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Old 02-20-2010, 05:55 PM   #1
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Salty friends,

In my years-long study before actually sailing off, one of the issues Im looking at is whether its worth for us as a middle-aged couple to think of a mast-furling main sail as opposite to dropping it down every time you need to reef. I know of different takes on this issue but would welcome opinions from people with first-hand experience with main sails on mast furling, and whether I should look for particular issues/characteristics when buying/deciding.

Thanks once again!

Jos
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Old 02-20-2010, 09:59 PM   #2
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Salty friends,

In my years-long study before actually sailing off, one of the issues Im looking at is whether its worth for us as a middle-aged couple to think of a mast-furling main sail as opposite to dropping it down every time you need to reef. I know of different takes on this issue but would welcome opinions from people with first-hand experience with main sails on mast furling, and whether I should look for particular issues/characteristics when buying/deciding.

Thanks once again!

Jos
I've sailed aboard a 43 ft sloop which has the in-mast version of a mast-furling system. Haven't any experience with the ones that sit abaft the mast and roll up on the outside. One benefit of the mast furling systems (and rolling boom furling systems as well) is that you can considering using some of the new tech-y sail materials which require the sail to be rolled rather than folded/flaked. Most cruisers aren't interested in those materials, but some folks are...

The in-mast reefing systems may entail more maintenance that you'd like.

The rolling boom reefing systems have been around for um...centuries...but are out of favor now largely because of maintenance so you won't find them on new boats for sure.

Also, depending on the aspect of the rig, in-mast reefing may not be as desirable as in-boom, rolling boom, or traditional slab along boom reefing. Good reefing keeps as much sail area up as possible while reducing the rig's aspect by reefing. The lower aspect sail area will be able to handle higher winds with increased stability (all other things being equal on your boat).

You know, you don't have to completely drop the mainsail every time you reef. Many boats are rigged like mine where the leech cringles are pre-rigged forward to a winch on the boom. To reef, you just have to stand at the mast, work the main halyard to drop the sail down to your desired reefing line, nab the cringle at the tack and then haul in the leech cringle... cranking in with winch or by hand... and you're done. All those pretty little reefing pennants between the two cringles just keep the foot of the sail neatly along the boom (and out of your way in the cockpit!) but aren't to be loaded so if you're in a bad way and can't get to them, you don't have to feel to bad about it!

Reefing early is the key to easy reefing. If you THINK you might need to reef--just go ahead and do it. You can always take out the reef later if need be

When you go looking at boats, you may really like the benefits of a multi-masted rig like a ketch or schooner. With the sail plan broken up among multiple sails, your reefing options range from traditional reefing on each sail to dropping a sail completely. Lots of flexibility there. We have a schooner--one difference between ketch and schooner is that the ketch mainsail is on the foremast with a smaller (mizzen) sail on the aft mast; the schooner carries a large main sail as the aft most sail and the foresail is of course smaller. Two weeks ago, we sailed about 40 miles during a Small Craft Advisory with wind speeds of 20 knots steadily and gusting to 30 knots. We had 3 of the 4 working sails up: Yankee Jib (smaller high cut jib), staysail, and mainsail. The foresail was not rigged. We did not have to reef the mainsail because of the missing foresail. The boat flew along at 9.5 knots with very little leeway and hardly any heeling. Lovely sailing and not a reef was taken. Normally, on a schooner, one would have the foresail up and would have likely reefed both foresail and mainsail but the flexibility of simply taking down (or not putting up!) entire sails instead is sometimes nice.

Fair winds,
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Old 02-22-2010, 01:11 PM   #3
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I've sailed aboard a 43 ft sloop which has the in-mast version of a mast-furling system. Haven't any experience with the ones that sit abaft the mast and roll up on the outside. One benefit of the mast furling systems (and rolling boom furling systems as well) is that you can considering using some of the new tech-y sail materials which require the sail to be rolled rather than folded/flaked. Most cruisers aren't interested in those materials, but some folks are... [...]
Hey, MANY thanks for such a comprehensive reply. It has broadened my view of the issue (eg I was discarding the two-mast option a priori as being too cumbersome, maybe its not if you consider it in the light you just mentioned). Im really happy to have this forum to help me study way before we embark on our journey!

All the best,

J.
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Old 02-22-2010, 02:52 PM   #4
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What has not been mentioned so far are in-boom reefing systems. The type I favour is the Danish Hi-Low system by John Mast. The great advantage, according to my way of thinking, of this system over in-mast systems is that:

a. even if the system should jam you can still let go the halyard and get your sail down which is not possible with in-mast systems

b. the reefing gear is in the boom rather than all the way up the mast thus having a lower C. og G.

Each to his or her own but in-boom reefing gets my vote.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:55 AM   #5
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Having had the experience of a mainsail only 10% furled but jammed with a line squall looming. With 2 of us up the mast , had to turn and run to avoid the main impact. Eventually got the sail out of the mast - then slowly slowly managed to furl the sail until 75% was back inside with another jam. Later the boat's owner added a conventional track to the mast and bought a new sail with battens etc.

I too would go for an 'in-boom' system.
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Old 02-23-2010, 05:55 AM   #6
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Forgot to mention in my previous post; with an "in-boom" system one can still have a fuly battened sail. Impossible with mast reefing.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:31 AM   #7
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Forgot to mention in my previous post; with an "in-boom" system one can still have a fuly battened sail. Impossible with mast reefing.

Aye // Stephen
Have to disagree with that - you can have a vertically battened sail furling in-mast. That said I have only experience of one and it was a pain as we needed to get the sail off to repair the clew. Getting the battens out was difficult and there are miles of them!

There's a lot to be said for keeping it simple - either slab reefing ideally or a single line system. As soon as you start adding complications, the potential for problems rises exponentially!
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:46 AM   #8
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Have to disagree with that - you can have a vertically battened sail furling in-mast. That said I have only experience of one and it was a pain as we needed to get the sail off to repair the clew. Getting the battens out was difficult and there are miles of them!

There's a lot to be said for keeping it simple - either slab reefing ideally or a single line system. As soon as you start adding complications, the potential for problems rises exponentially!
I have never seen vertical battens although I have heard of them. The thought alone is scary.

I completely agree with the concept of keeping things simple but have to acknowledge that, with increasing age, in-boom or in-mast reefing systems might keep an elderly sailor on the water. There is a lot to be said for being able to reef from the cockpit.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:48 AM   #9
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Ed, that does it for me! Having vertical battens included in the mast as well as the sail. I would not leave the dock!

An idle question what would vertical battens do in terms of producing shape and lift ?

Richard
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:52 AM   #10
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I am on my second Jeanneau with in-mast furling. Both boats (a 43' and a 49') have performed flawlessly in many different conditions and I've not had a single malfunction. I do take care when furling the mainsail and ensure that the boom isn't pulled too far up or down and always leave a bit of tension on the outhaul. I sail almost exclusively singlehanded and freely admit that I sail with the equivalent of a reef or two in the mainsail much of the time, since the large genoa balances the helm when less than full mainsail is out; with both sails fully extended in 20 knots of wind there is a lot of weather helm. For this reason I've not missed the mainsail performance that battens can bring since in the trade wind conditions I sail in I can't use the perfect sail shape a battened sail can bring (plus I don't race and am not in a hurry).

I have seen quite a few boats with in-boom furling and full battens and might go that route, given a choice. All in all I consider inmast furling to be a great benefit for single- and shorthanded sailing. I can vary my square footage of sail quickly and simply from the cockpit and am not restricted to 3 or 4 discrete reef points.
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Old 02-23-2010, 11:20 AM   #11
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The boat I was on was a Moody 64, furling was factory fitted in-mast, - there must have been 150' of batten in the sail.

Sail set well with good shape but, as the problem arose after less than 10 miles (on a brand new boat), I can't really comment on the amount of lift produced.

The one comment I would make about In mast furling is that I have never come across an unbattened main that set decently or which gave good lift. Shape is generally poor and you are dependent on the jib/genoa for much of the drive.
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:30 PM   #12
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I have seen quite a few boats with in-boom furling and full battens and might go that route, given a choice. All in all I consider inmast furling to be a great benefit for single- and shorthanded sailing. I can vary my square footage of sail quickly and simply from the cockpit and am not restricted to 3 or 4 discrete reef points.
Thanks Zan Shin for a very positive contribution !! Can you give the maker/model of the the mast ? Was the mainsail part of the package ?

Regards and thanks

Richard
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:19 PM   #13
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Back when Dodge Morgan set out to break the record for non-stop solo circumnavigation on his state-of-the-art every expensive everything boat, he discussed his fall-back systems should things break or go wrong. He had everything including in-mast furling. I shuddered when he showed the interviewer his shotgun and called it his "emergency reefing system."

Most of us aren't ever going to sail the Southern Ocean and round the Capes, but that image is wedged firmly in my mind, of being tossed around in a nasty storm with the smell of gunpowder and a sail in shreds above my head.



*

My greatest complaint about in-mast furling is the noise it makes when the main is furled into the mast. In a marina on a windy night the noise could keep you awake all night. That and snapping halyards could make the most dedicated marina denizen leave the dock to anchor out.

*Note: the image above is of a boat that was anchored in St. Martin during Hurricane Hugo and none of its sails were removed. The first +50-knot gust and the sails flew out and immediately shredded.
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Old 02-23-2010, 07:39 PM   #14
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What has not been mentioned so far are in-boom reefing systems. The type I favour is the Danish Hi-Low system by John Mast. The great advantage, according to my way of thinking, of this system over in-mast systems is that:

a. even if the system should jam you can still let go the halyard and get your sail down which is not possible with in-mast systems

b. the reefing gear is in the boom rather than all the way up the mast thus having a lower C. og G.

Each to his or her own but in-boom reefing gets my vote.

Aye // Stephen
When I talked about changing the aspect of the sail, this is what I was talking about...lowering the Center of Effort for the sail. Also, I think the in-boom furling is probably a very good thing. It is the "update" of the old rolling boom furling which required the entire boom to roll with big gearing and was subject to failure. Newer, better, in-boom furling seems nice.

However, regular reefing works for me

P.S. We know a fellow who DID shoot his sail with a shotgun in a bad blow. He was a handicapped sailor who didn't reef soon enough and well, he couldn't do anything else. It worked.
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Old 02-23-2010, 08:26 PM   #15
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Hi everyone,

I am new to this forum so i hope i don't step on too many toes too quickly. I have sailed on a hunter 33 with a selden in mast furling system with vertical battens on the mainsail. Granted this boat is on the small side but the vertical battens increase roach size (shape) and square footage and help with sail shape. The furling line did slip off once but was easily remedied at the mast with a winch handle in the furling winch. The unlimited reefing points is also a plus, especially if you just want to putter along while you eat lunch. I am sure there are better and worse furling systems but i personally find it to be a great benefit to sailing. Once, as we approached the mooring one of my friends furled in the mail said it felt like cheating. I am OK with that.

Fair winds to all.

Jack
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Old 02-23-2010, 09:04 PM   #16
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When I talked about changing the aspect of the sail, this is what I was talking about...lowering the Center of Effort for the sail.
No, actualy I meant lowering the centre of gravity, although your point about the centre of effort is also very valid.

We all want to avoid weight aloft so why go for a reefing system which depends upon an axel in the mast and, even when reefed, keeps the weight of the sail up there too?

Aye // Stephen
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Old 02-23-2010, 09:05 PM   #17
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Ahhhh, Jaxon, step on our toes? No problem with the steel-toed boots we put on before logging into the forum.

Not to worry about a contrary opinion. That's how we all learn.

I can understand and admire an in-mast furling system for coastal cruising and day sails, though you didn't comment on how noisy it was when the sail was rolled up (in?) and the boat was in its marina slip.

I just am not comfortable considering them for blue water cruising, though I've seen a few out there. But, that's me.
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Old 02-24-2010, 12:01 AM   #18
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No, actualy I meant lowering the centre of gravity, although your point about the centre of effort is also very valid.

We all want to avoid weight aloft so why go for a reefing system which depends upon an axel in the mast and, even when reefed, keeps the weight of the sail up there too?

Aye // Stephen
Oh, I though you'd just mixed up CG and center of effort--but your point is equally valid! Every pound that can be moved down to boom level makes a HUGE difference in the improved righting moment of the boat. Thanks for bringing that up
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Old 02-24-2010, 01:34 AM   #19
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I'm certainly no expert, but...

We spent nearly seven years berthed right next to a charter base in St Thomas and I saw at least two boats per season return to base with shreaded mainsails. I saw a slightly bent 70 ft mast complete with rigging and knotted bits of sail, laying in the weeds near the dock in the Grenadines with a tale of a rich guy who'd dumped the rig and had a new mast & rig shipped down from Miami. The sail had apparently been taken down with a knife! The biggest mess was when I saw a new Swan motoring into a Greek port with a mast broken at the spreaders, streaming ribbons of torn sail from the mast slot. All had in-mast furling... and none of the skippers were happy with the system.

I once made a cheap living as a pro skipper for a charter fleet that only used Island Packet yachts and every one of them were equiped with in-mast furling. They worked okay in fair conditions but my biggest concern was that they always required heading up into the wind to be able to reduce or furl the sail... and that can sometimes be difficult to down-right dangerous when out on the high seas and you're forced to come about and head-up to just reduce sail!

Me? I'm a conventional slab reefing & lazy jacks kinda sailor simply because it's next to impossible to jam and it ALWAYS works... even when I'm trembling with fear I can pull in a reef, at all points of sail and in the dark. Ease the halyard, hook the reef tack, pull in the aft reefing line, harden the halyard... done.

One thing that makes it easier is I rig a piece of line with a small loop tied through the fwd cringles (with a Reef Knot, naturally) with enough line left dangling to easily grab and pull the reef point down to the horn. Then I simply loop the loop over the horn. I have three reefs and the next cringle line is always within reach... which is a lot easier than trying to pinch the sail between your finger-tips and wrestle the cringle down and around the horn! Newer versions can do all this with just one line!

In my opinion, nothing beats the convenience, reliability and ease of handling of a conventional track-mounted main with simple slab reefing, lazy jacks & pack system... a proven method that always works in all conditions.

Maybe they're alright but, personally, I'd be reluctant to purchase a boat with in-mast furling.

Keep it simple.

To Life!

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Old 02-24-2010, 05:36 AM   #20
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Salty friends,

In my years-long study before actually sailing off, one of the issues Im looking at is whether its worth for us as a middle-aged couple to think of a mast-furling main sail as opposite to dropping it down every time you need to reef. I know of different takes on this issue but would welcome opinions from people with first-hand experience with main sails on mast furling, and whether I should look for particular issues/characteristics when buying/deciding.

Thanks once again!

Jos
Hey there guys, many of the points the other fellow forumers are very valid but with my experience with these furling mainsails I think yes they are very handy for the short handed sailor but in saying that i think the cons outweigh the pros with not only the expense but also i have worked on and repaired many of these self furling mains and I can say nothing beats the durability of a fully battened mainsail.Yes u can have vertical battens on these but are only there to provide a bit of twist and exit on the leech.

U can not have a fully battened main on a self furler which should be desired for durability, shape and less chance of anything getting jammed in the course of bad weather. another fact is these furling mains tend to crease in the same spots everytime it is furled which creates weak spots and can affect trim. Just a few things for u to keep in mind I hope you find it usefull in your search.
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