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Old 02-03-2016, 03:00   #1
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In mast furling or slab

Hi I'm looking to buy a live aboard and ultimately trans Atlantic onwards to circumnavigate . I have been told in mast furling is a no no go for slab . Reasons given are that in mast tend to jam and if in a pickle or if the weather should pick up then I could find myself not being able to drop the main
Any thoughts or experiences please


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Old 02-03-2016, 03:01   #2
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Re: In mast furling or slab

Ps I'm looking either Beneteau or Bavaria


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Old 02-03-2016, 03:17   #3
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Re: In mast furling or slab

The debate between in-mast (and in-boom) and classic mains gets almost as heated as those between mono and catamarans as well as the anchor wars.

Those that have in-mast usually stick with them while those with classic mains tend to do the same. I'm on my 4th boat with in-mast furling and have yet to have a problem with the system. I'm a single-hander and love the ability to adjust my sails easily on the fly without having to worry about reefing lines - all I need to do is ease the tension on the sail and use the roller-furler to pull in as much sail as I think I need.
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Old 02-03-2016, 03:29   #4
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Re: In mast furling or slab

That was my thinking . I will be single handed and was looking at the Bavaria 40 which looks the perfect boat for me needs with berths and space for visitors but small enough for me to handle . I assume that the main halyard can be released to drop that sail even on in mast ?
Thanks for your thoughts


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Old 02-03-2016, 07:43   #5
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Re: In mast furling or slab

If the mainsail is partially or fully furled you cannot drop the sail, that can only be done if the sail is fully extended.

When furling jibs/genoas first started being produced mainstream the arguments between hanked-on and furling went on much the same way as does the mainsail argument, but in the years since then the furling genoa has become the norm and few, if any, cruisers designed or built in many years have hanked-on jibs.

Once the mainsail gets old or blown-out, furling can become more difficult; so one is forced to replace or repair the sail rather than to continue to sail with a misshapen slab-reefed mainsail. This process of stretching and become unfurlable (new verb ) is a lengthy one with plenty of warning; but if one ignores those warnings one can get into a situation with a stuck sail. Similarly, when furling the main one needs to ensure that sufficient tension is on sail so that it furls nicely and tightly rather than baggy and loose; the latter with a potential for problems.

When I set sail I will usually put the furling equivalent of 2-3 reefs in both sails until I get away from land and see the true wind, then it is as easy as letting the furling lines out a bit to remove those reefs to put out exactly the amount of fore and aft sails that I want. Likewise, when the wind freshens so that I want to reduce sail, I don't have to head into the wind to do so, I just release the sail's tension so that the forces are reduced and roll in the furling line. I'm also not limited to 2 or 3 specific reefs with the mainsail, either.

The downside is that performance is quite a bit less than with a classic main. The lack of battens prevents an optimal shape to maximize speed and the mast is quite a bit thicker for a given amount of sail and thus causes the relative wind to be eddied about and turbulent close to the mast. But I'm not a racer and the Jeanneaus (and, I believe, the Bavarias and Beneteaus as well) tend to use the 100%+ genoa as the main driver with a mast set well back so I feel that this loss of performance is acceptable for me.

I'm sure others will add their experiences, both pro and contra. But in the end there's no correct answer as it is a matter of preference. Unless, of course, you want to race - in which case the furling main is out.

I think that in-boom furling systems are getting better and better and are also becoming more mainstream rather than being reserved for the big and mega yachts. The in-boom has some advantages or in-mast: the mast is standard diameter and doesn't disrupt the airflow more than necessary and if the furling system malfunctions in any state of deployment one can always drop the sail using the halyard.
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Old 02-03-2016, 07:48   #6
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Re: In mast furling or slab

I have had an in-mast furling main for 12 years now and would honestly never go back to a slab main. It is very easy and convenient and I have never had any kind of problem or jam.
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Old 02-03-2016, 07:54   #7
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Re: In mast furling or slab

Either system is fine.

I would opt for slabs in a small boat. I can slab reef sails up to about 40 sq m (some 450 sq ft) working alone, at night, in the rain, and downwind too. The smaller the sail, the easier the task.

As boats get bigger, slab reefing becomes a very hard task. I would stick to in mast furling on short crewed boat of certain size.

IMHO poor quality in mast reefing systems are all trouble. Avoid. And, like with any system, make sure you understand how it is to be trimmed, mainatained and what the signs of trouble are. This eliminates 99% of all trouble, with any system.

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Old 02-03-2016, 09:13   #8
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Re: In mast furling or slab

I recently changed from a furling main on a Bene 393 to a traditional main on a Jeanneau. I am sold on the classic main because I was recently caught by surprise by a 27 kt. puff (?) squall (?) at night sailing out the Golden Gate, single handed as usual. I was able to reef the main and gain control over the boat. I would have been hosed with a furling main. So, the ability to de-power quickly trumps, in my mind, the convenience of furling. Plus, I like having a proper sail with a roach.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:19   #9
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Re: In mast furling or slab

Im a relative newbie to sailing and only had my boat for 4 years and I love the in mast furling mainsail on my Bavaria 37. I did have one small problem the second time i went out on my then new boat. A squall was fast approaching and i decide to furl it in a few reefs. Got it in a few turns and it jammed. Pulled it put a bit and yried again with the same result. The wind was now rising and so was my sense of helplessness. Thats when I noticed the loose end of a line had been caught and wound in with the sail making it too fat for the spindle. Freed the line and the sail furled up beautifully. Now of course i always make sure there are no free halyards etc anywhere around to get caught up.
Moral of the story... there is nothing wrong with the system only the operator.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:31   #10
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Re: In mast furling or slab

Huge amount of very detailed information in the archives -- just do a search.

The short answer is that both systems are fine, each with its own pluses and minuses.

In mast furling costs performance (which can be somewhat mitigated with vertical battens, at the expense of added jamming risk/wear point). Another downside is extra weight aloft and windage from the fatter mast.

But in-mast furling has a number of advantages, including infinite and very safe reefing, good shape when reefed, sail is cheaper (simpler and easier to construct), ideal storage of the sail inside the mast (sail lasts longer, and you are saved flaking and covering it every time).

I'm personally rather agnostic. In very windy areas (higher latitudes, like where I sail), or for ocean sailing, I would go with in-mast. The performance advantage of full batten mains is lost once you start reefing.

In less windy areas (lower latitudes), where you don't reef all that often, or for coastal sailing where you're not forced to be out in stronger weather, then I would go with a full batten main for better performance.

That's my personal taste; YMMV.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:37   #11
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Re: In mast furling or slab

I have two boats one in Maine - a Hinckley 50 yawl and a 15 meter classic schooner in Palma de Mallorca. The Hinckley has in-mast furling/reefing on both main & mizzen; the schooner has slab reefing on main & fore and roller furling on heads'l - cont4rolled from the cockpit.

I usually single-hand (I'm not a misanthrope - but when I want to go sailing; I don't want to stand around waiting for people). I'm 74 and don't want to waste what's left of my life waiting for crew or guests.

Anyway, bottomline: if you are single handed or short handed, in-mast furling is the way to go. You can do ALL sail handling from the safety of the cockpit - a huge advantage when you are single-handed or with inexperienced crew that wants to "help". All you gotta do is push a button and slack off on the sheet. Reverse this to set.

On my schooner, I have to go up on deck to gather and secure main & foresails while the boat is going slowly ahead, into the wind, on autopilot. And even though one can gather up the sail with ties; I usually have to redo the furled sail when I get back to a slip or mooring.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:44   #12
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Re: In mast furling or slab

Thanks guys this is really good info much appreciated 😎


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Old 02-03-2016, 09:44   #13
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Re: In mast furling or slab

You will get a lot of opinions for and against. I like Slab reefing. Have had both. KISS
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:52   #14
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Re: In mast furling or slab

I have known multiple people who have had issues with in-mast furling. One got caught in the entrance to SF Bay, and eventually had to cut their luff to save the boat. Others have been unable to furl in high winds.

Most delivery skippers will not take in-mast furling up the coast. The high mass in the mast, and furling issues in high winds are the least of it. Jams are the big issue.


In-boom furling is becoming very popular. It puts all the mass low, allows full length battens, and can be reefed the old fashioned way in an emergency.


All this said, I use an old fashioned sail with slides, lazy jacks, and jiffy reeling. The only issue I've had is persuading whoever is in the cockpit to not change course while I'm on deck. My foresails are hanked on as well as I've seen multiple people struggle with roller furling in high winds.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:52   #15
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Re: In mast furling or slab

I've had both. My opinion, if you have a good quality in mast furler and maintain it very well the odds of a jam or other problem will be very low.

Low but not zero so I prefer my KISS, slab reefing. Properly set up it's quick and easy.
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