Originally Posted by accomplice
Dockhead, By no means am I suggesting you change your rig, but what are your thoughts on in-boom furling (as opposed to in-mast)? It provides the convenience of furling main, the performance of full-battens, and less windage as the mast
doesn't have to swallow a sail. Yes, the boom is bigger, but that weight is lower (than the mast) and shorter.
Yes, in-boom furling is often discussed, but rarely seen. It sounds fantastic in theory, but I don't know what it's like in practice. If it fully lived up to its potential, you would think that it would be specified more often.
In-mast furling has the advantage that it is highly developed -- Selden and others have made thousands and thousands of them. They are reliable and give very little trouble. The thickness and weight of the mast are definitely disadvantages, as is the lack of roach in the sail. I think this is partially compensated for by specifying a taller rig. It does work well in practice, however, as large cruising boats around here achieve quite good performance with them. People even race
with them -- a number of boats in the last Fastnet had furling mains.
So around here, furling mains are kind of just the card you are dealt -- when you go to buy a larger cruising boat you just don't have any choice, unless you are having the boat built to your specification and special order something different.
The crucial advantage of furling mains is that you can reef and unreef in infinite degrees and on any point of sail. You don't have to head
up to reef or unreef -- a crucial advantage dealing with some of the weather
we have around here (we sometimes sail in weather
where it would be simply impossible to hold the boat's head
into the wind). The ability to finely adjust the sail area, and do it effortlessly and instantly, is also a performance advantage, since you will be more likely to be sailing with the right a mount of sail up, than you would be with a conventional main. I can even unreef in a lull I know won't last more than 10 or 15 minutes -- you cant do that practically with a conventional main. And obviously, when the weather turns to s***, as it often does at this latitude, you can reduce sail in a heartbeat, without heading up -- worth its weight in gold sometimes.
Another good thing about it for sailing at these latitudes is that the shape of the furling main actually gets flatter as you reef it. This can be a big advantage in strong conditions. It means that I can delay reefing the headsail by reefing the main more and more.
On balance, it's not too bad. I have gotten used to and now probably wouldn't have anything else.
What's crucially important, however, is that your boat was designed from the beginning for it -- there has to be enough ballast to compensate for the weight aloft, or it screws up your stability, and the rig should be taller to increase the aspect ratio to claw
back some sail area and some of the efficiency lost
from the lack of a roach.