Furler Vs. Hank-on

A couple of quick questions:

How much has your boat slowed down with furling sails vs. non-furling sails? Do you foresee any major problems with furling vs. hank-on for serious offshore work? How do you plan to douse the sails if the furler jams?

Thanks again for your time. God Bless, Dr. Kirk

Anytime you use something like a roller furler there are going to be risks in heavy weather. These are mainly centered around how well the sail is rolled, and the probability of the control line parting.

The way you deal with the first question is to make sure the sail is tightly furled by keeping tension on the furler line while the sail is rolled (this also applies when at anchor). The second issue is dealt with by using strong control lines (we use 5/16″ spectra) and making sure the lead onto the furler drum is proper.

As to the furler jamming, this is dealt with by having the proper leads and by keeping some strain on the line wile the sail is running out (we always keep one or two wraps on a winch when unrolling the sail). But if you get a jam with the sail half in in heavy going–then you’re stuck and would have been better off with jib hanks!

As to what you give up with the furler, this is a function of how it is installed. At a minimum, you give up the ability to have horizontal battens up high which help sail shape, especially off the wind. You give up sail area in general and luff length in particular, due to the hardware at the top and bottom of the headstay.

You have to weigh these negatives against where and how you sail. Hanks offer a lot of advantages (less weight and windage aloft, always able to get the sail down, easier sail changes), but for most situations the penalties of the roller system are offset by the ease of handling.–Steve

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)

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