresail and we completely dropped the foresail, we then double reefed the main while it was still all the way out and held with a preventer, we then doused the jib into the nets and sailed with double reefed main and staysail alone. This all happened quickly and when I say "we" I mean my husband did it since we didn't have an autopilot installed at the time and I was stuck at the helm steering. With an autopilot, in theory, he could have done it solo. But he struggled cranking down the main and would have never been able to do it with just the jiffy reefing system--the downhaul was required. The jib was flying full of wind and would have never been able to be dowsed without a downhaul and/or tricing line.

Fair winds,



About leaving the cockpit--it really depends on the boat as to how risky that feels or actually is. The smaller the boat, the less room between you and the ocean, yes, and the more likely that you want to stay in the cockpit.
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:25 AM   #9
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Default Dump the battens for blue water sailing

I was always a huge fan of the full batten main...that was until I started sailing long distance across rolling seas with light breeze.

Rolling seas and light breeze cause main sail slatting. When you head out across the pacific or down to Mexico, these conditions will dominate your sailing experience…so be prepared.

Slatting is when the roll of the boat overcomes the fill pressure on the sail and the sail pops back and forth as the boat rolls with the sea. Long periods of slatting the main sail result in batten chafe which ultimately results in battens being spit-out in the middle of the night and difficult to repair holes in your main. In addition, slatting also causes excessive wear of goose necks, bat-cars and tracks. Being able to reduce sail area and pull the main flat greatly reduces wear in these conditions. Because the battens are there to produce curvature, they also amplify the pounding of the sail during slatting conditions. It is our opinion that battens are not worth the trouble for blue water cruising.

Both Lori and I agree that if we get the chance, we will refit our boat with a boom furling main minus the battens.

Also, be aware that when you reach Tahiti and try to replace your missing battens, you will find that nobody will sell you any unless you purchase a new sail. This is because so many boats arrive in Tahiti missing battens and wanting to buy replacements that the local sailmakers can't keep a supply for their own sails. You will end-up using PVC tubing to get you to Australia or New Zealand.
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:57 AM   #10
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Thanks, Trim, for the info about fully battened mainsails.

The mainsail we use is quite flat and a previous boat owner removed the (relatively small) battens but didn't perform the required work to recut and remove the bit of excess roach. It has a bit of a hook because of that, I'm afraid. It is an old sail so we just deal with it.

However, on our spare mainsail (purchased used and it was missing its battens) things are a bit different...after David went to all the bother of laminating up the rather large battens with the perfect bendy properties (you can make your own battens, too you know), I just had a sailmaker recut the sail to remove roach and enable us to dispense with the battens in that sail as well. So now we have four lovely battens for that sail and no use of them!

We've had our own share of slatting and that's just local here along the California coastline. I hate it. The large swell seems to contribute greatly when there's no wind.

What sort of reefing system do you use with Trim right now? Jiffy reefing? If you're going to boom furling will it be in-boom furling or a variation of the old-style boom furling?

Fair winds,
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Old 02-07-2012, 09:55 AM   #11
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Before we departed California back in 09, I was nearly ready to buy a Forespar system that would have set us back about $12-15K when all was said and done. With 20/20 hindsight, I wish we would have postponed our departure just to have that system.

For the past few years, the SPCZ in the South Pacific has been horrific to deal with. Sailing to Tahiti is easy and the strongest winds you will deal with in a squall are 25-30 knots. However, once you head across the Cooks, every squall seems to have the potential for 50+ knot winds and once you've experienced a couple of those with a mainsail of any size or reefing, you'll wish you could go to bare pole from the cockpit. In addition, these squalls all come at 3am when convection is maximum and you are least prepared.

These squalls will scare the living snot outa ya and they are guaranteed to come every night once you pass the Society Islands. Granted, the weather has been getting less favorable since we left in 09 and anyone that sailed across the Pacific prior, may wonder what I'm talking about.
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Old 02-07-2012, 07:16 PM   #12
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I'm sorry to hear that the weather has been so fickle as that. Holy cow, the things we learn.

If this is the "norm" for now--what cautions are people taking? I mean, seriously, if you know you're going to be practically knocked down every night, does that mean you sail way-under canvassed all night long or even take a break at night, heave to, and only sail during daylight hours? I'm curious as I'm sure others would be as well.

As hubby and I worked together to become more in tune with our boat and more adept at reefing, we ended up talking to a fellow we met two years ago in San Francisco about it. I love the stories this friend--a mostly solo sailor--tells of his solo sailing from Northern California down to Chile and back in his Hans Christian cutter. He decided that he was too fearful of reefing and he wasn't good at it to boot. So, he decided he would become the best reefer he could. He describes how he re-rigged the slab reefing a few different ways and how he reefed and shook out reefs at every opportunity. During that trip, he'd get up in the middle of the night--excited for the opportunity to reef when conditions changed. We joke and tell him he went a little loo-loo on that trip; perhaps alone too long. However, the end result is that he's exactly what he wanted to be: an expert reefer and with no fear of changing conditions. During that trip, in the high latitudes he was knocked down a few times (once under bare poles) and did experience some really super nasty weather. So we're glad for him that he took on the task of becoming "expert" as he did.

Now I need to go read up on the Forespar system--how does it reef while the sail is loaded up? I've heard that it jams easily in heavy weather. I don't know the difference between the Forespar and Schaeffer systems...
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Old 02-08-2012, 10:23 AM   #13
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We certainly were not reef happy. We like to set a reef at sunset and leave it till sunrise.

Most everyone we talked to would double reef at night between Fiji and Australia as a basic rule. When the SPCZ was active in our area, we would drop the main completely and sail with the furling Genoa. The one really big surprise storm we got caught in off of Tanna, Vanuatu as a result of a southerly dip in the SPCZ , we had dropped our main just hours before. The storm came-up as a result of massive convection and produced 45 knot sustained winds and rain for 5 hours with gusts to near 60knots. The seas that resulted were horrific and we were the only boat for over a 100 miles. It seemed there was a good possibility we were going to be swimming that day as we were taking wave after wave of green water across the decks and into the cockpit.

It took quite awhile to mentally recover from that experience. I really don't think Lori has ever recovered.
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:56 AM   #14
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I'm glad you had dropped sail prior to all that wind.

about high winds--interesting things happen to the sails and rigging with such winds. On our boat, above 40 knots sustained, we found a horrific and loud vibration (of the leech flutter) with our old sails. Sounded like helicopters and was quite a racket. Such things are not good for the sails nor the rigging.

I've only ever seen a bit over 40 knots sustained and that only for about 2 hours before we anchored with 40 knots sustained that night in the anchorage. Earlier in the day it was the typical build of winds-- we went from 20 knots to 30 knots and then to the 40 knots...Windy.

Anchoring that evening, it was the first time I've had to keep the boat in forward gear and high rpm just to keep from backing down too fast in all the wind. It was a lesson learned.

Since we were motorsailing at 8 knots into it all day, when I ducked out of the chart house, that was a stinging bunch of rain in the face that day. Felt just like riding a motorcycle at highway speeds with the helmet face shield open.

We were in the Channel Islands so actually were pretty protected from the some of the winds and waves by two of the islands. Even so, the winds and waves were amazing. The green water on the foredeck was amazing. The power of the entire experience...holy cow, it was amazing. I wish I'd had a water proof video camera recording it. As it was, we were simply mesmerized. Oh, and earlier on that day, in about 30 knots of wind, we blew out the clew on the working jib--the tricing line and downhaul allowed us to manage bringing in the jib off the bowsprit safely. David put up our Yankee cut jib in its place--one of those amazingly stupid things to do thinking back on it--11 ft bowsprit pitching about and all. He said he had the time of his life out there. Better than a roller coaster.

Our experience that day was a bit different as we were motor sailing with an amazing press of canvas up. Because of the motoring, we were pinching very high to the wind and we were able to stay pretty rock steady even with the boarding waves. We were like an arrow cutting through the waves. The increasing winds, pointing so high, weren't causing tremendous problems the sails fully up and not reefed--just all that helicopter noise to deal with once we got around 40 knots. LOL. Had we been just sailing, we'd not have been pointing so high and we'd have been more heeled and really had quite a different (and likely more vulnerable feeling) experience. As it was, the waves boarding the foredeck were smashing into the breakdeck just aft of the foremast and shooting up into the air about 25 feet above the deck. Though it was a sunny day, mostly, this was "raining" on us all day long.

When we saw the 40 knots sustained for a bit, to save our sails, we took down our foresail, double reefed our mainsail and sailed on with Yankee, staysail and double reefed main. If we'd been under sail alone, we'd probably have been sailing with just staysail and double reefed foresail and have taken down the main and jib entirely.

I recount the experiences of this day because it was a confidence inspiring and learning experience for us. We learned that our boat could handle scary experiences much better than we could! We also learned that we were much hardier than we thought we were.

Fair winds,
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