This month let’s look at the issue of headsail furling systems. In the beginning a furler was a solution to the handling of the headsail. I suppose dragging out a genoa and hanking it onto the headstay is no longer part of sailing, but merely an inconvenience. Like anything else there is bound to be an evolution. Let’s start with the term furler. The furling system allows us to use and store the headsail all in a moments effort. Though the first furling models did solve the sail handling issue they also limited the headsail selection. (Remember that headsails come in various sizes to be used in various wind conditions.) Having a 150% headsail loaded on the furling system might cause quite a battle in 25 knots of wind especially if the sail area cannot be effectively reduced.
As furling systems became more sophisticated so did their capabilities. Even the term “furling system” has upgraded to “headsail handling system”. The reason for the terminology change is that modern products are able to effectively reef the headsail. With the installation of a tapered polypropylene luff rope sewn into the luff of your genoa we can reduce the sail area and flatten the midsection of the sail. This also adds performance to your boat, especially when it comes to the boat’s ability to point. Technology certainly has done us a favor.
The spectrum of these systems begins at the dinghy level making day sailing a snap. Even small one-design boats are using furling drums on their jibs making mark roundings much more efficient.
The mid-size boat represents a large percentage of recreational sailing yachts. For this sailor Harken has developed the MKIII that is relatively maintenance-free with its torlon bearings and hardkote-anodizing for strength and durability. The fit and finish or this product makes this system arguably the best sail-handling product for the dollar. Hood Yacht Systems also has a large share of this market. For those of you with an older Hood line-drive system, Hood has introduced a drum upgrade kit to replace their 800 and 900 line drive systems without the need to replace the systems foils. This upgrade converts the current system into a furler that is capable of holding a reef. The older line drive was only capable of furling and unfurling the headsail.
Larger yachts are particularly in need of sail-handling systems due to the mere size and weight of their sails. The latest product for them is jib reefing driven by hydraulics. If this isn’t enough technological advancement for your taste, let’s add carbon to the drums and headsail foils. The carbon is engineered to look stunning, add strength, and save weight.
Whatever the boat, you can be assured there is a variety of headsail handling systems available to suit your needs and budget. In next month’s products article we’ll look into mainsail handling and a few standout solutions for taming the main.
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