It took a long time for us to become fans of roller furling. However, starting with Beowulf, the combination of the size and weight of her sails, and the increasing reluctance to get salt water on our bodies, forced us to take a harder look at this gear.
For many years we had been using Profurl gear on our clients’ boats and we could see no reason to change for our own use. Although our working jib is small (just 720 square feet), Beowulf is very powerful, so the loads on the RF gear is substantial. With almost 30,000 miles on the Profurl now we’ve basically been trouble free, except for some working in the joints between extrusion sections (which is probably due to the fact that we spend a lot of time sailing and powering with the jib rolled-without a standing backstay, the headstay is not as tight as it would otherwise be.
We use a dacron-covered spectra control line (the spectra portion is 3/16″ – 4mm) which has a 3/8″ (9.6mm) tail on the end to make it easier to handle. We have never used the system to reef the jib-as we normally just put it away and sail bare headed or drop down to a staysail (so as not to put undue wear on the jib)-but our clients have used their Profurls for roller reefing. If you are prepared to accept a less than optimal shape, they will do the job.
When the time comes to roll up the jib our preference is to sag off to leeward and roll in the lee of the main. This is not because of the Profurl, but rather to reduce the flogging on the jib (being a laminated sail cloth is it not happy when being flogged). Alternately, we roll the sail with load on the sheet to minimize flogging when heading uphill.
Changing headsails at sea is not an option we want to consider. With just the two of us aboard, if it were really blowing, the risk of losing the old or new sail overboard, or of tearing the luff would be high. Also, Beowulf’s working jib has semi-vertical leech and foot battens. These are parallel to the headstay, and really help sail shape, but would be a pain to remove at sea when the time came to store this sail below.
While we are not happy giving up the sail area and efficiency that would come from as non-furling jib, and we hate the extra weight aloft of the furling gear and/or furled sail, we’re now spoiled and would not want to go cruising without our Profurl on the headstay.