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Old 17-06-2013, 00:38   #1
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In-Mast Furling or Traditional Reefing

We are looking for a new sailing yacht (37-40 ft) and have to make a decision between traditional reefing (slab/lazy jack/single line) and in-mast reefing. I am not an expert in this field but have spent some time in reviewing opions posted in this and other various forums. Below are the findings so far.

Pro:
1. Easy to set sail, no need fight gravity or use electric winches.
2. Easy to stow sail, no need to go to mast, safer.
3. Ability to finetune sail surface to match wind conditions, better balance.
4. Better UV protection and clean look.
5. Added weight in mast increases (moment of) inertia to roll, more comfortable (?!).

Con:
1. Less performance due to small sail area and no roach.
2. Decreased stability due to extra weight in mast.
3. Major problems in case system jamms.
4. Opening in mast generates noise when wind comes from astern.
5. Higher cost.

The conclusion seems be be that there is no clear 'best' solution. The preferred system depends on various parameters such as preference for speed vs. comfort vs. safety, size and experience of crew, day sailing or long distance. In our case we do both weekend sailing and overnight offshore/costal cruising with a short or single handed crew. We lean towards in-mast for the following reasons:

1. Safer to operate in windy and night conditions.
2. Less performance mainly applies to close hauled light wind conditions (no reefing, no gennaker)
3. Less use of engine because it is easy to use main sail.
4. Increased percentage of in-mast systems with new production yachts (>50%) and ARC world cruising members.
5. Technology for cutting in-mast sails will develop over time (vertical battens, inflatable battens)

It is also interesting to observe that many owners of yachts with traditional reefing would 'never consider' using in-mast and that most owners of in-mast systems will 'never go back'. The discussion is somewhat similar to the pro's and con's of roller furling head/genua sails 20 years ago.
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Old 17-06-2013, 00:52   #2
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

I've had lazy-jacks (lazy-pack) and in-mast furling. Today I have the Dutchman system

Link: MVBinfo Dutchman Sail Hardware

Generally, in mast systems give you less ability to tune the sails. Even if you invest in expensive sails with vertical battens, it is not quite as good and a traditional sail.

Having said the above, you need to look at your abilities and needs. Unless you are good at tuning sails, you might not notice the limitations. If an in-mast jams, it is generally when furling, not unfurling. Assuming you care for your systems and learn how to use it, the jamming is rare.

Lazy-jacks are simple, but you have the problem of the battens catching on the jacks (PITA). You also end up have to flake the sail manually. If you are reefing, you end up on deck unless you have rigged a single-line reefing system (advisable)

The Dutchman system, allows you do drop the sail and it flakes itself. When reefing, it will flak as it comes down, making this much easier (especially if you have a single line reefing system). You still have horizontal battens, so you retain all the tuning abilities.

With short-handed crew, I would go for either the furling or the Dutchman, since both can be operated from the cockpit
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Old 17-06-2013, 00:56   #3
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

The expense and danger if the sail jams automatically cancels out in mast furling for me.

I've got double line reefing with all lines led back to the cabin top. Takes me a minute to reef under the cover of the dodger. Reefing couldn't be easier, sometimes do it just for the fun of it. Even if in mast furling was free and not prone to jamming, can't see how it could be any easier pr quicker.
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Old 17-06-2013, 01:10   #4
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

I've just gone from a 40ft sloop to a 53 ft ketch.

I would say that the slab reefing on the 40ft was perfect for its size....easy to handle and never any problems.
The 53 has in mast furling with electric motors and I have to say for that size sail and the ease of handling it is superb. I don't know that I'd like to have slab reefing on this boat mainly due to size considerations.
I agree the Dutchman is a really elegant solution and if I had a boat without in mast furling I would definitely go that way.
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Old 17-06-2013, 01:21   #5
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

This has been discussed to death, and if you go through the archives you'll find a lot of useful information.

I've had both, and I presently have in-mast furling. Contrary to what some believe, it doesn't suck, and it has a few advantages. But I would probably go with slab reefing if I had a choice (I didn't -- I doubt even 1% of cruising boats in Europe less than 15 years old and over 50' have anything besides in-mast furling, maybe it's less than 0.1%).

If you use in-mast furling correctly, it is not actually all that super-convenient -- not like furling headsails. Furling is a two-man job to keep proper tension on the clew, and you have to get the boom aligned just right, etc.

A huge advantage of in-mast furling is instant, infinitely variable reefing. This is really good if you sail in a windy place like I do. Maybe not so important for people in the tropics and sub-tropics.

The biggest advantage of all is perfect storage of the sail inside the mast. This is not at all trivial -- it saves a ton of time and sweat flaking the main, putting covers on and taking them off (a real PITA on a big boat), keeps the sail perfectly clean, and altogether probably doubles the life of the sail. For some people, this probably makes it worthwhile all by itself.

Downside, as everyone knows, is less control over mainsail shape, and a hollow leech (negative roach), so worse performance. On boats designed specifically for in-mast furling (i.e., just about every single European boat over 50'), a taller rig is specified to compensate for this.
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Old 17-06-2013, 05:11   #6
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

Quote:
1. Safer to operate in windy and night conditions.
Can't agree with this one. Say you are sailing downwind at night. The winds start picking up, the boat speed picks up, all is fine. The seas pick up and you start surfing. You decide it is time to slow down. You have to turn the boat to weather, radically increasing the apparent wind, before you can furl. Then with things bouncing around you have to do a proper furl, with correct angles and tensions. It isn't a free ride or that easy. We did this on one 47footer and ended up folding the rigid boom vang in half.
On a larger boat I"d be looking at a boom furler like Leisurefurl over an in-mast system. Or maybe use lazyjacks, cleanly run reef lines and an electric halyard winch.
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Old 17-06-2013, 05:25   #7
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

Quote:
Can't agree with this one. Say you are sailing downwind at night. The winds start picking up, the boat speed picks up, all is fine. The seas pick up and you start surfing. You decide it is time to slow down. You have to turn the boat to weather, radically increasing the apparent wind, before you can furl.
Not neccessarily, I can furl with the wind behind the beam

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Old 17-06-2013, 05:29   #8
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maartster View Post
We are looking for a new sailing yacht (37-40 ft) and have to make a decision between traditional reefing (slab/lazy jack/single line) and in-mast reefing. I am not an expert in this field but have spent some time in reviewing opions posted in this and other various forums. Below are the findings so far.

Pro:
1. Easy to set sail, no need fight gravity or use electric winches.
2. Easy to stow sail, no need to go to mast, safer.
3. Ability to finetune sail surface to match wind conditions, better balance.
4. Better UV protection and clean look.
5. Added weight in mast increases (moment of) inertia to roll, more comfortable (?!).

Con:
1. Less performance due to small sail area and no roach.
2. Decreased stability due to extra weight in mast.
3. Major problems in case system jamms.
4. Opening in mast generates noise when wind comes from astern.
5. Higher cost.

The conclusion seems be be that there is no clear 'best' solution. The preferred system depends on various parameters such as preference for speed vs. comfort vs. safety, size and experience of crew, day sailing or long distance. In our case we do both weekend sailing and overnight offshore/costal cruising with a short or single handed crew. We lean towards in-mast for the following reasons:

1. Safer to operate in windy and night conditions.
2. Less performance mainly applies to close hauled light wind conditions (no reefing, no gennaker)
3. Less use of engine because it is easy to use main sail.
4. Increased percentage of in-mast systems with new production yachts (>50%) and ARC world cruising members.
5. Technology for cutting in-mast sails will develop over time (vertical battens, inflatable battens)

It is also interesting to observe that many owners of yachts with traditional reefing would 'never consider' using in-mast and that most owners of in-mast systems will 'never go back'. The discussion is somewhat similar to the pro's and con's of roller furling head/genua sails 20 years ago.
On a boat less than 40', I would go with regular slab reefing and lazy jacks, if I were you. It's just not that hard to handle a normal mainsail of that size.

I think you've got the pros and cons about right. However, one fine point -- the loss of performance is out of proportion to the loss of area. The roachy part of the mainsail does a disproportionate amount of the work, due to complicated aerodynamic reasons which I want go into (and couldn't go into even if I wanted to, as I don't understand them ). So you get a pretty significant performance hit from in-mast furling sails. It's not at all like hank-on versus roller furling headsails; there is practically no performance penalty to roller furling headsails (in fact hardly any downside at all).

I would also caution against being overoptimistic about the ease of handling an in-mast furling mainsail. It's true you don't have to go to the mast, which is a definite plus, but to handle an inmast furling mainsail well is a two-man and not trivial job.

Someone wrote that the performance hit of in-mast furling applies mostly when hard on the wind -- well, that's the only point of sail where you start to really care about performance! Any old rag will work on those points of sail where drag, and no lift is called for.

One pro for in-mast furling you missed is that you can reef, furl, or unfurl without coming head to the wind. This can be a significant plus.
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Old 17-06-2013, 05:35   #9
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
Not neccessarily, I can furl with the wind behind the beam

Dave
+1

It is true that you have to watch outhaul tension and boom angle, but inmast furling will generally work ok without going head to the wind.

In the situation described, this is a very significant advantage of in-mast furling -- you can reef when sailing downwind, without turning head to the wind and -- as one post said -- "dramatically increasing apparent wind".

Furthermore, you can reef little by little, in infinite degrees. So there's no excuse to have too much sail up, and I do find that I much more often have just the right amount of sail up, in my present in-mast furling boat, than I did with my previous slab-reefing one. Someone in a similar thread some months ago -- I think it was Bash -- pointed this out as compensating for at least some of the performance disadvantage of in-mast furling. In windy areas, where you often (or usually) sail with at least a bit of a reef in, this could be true.

Shaking out a reef is even easier -- you don't really even have to unload the sail. Just let some more out, and take up the slack with the outhaul, and voila. Makes it much easier to fine tune the amount of sail up for the conditions.
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Old 17-06-2013, 05:46   #10
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

We tried to reef the sail downwind in those conditions and just couldn't get it to reef. Once the leading edge of the sail got to touching the mast the resistance was too much. It was tough conditions offshore Pacific NW and it was the first time any of us had had to reef the boat in anger. I'm sure with some experience on the system it would have gone better. But it did put me off in-mast systems. It seems that a Leisurefurl style system offers a lot of what an in-mast offers with less risk.
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Old 17-06-2013, 05:48   #11
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

Quote:
I think you've got the pros and cons about right. However, one fine point -- the loss of performance is out of proportion to the loss of area. The roachy part of the mainsail does a disproportionate amount of the work, due to complicated aerodynamic reasons which I want go into (and couldn't go into even if I wanted to, as I don't understand them ). So you get a pretty significant performance hit from in-mast furling sails. It's not at all like hank-on versus roller furling headsails; there is practically no performance penalty to roller furling headsails (in fact hardly any downside at all).

I would also caution against being overoptimistic about the ease of handling an in-mast furling mainsail. It's true you don't have to go to the mast, which is a definite plus, but to handle an inmast furling mainsail well is a two-man and not trivial job.
I would have to disagree Dockhead, As you point out , a large percentage of European boats compensate for in-mast with large sail ( taller rigs) area. The loss of performance argument has mainly come from the 'retro-fit' market, a market that has largely died away.

Of all the sail systems that have given me trouble, fully battened mains are high up on that list, I prefer partly battened or no battens. ( irrespective of furling system)

Having sailed many in-masts, I can quite happily furl single hand, often pulling in the furling line , and then releasing clew tension as I go , equally a good free running in-mast can be furled without winches, I used sail a 40 footer where you could hold the clew outhaul in one hand and the furling line in the other and furl the sail!

Thats not to say there are in-masts that are stiff, badly positioned clutches and winches etc that make the operation awkward. But thats a design issue , not an in-mast issue

Ive been on fully battened mains where it required not only two people, but also a person at teh mast, guiding the sail cars down and ensuring the reef sat correctly. I particulary despise the halyard at the mast and the reef lines on clutches ( or outhaul on the coaming) setup , it nearly require three to reef.!

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Old 17-06-2013, 05:56   #12
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pirate Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

Detest in Mast/Boom furlers...
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Old 17-06-2013, 06:00   #13
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

I have both and much prefer in-mast furling. Everything to be said pro and con has been said here. I have found that those who do not like in-mast either don't have it or don't know how to furl properly.
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Old 17-06-2013, 06:01   #14
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Re: In-mast furling or traditional reefing

I have had two of these things jam on me in a blow, different systems, different boats. One short handed, one with a good crew. Both times were absolute cluster f#%ks! You will never get me to do a delivery with one again, let alone own one.
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Old 17-06-2013, 06:03   #15
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Chartered a "boat" with in-mast furling, once. What a joke. Unfurled, the main is a fool's imitation of a sail. Furling, except in a dead calm, was neither pleasant or certain.

For a cocktail cruiser, fine. For a sailor, no way. Anyone who thinks slab reefing is a chore might consider a different pastime. Sheesh.
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