Op­tions abound when it comes to these essen­tial pieces of hard­ware

SAIL - - Contents - By Sam Fortes­cue

The boat’s just gone back into the wa­ter af­ter her win­ter stor­age, and you’re get­ting ready for a sail. The jib has run nicely up the headsail foil, and you’ve teased out the creases with an ex­tra turn on the hal­yard. Now it’s time to furl, so you can get the main on.

Un­for­tu­nately, when you haul on the jib furl­ing line, noth­ing hap­pens. You haul a lit­tle harder. Still noth­ing. With one last heave, the sail comes in a turn or so, then jams solid. There’s also a noise like ball bear­ings bounc­ing on the fore­deck, which proves upon fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, to be just that: ball bear­ings bounc­ing on the fore­deck. With a sigh, you re­al­ize it’s time to re­place your aged furler, for which spare parts don’t even ex­ist any­more.


Where do you start? Un­like some pieces of deck hard­ware, there are quite a few man­u­fac­tur­ers of jib furlers to choose from for boats with LOAs of 40ft and less, rang­ing from such giants as Harken, Pro­furl

and Seldén/Furlex to smaller out­fits like CDI. Not only that, but many of these sys­tems are suit­able for or­di­nary sailors to in­stall on their own. “It’s def­i­nitely pos­si­ble for a com­pe­tent DIYer to in­stall in an af­ter­noon,” says Rick Wil­fert of Harken Inc. “Al­though, it will usu­ally in­volve one or two trips to the top of the mast.”

In terms of choos­ing a furler, one of the first de­ci­sions you will have to make is whether or not you want to keep your old forestay. In fact, most of the man­u­fac­tur­ers we spoke to say that their sys­tems should work with an ex­ist­ing forestay, with only Seldén’s Furlex sys­tem in­clud­ing a new forestay wire as stan­dard.

That said, even if it’s not manda­tory, you might still want to think about re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing stay, since it can be hard to spot signs of fa­tigue in an old stay at the best of times, and dou­bly so when it is hid­den inside the foil of the furl­ing sys­tem. It there­fore only makes sense to en­sure the head­stay is sound while you’re al­ready work­ing on that part of the rig. “Our typ­i­cal rec­om­men­da­tion, if some­one’s go­ing through the process of in­stalling a new furler, is to start off with a new piece of wire,” Wil­fert says.

It’s also im­por­tant to be aware that some furlers can only be used when the head­stay is fit­ted with a spe­cific ter­mi­nal at its base. Note that if you’re go­ing to have to re­place the ter­mi­nal or shorten the forestay, then you will likely need to pay for a rig­ger, in which case—again—you might as well spend the small amount ex­tra on a com­pletely new stay for peace of mind, if noth­ing else.

Af­ter that, the next thing you need to make sure of is that what­ever furler you go with is cor­rectly sized for your boat. Most man­u­fac­tur­ers of­fer a kind of general guid­ance based on a boat’s length over­all, which is use­ful up to a point. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Scott Alexan­der of Seldén, the real de­ter­min­ing fac­tor when it comes to furlers (and rig loads in general) is the right­ing mo­ment of the boat, which is a func­tion of beam, bal­last, draft and dis­place­ment.

Al­though few sailors know their boat’s right­ing mo­ment, Alexan­der notes that his com­pany of­fers a right­ing mo­ment cal­cu­la­tor on its web­site. A boat’s head­stay di­am­e­ter and cle­vis pin size also of­fer some in­sight into a par­tic­u­lar boat’s furler and rig load re­quire­ments. When in doubt, check with the furler’s man­u­fac­turer.

Along these same lines, you need to check that any unit you’re in­ter­ested in is com­pat­i­ble with your boat’s rec­om­mended forestay di­am­e­ter (es­pe­cially if you’re keep­ing your ex­ist­ing stay), which is typ­i­cally 8mm-10mm or 5/16in3/8in in this LOA range. Also be sure to check that it will ac­cept your ex­ist­ing cle­vis pin for easy at­tach­ment to the chain­plates. You don’t want to be stuck drilling out the chain­plates to ac­cept a big­ger pin. Fi­nally, if your forestay has a turn­buckle, make sure that your cho­sen furler can ac­com­mo­date it—Pro­furl, for in­stance, only in­cludes a turn­buckle cylin­der with its units as an ex­tra item.

Note that if you are a cruis­ing sailor with a heav­ier-dis­place­ment boat and as­pi­ra­tions to cross oceans, you might be tempted to choose a size above what is rec­om­mended. How­ever, most man­u­fac­tur­ers coun­sel against this. “The prob­lem with go­ing with a larger furler is mis­matches for the cle­vis pin size,” says Harken’s Wil­fert. “It won’t mate up with the boat cor­rectly.”

Also be aware that most man­u­fac­tur­ers spec their own tog­gles to sit be­tween the boat’s chain­plate and the turn­buckle or head­stay ter­mi­nal, and while these are a nec­es­sary part of the setup, it in­evitably length­ens things by a few inches. “The ques­tion is whether your turn­buckle can

shorten up enough to com­pen­sate,” Wil­fert says. If the answer is no, you’re look­ing at a new head­stay.

Ne­ces­sity aside, an­other rea­son you might want to shorten the stay would be if your chain­plate is lo­cated in tight by the pul­pit or an­chor. In this case, you might want to raise the drum of the furl­ing unit off the deck a lit­tle to of­fer more clear­ance. Most brands of­fer cus­tom fit­tings to do just this by means of a chain­plate ex­ten­der or stain­less steel strap.

Ei­ther way, if you plan to in­stall the sys­tem your­self you will need an ac­cu­rate mea­sure­ment of your head­stay length. De­pend­ing on the unit, you then ap­ply a se­ries of de­duc­tions to com­pen­sate for the ex­tra tog­gles, etc., to get your new wire length. Ad­di­tional de­duc­tions will then be nec­es­sary to work out the re­quired length of the luff foil, which usu­ally has to be cut to size. Only Fac­nor avoids this stress by us­ing a tele­scopic bot­tom foil.


No mat­ter what sys­tem you choose, you may have to get your jib or genoa re­cut to com­pen­sate for the shorter luff length pro­vided by the foil. If you’re mov­ing from a han­ked-on sys­tem, you will also need to have the hanks re­moved and luff rope sewn into the sail. Some sail­mak­ers rec­om­mend a foam patch sewn just inside the luff to make the sail flat­ter and avoid wrin­kles when reefed. You may also have to get the luff of the sail cut away as it ap­proaches the tack, so the sail will clear the furler’s turn­buckle cylin­der. Seldén, for ex­am­ple, rec­om­mends cut­ting back the luff by 60mm (2 23/64in) at the tack and tail­ing that in over 4ft 6in. This will al­low the tack swivel to help flat­ten the sail as you reef.

By con­trast, at the head of the sail things are more straight­for­ward. Just make sure the jib hal­yard pulls slightly away from the forestay. Other­wise, if the pull is par­al­lel, it’s pos­si­ble to get the hal­yard wrapped around the stay, which could stop the sail from furl­ing.

“Hal­yard wraps are the #1 rea­son sys­tems have to be re­placed in the off sea­son,” Seldén’s Scott Wil­li­man warns. “You want to see at least a 10-de-

gree an­gle be­tween the stay and the hal­yard. That’s why every Furlex kit comes with a hal­yard re­strainer.” Other sys­tems also some­times of­fer the op­tion of a hal­yard de­flec­tor—a disc with round edges that sits on the forestay above the swivel to force the hal­yard away from the stay.


Once you’ve got the ba­sics taken care of, your fi­nal choice of furler will likely de­pend on your budget and the unique fea­tures of­fered by each model or brand. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers, for ex­am­ple, of­fer the op­tion of both a sim­pler sys­tem—like the Harken ESP or Fac­nor’s LS— or a higher-per­for­mance sys­tem—like Harken’s Mk IV or Fac­nor’s LX or RX (rac­ing) ranges. If that’s the case, the sim­pler sys­tems are typ­i­cally man­u­fac­tured with­out such extras as a re­mov­able drum, which can be a use­ful fea­ture for rac­ers con­cerned about switch­ing out to faster rac­ing can­vas and lighter weight. They also have a sin­gle luff groove in their foil ex­tru­sions, as op­posed to two, mak­ing it harder to rig a dou­ble headsail for long down­wind pas­sages or ef­fect seam­less headsail changes when rac­ing.

Other more per­forance-ori­ented types that rac­ing sailors, in par­tic­u­lar, might be in­ter­ested in in­clude be­lowdeck furlers, like those in­cluded in Harken’s MkIV line or the Furlex TD—in which the en­tire furl­ing drum is lo­cated be­neath the fore­deck—and low-pro­file web­bing-based sys­tems, like the Fac­nor FlatDeck—in which web­bing is used in place of a tra­di­tional furl­ing line. In both cases, the ad­van­tages in­clude the fact that less of the luff length is given over to the furler, thereby max­i­miz­ing sail area. Us­ing web­bing in a furler drum also of­fers the ad­van­tage of min­i­miz­ing the chance of over­rides when un­rolling the sail.

Own­ers of smaller boats, on the other hand, might want to check out Win­nipeg-based CDI, which spe­cial­izes in furlers for shorter LOAs (al­though its largest FF9.0 sys­tem would suit a 38-footer.) CDI furlers are unique in that each has its own built-in hal­yard and uses a PVC luff ex­tru­sion with three chan­nels—one for the forestay, one for the hal­yard and a groove for the jib it­self, which makes hal­yard wrap an im­pos­si­bil­ity. A pro­pri­etary sheave fit­ting at the top of the foil also elim­i­nates the need for an ex­pen­sive swivel. The hal­yard is made off to a cleat on the furler when the sail is hoisted.

If, on the other hand, you have a rod head­stay, you might want to take a look at Ubi Maior’s Jiber sys­tem, which uses spe­cial swivels be­tween the top and bot­tom tog­gles of the rod fit­ting, al­low­ing the forestay it­self to ro­tate. (The sail is at­tached to the rod us­ing soft hanks or a zip-up luff bag.) The beauty of the sys­tem is that it al­lows you to save weight up high in the rig­ging and fa­cil­i­tates a more ef-

fi­cient sail shape with less drag. With the be­lowdeck ver­sion, you can also use the full luff length of the sail.


Fi­nally, while hy­draulic sys­tems are al­most ex­clu­sively the purview of much larger boats than those in the sub- 40ft range, elec­tric furlers are fast mak­ing in­roads in the mid- size cruis­ing mar­ket as part of the never- end­ing search by the in­dus­try to make sail­ing as “user friendly” as pos­si­ble.

In the case of our hy­po­thet­i­cal 38ft sloop, for ex­am­ple, which is right at the bot­tom end of the size range suit­able for in­stalling an elec­tric furler, there are prod­ucts avail­able from Fac­nor, Pro­furl, Furlex, Reck­mann and Harken that could all work. As an added ben­e­fit, while the hous­ing for the an elec­tric furler’s mo­tor will take up some space, it is of­ten less bulky than a man­ual drum, so fit­ting it in at the bow shouldn’t be a prob­lem. The mo­tor typ­i­cally drives a worm gear, so that the forces from the sail aren’t ap­plied di­rectly to it.

Of course, as with an elec­tric wind­lass, there is the added com­pli­ca­tion of hav­ing to find a way to pro­vide to the unit. Usu­ally, the elec­tric furlers in the mid-size range we’re fo­cus­ing on em­ploy 700-800W mo­tors that draw 60 amps on a 12-volt sys­tem. You are there­fore likely look­ing at fairly hefty ca­ble runs be­tween the bat­tery and the fore­peak, al­though Seldén has found an in­ge­nious way around this by run­ning the furler mo­tor at 48 volts, which drops the cur­rent draw to less than 20 amps—thereby re­quir­ing much smaller wires and a more com­pact mo­tor. Seldén also sup­plies a DC-to-DC con­verter, which you can in­stall close to the main bat­tery to step up from your boat’s 12 volts to 48.

For those who de­cide to go with a 12-volt elec­tric furler, it is com­mon prac­tice to hook the furler up to other power sources at the bow, such as an elec­tric wind­lass or bow-thruster. All elec­tric furlers also have a man­ual backup in case of power fail­ure. The Harken sys­tem, for in­stance, has a man­ual drive slot that will ac­cept a spe­cially adapted bit in a cord­less drill. Many of them also work with a winch han­dle. s

These two furlers are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Harken’s ESP line (right) and it’s more ad­vanced Mk IV line (left)

A hal­yard re­strainer is one way to avoid hal­yard wrap

A hal­yard de­flec­tor is an­other

Hal­yard wrap oc­curs when there isn’t a great enough an­gle be­tween the head­stay and the jib hal­yard

A pair of Pro­furl furlers serves to tame the head­sails aboard this blue­wa­ter cruiser

A well-in­stalled furler, like the Furlex model aboard this Hanse, is an in­dis­pens­able item aboard any larger cruis­ing boat

This Schae­fer furler (left) has been con­fig­ured with a long tog­gle link to raise it far­ther off the fore­deck The over­all di­men­sions of an elec­tric furler (right) are com­pa­ra­ble to a man­ual one Ubi Maior’s Jiber uses a rod head­stay to furl the sail

Note how the hal­yard cleats off on this CDI furler By us­ing web­bing Fac­nor was able to min­i­mize the size of this furl­ing drum

It’s ob­vi­ous in these two ren­der­ings of Reck­mann furlers how a be­lowdeck con­fig­u­ra­tion max­i­mizes luff length

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