Roller Furlers & Roller Furling systems
There are many reasons to put a roller furler systems on your boat. Convenience is the big one, to be able to set the sail and loose it quickly and without having to leave the cockpit is huge. Storage is another, you do not have to put the sail in a locker, saving space.
Whatever your reason for wanting a roller furler this article attempts to help your decision, by presenting each furler and their features.
We take a look at some of the most popular manufacturers of reefing systems and roller furling equipment, such as Harken, ProFurl, Schaefer, Reckmann etc.
We looked around and there is not much in the way of Roller Furler reviews, so we have attempt to give you an idea of how each one is different, what you should look for when choosing a furler and a price comparison.
Apart from issues in deciding which furler unit you need, we also discuss other aspects. Roller furlers are like any piece of mechanical equipment, they do come with issues that should be addressed. Then you know that its going to work, and not jam up when you least need it to. Also when using roller furling there are some considerations for your sail to get the best shape and life out of it.
Foil Furlers or Rope Luff Furlers
Most traditional furlers use solid extrusions for the luff of the sail. The Foil sections can be aluminum, carbon or plastic. Simply pull the line on the furling drum and the foil turns. The sail attached to the foil is wrapped around the foil as it turns and is wrapped evenly from top to bottom.
Other versions of the furler are the Code Zero furler or Soft Luff Furler and the Top down furler. The advantage of the these rop luff systems is that they do not need Rigid Foils but a Anti-torsion rope so the whole furler can be lowered down to the deck while under way. Soft Luff furlers have two distinct types;
The Code Zero Furler is for a Code Zero or Gennaker, (cross between a Genoa and asymmetrical spinnaker). The Code Zero has a rope luff built into the sail, which is a torsion rope. This torsion (anti twist) rope transmits the furling of the lower drum to the top swivel. As the furling drum turns the top swivel turns almost at the same time. The Code Zero requires very high luff tension. You need to work with the sailmaker to get the torsion rope built into the luff. Link to Karver Code Zero Furler.
The Top Down furler is intended for Asymmetrical spinnakers. The reason for the name is the furling process. Because the sail is only attached to the top furler, (floats loosely on the bottom drum) it is only this part which gets wrapped when the furler line is pulled. As the furler turns, more and more of the sail gets wrapped around the rope luff and does so from the top down, hence the term, “Top Down furler”. This furler works well for spinnakers and sails that are set with a loose luff. The top down furler is an alternative to the Snuffer. No modification to the spinnaker is needed.
Solid Foil Furlers
For cruisers a Jib or Genoa works best with the solid luff extrusion furler, which we are discussing below.
Things to look for when choosing a Solid Foil Furler syste
Find out what type what arrangement and how many bearings there are with a system. Torlon is preferred Schaefer, Hood, and Harken use Torlon bearings.
Furlex Rondal and Reckmann use stainless steel bearings. Profurl uses carbon steel bearings which are housed in a lip seal. The issue here is if the seal gets worn through or damaged corrosion will occur.
There are various shapes of extrusion round or airfoil. Round is better for furling as it rolls the sail evenly. Airfoil or oval shapes are best for racing.
Airfoils sections are usually lighter with thin wall. Round sections like Schaefer are very thick walled and heavy. You also have twin groove for racing.
Some are plastic lined, others use screws or rivets. Its important that the extrusions do not come apart, as furlers are subjected to years of rattling which can undo even well seated screws. Screwed systems need to use Locktite to stop them coming out.
Harken MkIV, Schaefer and Profurl use your existing headstay so you can use them with a turnbuckle or not. Harken MKIII uses a turnbuckle body built into the furler drum and so some modification is necessary. With Furlex you get a new headstay w choice of (turnbuckle) rigging screw or not.
Independent tack swivel
A fully rotating tack swivel allows the sail to Furl from the middle first, which results in taking shape out of the sail. Furled sails tend to be quite baggy and so flattening helps. See also the section on sail shapes below.
Furlex has what they call turn free. This means the tack swivel turns almost 1 turn and then stops. The reason for this is the Hood Patent on the fully swiveling tack.
larger drum diameters mean more leverage which reduces the load on the furling line. Harken MKIV has a better drum diameter to foil size than the MKIII which is one of its improvements.
Materials used include, injection molded plastic, cast aluminum, machined aluminum, investment cast Stainless Steel. Machined aluminum is best say for the halyard swivel.
Its very important to have toggles at top and bottom end of extrusion to allow for the sag of the headstay.
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