Fitting a furler
PBO Editor David Pugh provides a step-by-step guide to the DIY installation of a Sailspar continuous line roller reefing system
DIY installation, step-by-step
Last season, our Rotostay headsail roller reefing was playing up. It wasn’t the first time: increasing wear has made it progressively less reliable, and on several occasions it has refused point-blank to roll up the sail, usually in conditions when the foredeck is less than hospitable.
It may well be possible to mend it by fighting the seized fixings apart and replacing the bearings, but to be honest we’ve lost confidence in it. In addition, I’ve never been completely convinced by the design, which can struggle for mechanical advantage depending on how neatly the line has wound onto the drum. We wanted a system that was easy to maintain, and I was keen to try a continuous line furler, which maintains a constant leverage.
Continuous line furlers are common for gennakers and Code 0 sails, but less readily available for headsails. However, Essex-based Sailspar have been making such a product for nearly 40 years and it only takes a few minutes online to find that, with few exceptions, sailors are very happy with it. than a full turn around it. Sailspar was founded in 1968 by Doug Beech and Reg White. Reg also started Sailcraft, builder of the Iroquois catamaran amongst others, with Sailspar initially set up to supply the other company with spars. The company is still a family business, jointly owned by brothers David and John Beech and run by David and his wife Penny. The roller-reefing system remains their core product and has remained much the same as the original, with around 4,000 installations to date.
Sailspar also make the Boomlock gybe preventer, but fundamentally they’re a fabrication business that can make just about anything out of metal. Until recently they were a major supplier to the windfarm industry on the East Coast, but when the work dried up they were forced into liquidation in early 2016. However, John was able to step in and buy the business back, and although they are now a smaller outfit than before they are still able to supply their core products and undertake custom projects. The workshop, tucked away in rural Essex, is an engineer’s playground, with lathes, bending machines and welding kit about which most of us can only dream.
A lathe at the Sailspar workshop in rural Essex