NOT FOR EVERYONE
There was an interesting juxtaposition of articles with Graham Snook’s Roll Play endorsing in-mast furling, immediately following Squall Strategies (September). With close to 40,000 bluewater miles under our boats’ keels, we find that reefing (if not dousing) our mainsail rarely happens under the sunny, flat seas portrayed in the pictures in Snook’s article. More often, it happens with winds peaking and growing seas. With slab reefing we have been able to reef in 10ft-plus seas and 20 to 30-plus knot winds, sailing downwind and on both tacks. In contrast, trying to head upwind on a particular tack, as is necessary for in-mast furling, would have been dangerous if not impossible. We have all halyards and reef lines led to the cockpit, so we can reef under all conditions in safety. Better advice would be to consider in-mast furling for those boats that only sail in protected waters or near shore when dangerous conditions are possible, never for bluewater offshore sailors. — Paul Horst, Plymouth, MI
I was somewhat amused to read Mr Horst’s opinion about where inmast fitted yachts should sail, mainly because there are so many yachts in far-flung corners of the world having got there using their in-mast sails. Of the 42 yachts sailing around the world on the World Cruising Club’s World ARC 2018, 16 boats (38 percent) have in-mast furling. On boats over 40ft, close to 100 percent of Hallberg-Rassy buyers go for in-mast furling. Magnus Rassy says that unlike other systems, it is possible to reef sailing downwind, which is an important safety factor. They have found it reliable and a good solution to handling a big boat with minimum crew.
Furling systems can cope with extreme conditions, and while my advice would help make it easier, it’s neither essential nor necessary to follow. I’ve personally found it possible to reef on port tack and off-the-wind; it’s just more work and would have been easier on a starboard tack in the same way it’s easier to reef a slab-reefed yacht with the wind on the beam than it is with the mainsail resting on the shrouds.
As an aside, one of the photos in the article featured a boat I tested in 30-40 knots true wind speed (and 5 to 8ft seas), taken off Italy in December—far from idyllic. — Graham Snook