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Old 20-12-2012, 21:29   #1
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Hank On vs Roller Furling

I've been fighting roller furling I guess for my whole sailing career. I'm kind of fanatical about sail shape. I spend probably to much time and way to much money trying to ensure I have the most efficient airfoil possible. I've sacrificed longevity for performance and I've resisted furling for sail shape.

In the the last twenty years I know furling come a ways. I am actively putting bids on boats right now. I've admittedly been lowballing and my last three bids have been turned down with only one making a counter if that tells you anything. I put an offer of $55K for a Bristol Channel Cutter that was listed for $95K which was the only counter I've gotten back at $78K. While in my budget I turned down the counter and left my offer on the table for future consideration. I will get the deal I want however. I'm sure of that. I submitted a bid on a 36' Cape George Cutter the day before yesterday. The vessel is listed for $169k and I put in an offer of $90k, and waiting to see if they counter.

Back on topic. The boats I'm bidding for the most part will need new standing and running rigging and sails to meet my standards. Close to $20K for new sails is a big deal to me and I will probably spend close to that to get the performance I desire.
My question. How much of a sacrifice in sail shape is made with roller furling these days. Is it negligible or does it make purchasing performance sails a waste of money? If I'm going to lose say 15% efficiency I'll be sticking with hank on sails but if the performance loss these days is negligible I think I'll make the transition to roller furling.

Of course I'll be asking the same questions of my sail maker but I'd like to hear your experiences as well.

The sailing I do is cruising however I'm a tinkerer and I like to get every ounce of performance from my rig. I've made three transatlantic crossings and I plan to take my new vessel to S.America and the S.Pacific via the capes.

Thanks in advance for your feelings on roller furling performance. I'd really like to hear from folks who've had experience with performance sails and roller furling. If all you've ever known is roller furling you might not have the experience to answer my questions and may be a little tiny bit biased.
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Old 20-12-2012, 22:05   #2
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I'm pretty sure I get poorer performance on starboard where the furl is on the leeward side hence disrupting flow. Only when sail is reefed on the furler though, when fully extended it seems fine.

I've been rather lax about sail shape and perhaps you could furl tighter with less wrinkles by taking more care. Im no expert but I doubt a furler will get you a satisfying shape. (I use a Furlex 100S)
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Old 20-12-2012, 23:29   #3
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

I sail with my wife and kids and roller furling is a life saver, ie noone to go forward. Mine is better on starboard tack too.
You say you are a cruiser, but write like a racer. ;-)

i use to race Lightnings, now i cruise with the girls.

Roller reef/furling is something new to me that i havee gotten very use to.
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Old 20-12-2012, 23:50   #4
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

I've just switched from hank on staysails to roller furling (Furlex 200S). This was for safety, I don't want to be hanking sails on and off in high winds. At the same time we bought a new yankee from UK sails, it has the foam luff and the furler has the free turn. These work to optimize furled sail shape.

Less time on the foredeck is a huge safety advantage for me.
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Old 20-12-2012, 23:50   #5
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

Roller furling sails have the same efficiency as hank on. The foil is a plus, but the sunshade is a minus. However roller reefing sails are an abomination to a sailor no matter what tricks the sailmaker may have.

The main problem with roller furling sails is they are difficult to change for shorthanded cruisers. That makes them the wrong sail for the conditions up to 75% of the time. Frustrating. Cutter rigs help a little, but nobody who values performance will want to drag the furled headsail thru a gale.

I am stuck with a 135% genoa on a roller furler. I never reef it. It has perfect shape. However at least half the time I wish it were either a 155% or a 95% headsail.

Somedays I think that I should switch back to hank on headsails.
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Old 21-12-2012, 00:27   #6
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

I have no problem going forward. I wear a harness 100% of the time and never fail to tie off. I always set a system that will not allow me enough slack to pass over the stanchions.
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Old 21-12-2012, 00:40   #7
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

Cruising our cutter, there is NO WAY I'd do this without roller furling. We have a 100% yankee and a jib. Under 15 knots I fly both head sails. 15-25ish just the yankee and a reef in the main, over 25 double reefed main and the jib which is also a roller furler. Why do I say no way? For instance, a couple of nights ago we were sailing south from Mag Bay to Cabo and the wind went from 10 knots on our starboard quarter to 20 knots on the nose in just a couple minutes in really confused seas and a super dark night with no moon. I was down below sleeping, my wife was at the helm. The boat was overpowered pretty quickly.
She just had to grab one line and roll the yankee in and everything was manageable again within seconds instead of having to go forward to drop the yankee and reef the main. I don't know about you, but I don't really want to be out on the bowsprit in the middle of the night with water coming over the bow and sails flapping everywhere. I'd rather stay in bed while my wife rolls the sail up. So maybe we're 1/4 knot slower than we might have been but we're safer and more comfortable.
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Old 21-12-2012, 01:18   #8
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

Take a look at the vendee globe racers inventories. Nary a hank on sail on the boats, AFAIK.
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Old 21-12-2012, 01:24   #9
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

We have hank-on, but I wish we had roller furling. We have a staysail, so if things get rough, we could just roll up the jib completely. We tend to not change the jib, just put on the right jib for the conditions when we start out. Not good practice for long term cruising!

At least I convinced my husband (who says he loves the hank-on) to use a downhaul which is led back to the mast so he doesn't have to go forward on the bowsprit unless something jams up (which does happen....not fully figured out yet....need larger turning block at the stem I think).

We have an old, slow, ketch and love it. It's good to play around and see what works.
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Old 21-12-2012, 07:22   #10
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

With the two boats you mentioned, the Cape George and the Bristol Channel Cutter, you are not overly concerned about racing! I do, however, appreciate gaining all of the performance out of what you have. I went from hank on to the roller furler years ago and spent all of the $$ to convert the sails over. I would say that the furlers certainly add convenience and safety plus you are more likely to roll out a sail then turn on the iron genny. With my sloop set-up, I will start off the year with my 135 then switch to my 150 in the summer when the winds lighten up her on the Chesapeake.
If I were you, I would gain that extra 1/2 knot by switching to a folding/feathering prop and use a roller furler....IMHO.
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Old 21-12-2012, 07:29   #11
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

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Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
I have no problem going forward. I wear a harness 100% of the time and never fail to tie off. I always set a system that will not allow me enough slack to pass over the stanchions.
I have hank-on foresails on my '73 33 footer and a ProFurl on my 41 footer cutter. The staysail remains hank-on.

I happen to agree with you about the better sail shape of hank-ons, and I also tend to cruise as if racing in that I like achieving in the top band of "potential performance" not only to obtain speed, but also because well-set sails last longer and a snappy tack is easier on crew and boat gear.

You might consider, however, the benefits of a tape luff. It is arguably a good compromise in that you can have a well-cut No. 1 and can raise a No. 3, lower the No. 1 and still get the "throttle" of furling in case it goes to "number 4" weather.

If you opt for hanks, consider a downhaul line (really thin Dyneema with a Dacron tail is great for this) to the headboard down to a block near the tack. You can release the halyard from the cockpit, haul down rapidly and then cinch the sheets more or less taut. It gives you breathing room or heaving to possibilities if you have to go below to sort gear or get foulies on.

Having a cutter rig with a Yankee jib on the biggert steel boat, however, furling forward made sense. Taming that large sail via hanks does not. The staysail, however, is all on deck and I prefer to stay with hanks. I also prefer to make the staysail reefable, having noted that I can get to 7 knots SOG in 32 knots gusting 40 of wind with just the staysail alone when the boat is lightly loaded.

I have tried on other boats furling (in mast) mains, but I hate the shape you get while liking the speed at which you can reduce the main. It's a good choice for cruising couples, but I am going to stick with "traditional" slab reefing and other sail control methods as I will have two other crew when cruising to handle the "head to wind" bits.
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Old 21-12-2012, 07:36   #12
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

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Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
Take a look at the vendee globe racers inventories. Nary a hank on sail on the boats, AFAIK.
By the same logic, F1 racecars don't have baby seats.

There are many race boat/solo sailor innovations that find application (eventually) in the cruising class, and one would have to be a Luddite to object to them. Not all of these ideas, however, are necessary or desirable. Daggerboards, for instance: Great on an Open 60, but less so on a Catalina 42.

You have to weigh your options. On a full keel steel boat aimed at the trades, for instance, my internal water tanks are part of the ballasting system. If I can predict that I will be on one tack for 10 days (historically likely according to my pilots), it makes sense to pump to the "high-side" tank with a cross-transfer pump to stiffen the boat and make all water usage "downhill". Fifteen minutes pumping for a week's better sailing is worth it to me.

This is an idea taken directly from raceboats. Yoink!
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Old 21-12-2012, 08:03   #13
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

I've just recently put on a furler......what sealed it for me was hopping from island to island in Belize. I found I was more likely to motor for a five mile hop rather than sail because packing up to the foredeck and changing out from a 135 to a 110 was getting to be a huge chore. Even pulling the sail that was currently hanked on out of the bag took more effort than it was worth for less than an hours worth of propulsion in the tropical heat.....

I will not be furling a 140 down to a 100 though, I am still carrying the full suite of sails but am able to change them out on a seasonal basis or when conditions will warrant for an extended period of time.
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Old 21-12-2012, 08:18   #14
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

I agree with Tortuga's Lie with your boat choices, which are good ones, speed must not be that high on the list. Go furling and make life easier.
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Old 21-12-2012, 10:36   #15
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Re: Hank On vs Roller Furling

Thanks for all the replies folks. Very good food for thought.
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