Rollerfurling Mainsails – Top 5 problems …and how to avoid them

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Roller Furling Mainsails have taken over the market aboard cruising sailboats.  Why? Because they make boats easier to use.

As with all modern changes, from automatic transmissions in automobiles to computer chips in smart TVs, they come as a compromise.

Compromise: Synonyms- meet each other halfway, come to an understanding, make a deal, make concessions, find a happy medium, strike a balance

Think of a romainller furling mainsail as a roller furling jib inside of a mast.

What do you gain?

  • ease of use, less time preparing boat before and after sailing
  • safety – reefing, partially or completely – from the cockpit

What do you give up?

Performance, especially in low wind conditions because:

  • smaller sail & lack of horizontal battens
  • limited ability to bend the mast as a performance and depowering tool
  • limited pre-bend in the mast for additional mast stability
  • added weight aloft (rollerfurling units add weight to the mast)

What causes problems in Roller Furling Mainsails?reef

  1. Halyard Tension – #1 problem with RF Mainsails: without proper halyard tension the sail will bunch up and not easily pass through the slot in the mast.  Recommendations: add a clutch at mast and mark halyard at mast to cut down on crew releasing the halyard by mistake.
  2. Old Sail – when the sail get tired the draft moves aft resulting in extra material in the middle of the sail.  This material can jam when being pulled out.  A new sail with proper draft will also help the boat’s performance.  Think about an airplane wind that is not shaped correctly.
  3. Dirty Bearings: may be a wasp or bird’s nest inside of the mast, Cleaning and lubrication usually solves this issue.  Bearings may need replacement after 10 years.
  4. Outhaul Lead Angle – the sail should be pulled out with equal tension on the foot and the leach.  Think about the jib furler if you only pulled down and not aft.
  5. Mast Bend – too much mast bend pushes the furling unit against the back of the mast and binds the system

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