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Old 14-09-2017, 10:21   #1
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Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

Hi everyone.

My wife and I are boat shopping.

Question 1: What are your thoughts on in-furling mains vs traditional mainsails with a stack pack?

I am aware of the risks of jamming (usually under the cover of darkness and blowing 30. We have raced for years so we are initially looking for a traditional main as we have no problem flaking or using a stack pack.

So far, with the boats we are looking at, it appears that there are more in-mast furling boats out there which appears to be limiting the boats that are available to us to consider to purchase. We are looking more at production boats currently mostly Beneteaus and Jeanneaus. We don't need to open that can of worms in this thread.

Question 2: Do you think we are limiting ourselves for resale value down the road if we continue to look for a traditional main with a stack pack?

I appreciate any feedback you might have to offer.

Phil
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Old 14-09-2017, 10:37   #2
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

1. I've had both and love my in-mast furling main. Probably for it's convenience. However, you have to learn the system. Those I've been exposed to have different characteristics, especially angle (into the wind) for furling and unfurling. Also, Vang pressure, mainsheet pressure, etc. I wouldn't hesitate to buy again. Of course you lose some sail area bc they have the concave shape.

2. I don't think so. There are markets for both and I believe both will be produced in the future.

Good luck.
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Old 14-09-2017, 10:41   #3
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

I wouldn't have a an in-mast furling main if I was sailing offshore. Stuff happens offshore, and if you can't get the main furled, you are in trouble.

The last time I sailed from New Zealand to New Caledonia, it was a tough sail with gale force winds requiring us to lay to a parachute sea anchor for a day/night before we could resume sailing.

When we arrived in New Caledonia, there was a yacht next to us in the marina who had just gotten a new in-mast furling mainsail installed in New Zealand. They were in the same weather, and they could not furl their mainsail. So he had to climb the mast and cut the sail down so that they could survive the storm. A totally new mainsail was destroyed in the process.

That pretty much answered the question for me about sailing offshore with in-mast furling for the mainsail.
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Old 14-09-2017, 11:11   #4
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

This exact scenario is our main reason we are looking for a traditional main. But man does it make boat shopping HARD!!! There appears to be far less available boats with traditional mains limiting our selection at least with production boats.

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Old 14-09-2017, 11:37   #5
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

Like death and taxes, jammed furler mains is inevitable. Whether traditional main sails limits your market is arguable but what is certain is that consideration shouldn't drive your choice - it's not supposed to be an easy search for the 'right' boat.
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Old 14-09-2017, 11:57   #6
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

I've had both and now prefer in-mast furling. I have heard the horror stories as well but my experience is that if you keep the system simple it should be as trouble free as a roller furling headsail. You plan on having a RF headsail correct?

By keeping it simple I mean NO BATTENS. Also since the leech is unsupported you need a robust and workable leechline. Crosscut is preferable to radial and triradial sails since the extra stiching can take up space in the mast cavity.

Chantiers Amel has been using in-mast furling for quite some time and it hasn't hurt their resale value. There's pros and cons to every system on a boat but modern in-mast furling is a reliable product that provides infinite reefing from the safety of your cockpit. But don't let that lull you into a false sense of security, like the old adage "when do you reef, as soon as I think about it" still holds.
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Old 14-09-2017, 14:05   #7
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

We've had both and funnily enough managed to jam both Loved the in mast furling, makes sail handling much easier, you can't beat the ability to furl the perfect amount even when going dead down wind. We made a stupid mistake and didn't check the furler at the mast one time before deploying. In the days before we had big winds and I'd strapped the halyards to the mast so when we unfurled the furling line was prevented from running cleanly onto the grooved drum. It was forced to make a turn over the drum outside the groove and promptly locked up completely as it was squashed between the drum cheek/housing. It was scary for a minute as we had almost all the sail out and we knew the daily seabreeze was coming in strong within the hour. In actual fact it was a easy fix. First we rolled the main up starting at the Clew and working to the mast. This was really easy as the sail is designed to roll up and took seconds. I then was winched part the way up the mast and secured the roll with ties to the mast. We continued on our way intending to deal with it at anchorage but after assessing the issue it turned out that just undoing a few bolts allows the whole drum assembly to slide out (lowering the sail at the same time) and allowed us to free the jammed line. Knowing this gave me 100% confidence that even if we were stupid enough to jam the furling main the solution is easy and takes about 10 min. BTW we never noticed any performance difference and were always faster than similar sized boats that had traditional sails (it was a Oceanis 45). We are now on a cat with slab reefing. I miss the simplicity of the in mast furling but see for a cat there are performance differences with the square top main. We also managed to jam this sail one time, there is a down haul fitted as the sail needs assistance to get all the way down. One time I let it down quickly and the down haul wasn't taken in fast enough, the down haul jammed in between a track car and pretty much melted into it. That was way more scary as we really needed to reef, the seas were up and the thing was suck fast. We ended up having to winch the sail down using the reefing points which took a while. Both times were freak events which I doubt will happen to us again but of the two experiences the in mast furling was way easier to sort out.
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Old 14-09-2017, 14:25   #8
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

I hated my in mast furler... except for ease of putting the boat away. It jammed regularly. It evidently jammed for the previous owner also as the fairly new main had a tear/repair in it that was obviously from a jam. I bought a new sail, I rigged the boat for ease of furling etc. still... a problem. I think the newer ones may be better ... not sure. The gap in the mast seems to be bigger/wider on some, I believe that was the issue for the old school Forespar I had. Still, the mainsail was a joke with no roach in it, just did little to drive the boat well.
This subject is like anchors, everyone has their opinion, but the mainsail does not drive the boat well with no roach and that's a fact.
In mast furler lovers like to say it's "technique", if it is, it's the one sailing task I havent been able to master. But logic tells me no. If you are in steep seas, the boat is boncing up and down over each wave, and you have to walk a fine line allowing slack in the sheet, but not too much to avoid an overlap... all while the boat slams up and down and while you are manning winches or sheet stoppers with your extra 2 hands..... I call that "not a robust system" rather than a "technique " issue.
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Old 14-09-2017, 15:33   #9
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

Let's see, disadvantages of in mast furling:
- Loss of multiple sail shaping & tuning controls (over a dozen of them, easy).
- More weight aloft & windage from larger, heavier mast tube. As well as weight of sail being permanently hoisted.
- Main operates in more disturbed air due to larger spar section
- Less sail area for a given mast height
- Less efficient sail by a huge margin
- More sail induced drag due to poor shape via the sail's cut, in addition to the lack of controls to shape it.
- More heeling from poor sail shape, above, & more weight aloft.
- Poorer efficency from jibs due to inability to tune rig for conditions, & also to alter headstay tension. This includes decreased windware performance, especially in heavy air, when windward efficency is needed most.
- More heeling due to jibs being baggy from loose forestay, without a way to tension same. Again, most detrimental in heavy air.
- Sail jamming issues, along with "reefing" & furling learning curve.
- Less sail design options. Thus harder to create a main which perfectly matches the boat & your sailing style.
- Possible inability to tension leech, along with more tendency towards having either leech flutter or a cupped leech.

And there's more, but... you get the general idea.

EDIT: Note that there are literally dozens of other threads on this exact topic. It comes up monthly, or at a minimum, quarterly. Here's but one of many others about it. in-mar furling vs traditional mast
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Old 14-09-2017, 15:40   #10
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

Stated as succinctly as possible - the only value furling mains provide is convenience...when they work. It appears Lazy is becoming more fashionable.
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Old 14-09-2017, 16:50   #11
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

In mast furling, air conditioning, bow thrusters, electric winches, etc etc etc....This seems to be an all too common theme on modern boats today. After 40 years of sailing, I bow to the K.I.S.S philosophy.

These things are convenient when they work. However they always add to the endless job list and inevitably let you down at the worst possible time.
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Old 14-09-2017, 18:29   #12
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

You didn't mention what size boat you were looking for. I have a 37' cruiser-racer with a stack-pack and it's no trouble at all. I don't have personal experience with a roller furling main, but have sailed (raced) next to boats so equipped, and I couldn't live with the performance hit. The bigger the boat gets, I guess the more attractive roller furling becomes.
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Old 14-09-2017, 19:22   #13
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

I don't think you are limiting yourself if you go for traditional. I don't think roller furling main sails will ever be that big with people who want to sail a lot, I don't think they will get like roller genoas where most boats have them. (i still prefer a hanked sail, only because I can change it on my own easily).

I had the fortune to look at a damaged roller reefing mast with a surveyor, the mast is naturally weaker, due to the slice that goes the full length of it, also the piece that the sail rolls around, is just attached top and bottom, that means that the full length of it, is just rattling around when the sail is out. The mast I looked at, had cracks all over it, due to the stresses put on it.

It is a convenient thing, but I wouldn't want to go cruising with it, ideal for a boat that gets used at the weekend, for a short trip, in good weather.
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Old 14-09-2017, 19:42   #14
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V Illusion View Post
Stated as succinctly as possible - the only value furling mains provide is convenience...when they work. It appears Lazy is becoming more fashionable.
Have you had one? Jam is inevitable? Thats just not true.
Many amels owners have done thousands of miles with no jams.

Ive had one for ten mths, and have sailed 7000nm this year. It has advantages but jury is still out for me.

Jamming isnt my main concern, it was intially but once you get over the fear you realize if you dont force them then you wont jam them.

For me what i dont like is the friction of the sail on the mast when reefing downwind, alot of load on the furling line.

Ive talked to many sailors that have them and all have said " yes i do like my inmast furler"

Performance disadvantage is very small on a cruising boat in the real world.
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Old 14-09-2017, 19:47   #15
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Re: Traditional Main vs In-mast Furling

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Originally Posted by atlantical View Post
I don't think you are limiting yourself if you go for traditional. I don't think roller furling main sails will ever be that big with people who want to sail a lot, I don't think they will get like roller genoas where most boats have them. (i still prefer a hanked sail, only because I can change it on my own easily).

I had the fortune to look at a damaged roller reefing mast with a surveyor, the mast is naturally weaker, due to the slice that goes the full length of it, also the piece that the sail rolls around, is just attached top and bottom, that means that the full length of it, is just rattling around when the sail is out. The mast I looked at, had cracks all over it, due to the stresses put on it.

It is a convenient thing, but I wouldn't want to go cruising with it, ideal for a boat that gets used at the weekend, for a short trip, in good weather.
This is also misleading, saying that furling masts are weaker.

Like i said im not sure yet not completely sold on them BUT lets keep to reality.

If i found the right boat (which i did) i would buy it whether it had inmast furling or slab reefing and then would adapt.

I have seen a inmast sail jam but but also seen a normal main jammed as well.
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