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Old 20-03-2012, 10:35   #1
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Using Roller Furling

Laelia is a Pearson 365 ketch with a roller furling jib. I have experience offshore using traditional multiple headsails but this is my first experience with roller furling. I have misgivings about using it offshore for extended cruising even though I know a lot of people do. It seems like it has the potential to fail at the most inopportune times leaving the hapless user with a wildly flogging headsail and no way to get rid of it. Maybe I just don't know how to deal with it.

Here is a real life incident. Any ideas about how I should have handled the roller furling would be appreciated. Please don't bother to tell me that I should have reduced sail earlier. Squalls happen. On any long offshore trip, a sailor will most likely get caught more than once with too much sail up and a need to reduce sail quickly.

Saturday 3/17, I moved Laelia down the SF Bay from Sausalito to Redwood City, CA - a trip of about 30 nm. Winds were forcast to be 5 - 15. They turned out to be 15 - 20 with gusts to 25. In the beginning, there was no wind. After a while I had 5 kt winds and I hoisted sails for a running reach. Over the next 2 hours the wind increased steadily and I had my hands full steering the boat (no autopilot or windvane) and handing sails.

When I went to roll up the jib, I couldn't do it without altering course to where the jib was flogging - to the point that I feared it might come apart. I had the furling line on a winch but it was a slow, difficult job. Once I got it down to about 1/2 normal size, I could alternate between slacking the jib sheet and cranking in some furling line without having to let the jib flog. What was I doing wrong? All the accounts I read by lovers of roller furling talk about how easy it is do reduce sail with this setup.

By the time I reached my destination and finished rolling up the jib, it was so tightly wrapped around the headstay that there was not enough furling line to wind it up fully. The clew was still hanging out by about a foot. When I unwound it the next day to rewind it, I discovered that the UV protection strip was coming unstitched as a result of all the flogging so I have some repair work to do.

My questions are the following:

1. How does one wind up the jib when one gets caught with a lot of jib up and a lot of wind? The forces were high enough during my experience that I worried about the furling line breaking.

2. If the furling line were to part when the wind is kicking up, it seems to me that one would be left with a huge sail flogging madly. Hopefully, one would be able to pull it down since it would be fully unfurled. Other ideas?

3. If the roller mechanism jams with the sail partially furled, what is the recovery procedure?

All told, I am sorely tempted to go back to traditional multiple jibs. I will most likely have to replace the current roller furling jib anyhow - it sets poorly and is cut so it requires the genoa cars to be moved as the sail is furled.

Thank you in advance for your comments.
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Old 20-03-2012, 10:52   #2
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Re: Using roller furling

Well.... first...how would you have removed a hank on jib in those conditions without an autopilot? Second... yeah it can be difficult and you are right, you are at the mercy of that furling line. Make sure it is stout and good.
My questions are the following:

1. How does one wind up the jib when one gets caught with a lot of jib up and a lot of wind? The forces were high enough during my experience that I worried about the furling line breaking. It is nice to blanket the jib as much as possible. You should be able to crack it off enough so it's not flogging badly but not pulling real hard either. Then pretty much as you did.... crack off on the sheet slowly while grinding in the furling line. Three arms would be nice....

2. If the furling line were to part when the wind is kicking up, it seems to me that one would be left with a huge sail flogging madly. Hopefully, one would be able to pull it down since it would be fully unfurled. Other ideas? In theory you should be able to pull it down just like a hank on sail, in reality, these sails stay up for so long, you never know if the thing is going to come down easily or not. More likely not in my experience. I guess this is a reason to pull it down often to make sure everything is lubricated/ working...

3. If the roller mechanism jams with the sail partially furled, what is the recovery procedure?
If you are talking a line overlap you would have to unfurl it... if that can be done. Here again you need to tweek the system until it works very well without these issues.
Comes down to it, hank on sails are probably more foolproof, but a well tweeked furling system is probably just as safe, as you dont need to go up on deck all the time....
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Old 20-03-2012, 11:27   #3
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Re: Using roller furling

Hi there. I have a few pointers, well they work for me anyway.
I always make sure that the furler is in fact working freely. You should be able to grab the rolled up sail and with one hand twist it back and forth. If not, or if under load, the friction is building up, you have an issue you need to deal with. It must turn REALLY easily. If its hanging up, you run the risk of things getting worse like a furling line parting.
I NEVER put the furling line on a winch, its too damn slow, and also, if there is a problem you cant feel it until its too late.
I have been caught out with too much sail up, in fact our mainsheet has a "Wind Fuse" What I do on a reach/run, is head DOWN to blanket it with the main. I then cast the sheet, by a predetermined amount, say 8 feet, and recleat, then handball the furling line in good 2 yard pulls. It takes no more than 6 of these to completely furl it, normally two good pulls is enough. I hit say minus 40 on the autopilot, then when the flogging starts, hit plus 40 again, by the time were back on course the furling is done. The furling line should run through a jammer. Its good to have tape markers at different "reef points" on the furling line. Don't give up on the idea of a furler, they are really great for shorthanding, but there is a bit of experimentation to get it perfect.
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Old 20-03-2012, 11:39   #4
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Re: Using roller furling

You have to have all load off the sheet when you furl. Even a little tension on the sheet will make furling very difficult. The sail will flog but it's way easier to crank in the sail. The first few times I left a little tension on the sheet and had to use a winch to furl With the sheets free, can usually haul it in by hand even on the gusty Bay. If the flogging sail makes you nervous, you can crank it in with a winch with tension on the sheet but it's not easy and puts a lot of horizontal force on the furling drum.

As for the rest of it, haven't figured that out yet. The new furling units are very reliable, however. I'm sure someone has had theirs fail but mine has always worked. If you have a total failure of the system in a blow, the sail will soon take care of itself by self destructing. A knife might make it a little quicker.

Sailing in SF Bay, you'll get tons of chances to use the furling. Never have reefed or furled so regularly as sailing between the Gate and the Bay Bridge. Keep experimenting.
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Old 20-03-2012, 11:41   #5
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Re: Using roller furling

I've sailed on a few boats with roller furling. I never wish to do so again. Roller furling is prone to all the issues you imagined, and expensive to fix. If you're already accustomed to going forrard to change the sail, you'll be more efficient at it in bad weather. Those who only go forward when there's a problem are already clumsier and less steady on the foredeck than those who spend time up there getting sails up and down. Then the furler adds weight and windage aloft, which are also undesirable.
By all means, especially if you have to invest in a new sail, invest in the less expensive/more reliable option.
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Old 20-03-2012, 12:12   #6
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Re: Using Roller Furling

Good ideas, all. Thank you.

I hadn't thought of blanketing the jib with the main. In this case, I already had the main down thinking that it would be easier to deal with the situation with only the jib up. At the moment my main reefing setup is less than wonderful - lots more work to do in that department. When the situation comes up again, I will try keeping the main up until the jib is at least 50% rolled up.

I agree that working on the foredeck in conditions like that is unpleasant - but the traditional setup is pretty much bulletproof and that is my objective - simple and safe.

All told, I am still of the same mind as Benz. If I have to replace the sail, I will probably go with traditional multiple headsails.
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Old 20-03-2012, 12:18   #7
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Re: Using Roller Furling

BTW: in most cases you want the main up even if just motoring in a sailboat.
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Old 20-03-2012, 12:25   #8
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Re: Using Roller Furling

I agree. If I had my reefing setup in cruising shape I wouldn't have done things in this order. I just bought the boat a few months ago and it has a single slab reef that can only be used when the boat is on starboard tack - lots of work to do here!
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Old 20-03-2012, 16:47   #9
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Re: Using Roller Furling

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailor Ralph View Post

1. How does one wind up the jib when one gets caught with a lot of jib up and a lot of wind? The forces were high enough during my experience that I worried about the furling line breaking.

2. If the furling line were to part when the wind is kicking up, it seems to me that one would be left with a huge sail flogging madly. Hopefully, one would be able to pull it down since it would be fully unfurled. Other ideas?

3. If the roller mechanism jams with the sail partially furled, what is the recovery procedure?
My take:

1. Do not. Reef early. If caught, slacken the sheet some, pull on the furling line some, never let the sail flog madly nor try to furl a loaded sail. The alternative, if broad reaching, bear off, shade the jib with the main, ease sheets, furl.

2. If the furling line snaps (and why should it?) just take up the slack sheets so that the sail does not flog, bear off, fix the furling a new line.

3. Motor in circles. Or else grab the spinnaker halyard and wrap it round the jib. Or else unfurl completely and drop.

b.
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Old 20-03-2012, 17:25   #10
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Re: Using Roller Furling

In my oppinion you had a problem with to much of a boat to singlehand without autopilot. If you had a helping hand, either in a form of a person or a autopilot, it wouldn't have been so much of a problem. So maybe that should be the first thing on the todo list?
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Old 20-03-2012, 17:27   #11
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Re: Using Roller Furling

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In my oppinion you had a problem with to much of a boat to singlehand without autopilot. If you had a helping hand, either in a form of a person or a autopilot, it wouldn't have been so much of a problem. So maybe that should be the first thing on the todo list?
I agree :-)
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Old 20-03-2012, 17:32   #12
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Re: Using Roller Furling

I'm dumping my roller furling. I'm glad the charter boats I work on have it, but personally it's never been that valuable to me and I much prefer headsail flexibility. Additionally most rig failures I've heard of have something to do with a headstay that wasn't inspected or was too hard to inspect. The Pardeys have said the same. Great thread if you're interested concerning hanks and modern race boats that are switching back out to them:

Hanks - About to Make the Change to 'em - Sailing Anarchy Forums
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Old 20-03-2012, 19:19   #13
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I echo many comments here.

By your own posts the boat is new to you, doesnt have an Otto, you are single handing and other sails or not suitably set up for reefing. As you say, "lots to do."

Furler performance is affected by condition of the furling gear, wind conditions, forestay tension and halyard tension.

In general the forestay needs to be rigged right and by that I mean tight. A sagging forestay exacerbated by strong winds makes furling tough. The halyard should be snug and not too tight. The halyard angle when fully hoisted is also critical, it should lead up at anout a 45 degree angle into the sheeve.

Wthout an autopilot and hanked on foresail your situation would likely have been worse.

I am not advocating one way or another and furling gear does have its downsides. I have accidentally gybed, wrapped the genny around the forestay and had no way to raise, lower or furl the genny. My solution is dont accidentally gybe - LOL

In terms of sequence, I have a 150 genny. At 20 kts I furl to 100%. At 25kts I set the first main reef. At 30kts I furl to about 60-75%. I have carried this sail through 45 knots. And have never set the second main reef.

As others have said reef early especially with a furler. I can get the genny to 100% in about 15 seconds.

I have started club races reefed to 100% on the beat, gybed the mark and released the furler. Instant sail change for the downwind run - awesome. Point being reef the genny early, shaking it out is a breeze.
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Old 20-03-2012, 20:10   #14
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Re: Using Roller Furling

The wheel brake isn't a bad way to hold the boat on course for a short time.

It is also important to keep a little drag on the lazy jibsheet during furling - 1 or 2 turns on the winch.

When sailing downhill you might also gain more benefit by reefing the main before furling the jib
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Old 20-03-2012, 20:27   #15
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Re: Using Roller Furling

Our mast is 80 feet. The Quantum Fusion membrane 135 jib must be furled to tack even in ordinary conditions because of the cutter rig. I finally added this piece of gear. Milwaukee 1/2 inch right angle with 2:1 reduction and 28 volt lithium battery. (reconditioned on Amazon) Throw the furler line in the winch on self-tail and hit the trigger. Sail is gone in seconds. We also have two electric primaries that can do the job too. No sense fighting it. Slack the sail but control the clew and wind it in.
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