What to do if your roller headsail starts giving you grief
If a roller headsail jams and won’t come down, try hoisting lines on a halyard and wrap them around the sail. Or replace the sheets with a short line, lock the drum and motor in circles, letting it flap back around the foil.
If it will unroll completely, go on a beam reach to keep the flogging canvas away from the deck and drop the sail. In high winds, some people copy Francis Chichester and dump it in the sea—then haul it in with the sheet.
C The halyard can wrap around the foil and jam it if the halyard angle is too shallow and the top swivel is too low down on the foil.
D To increase the halyard angle, some people rig a wire pennant above or below the sail to raise the top swivel up the foil.
Or they add a halyard diverter, fixed to the mast.
Also check that other halyards don’t interfere with the foil or top bearing. On some systems you can add a large-diameter spar top that will push lines away.
G Roller-reefing headsails often get neglected, so take the sail down occasionally to check it. If the head of the sail has a tape loop instead of a cringle, look out for wear and tear.
H Use binoculars or go aloft to inspect your headsail foil joints. Sometimes the fasteners can come loose, causing the sections to move apart and chafe the sail. This might also prevent the sail from being lowered easily. Toggles, top and bottom, will reduce wear on the forestay.
Bearings may need just a flush-out with freshwater or regular greasing. Check the drum-to-foil connection. It has been known for the foil to drop inside the drum, so the top swivel comes off. Unreeve the reefing line completely out of the drum and replace it occasionally. Make sure the lead stays at 90 degrees to avoid riding turns on the drum.
Dick Everitt has sailed thousands of miles in various parts of the world. He has been an illustrator, journalist and engineer for more than 40 years