Sailing made easy: Everything you need to know about roller furling systems

Sailing made easy:
Everything you need to know about roller furling systems

What does a furling system on board sailing yachts do? A furling system allows you to set, recover and partially reef your foresail (genoa or jib) conveniently and practically from the cockpit. These systems are now fitted as standard on most sailing boats thanks to the ease and effectiveness of the system and greater safety when furling and setting. Find out everything there is to know about roller furling systems in this SVB guide: what they are, the main differences, features and advantages, which ones to choose, how they work and why to have them on board.

Contents


Roller Furling Systems for Sailboats

  1. Advantages of a furling system
  2. How it works
  3. The ideal furling system

Installation and Maintenance

  1. Retrofitting
  2. Maintenance
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Ultimate sailing convenience:
The advantages of roller furling systems on sailboats

The use of furling systems has undoubtedly revolutionised cruising and regatta sailing since they first became available some years ago. These practical systems allow the sail to be furled without time-consuming hoisting or lowering each time you go sailing. Using a practical furling system, the foresail can be easily furled from the cockpit, without you or your crew risking life or injury on deck, as it eliminates the need for a crewmember to manually change or reef the jib or genoa. A furling system is certainly an efficient, easy and enjoyable way to deploy or stow sails on a yacht. However, whether or not such a system is appropriate for you largely depends on the size of your vessel and the sort of sailing boat you own.

Nevertheless, the obvious benefits outweigh the disadvantages, which is why a furling system is now standard equipment on almost all sailing yachts. The convenience of not having to recover, set, change or stow your sail is a big advantage! A roller furling system minimises or eliminates the need to carry additional headsails, resulting in not only increased room below deck, but also the removal of the laborious task of lowering and removing your jib or genoa after each voyage.

Roller reefing is useful when overlapping genoas obscure visibility. By reefing the genoa a few turns you can have a clearer view ahead leeward, which shortens the sail and increases visibility - important for safety and peace of mind. A furling system allows you to reef the headsail completely or partially. This way, even if you don't have experienced crew members on board, you can still safely manoeuvre your boat and cope with any wind gusts.

Advantages of roller furling systems

How does a furling system work?

Roller furling - how it works

A roller furling system allows you to roll or wrap your foresail around the headstay. This not only makes sailing easier, but also improves safety by allowing reefing without the crew having to go on deck in bad weather. To understand how to use a roller furling system, it's first important to know how it works, what specific steps to take when using it and to observe important safety measures. Using a roller furling systems is a relatively straight forward affair, but correctly furling the staysail is not as easy as it may first seem!

The setup of a roller furling system consists of a wire, foil, or spar around which the sail is spun. This is controlled by a furling line that is pulled or released from the cockpit. The foil is actually an aluminium track, up which the sail is fed all the way to the top. At the top of the track and at the bottom, the sail is on a swivel, which allows the sail to spin out while a drum rotates. The drum takes up the extra slack from the furling line as the sail is opened by pulling gently on the sheet and is furled by pulling the furling line. It is advisable to keep slight back tension on the sail while furling by leaving one wrap of the sheet on the winch. Pull the furling line to wrap the sail tightly around the forestay/headstay. To partially furl (reef) the sail, pull the furling line until the desired size of the headsail is reached, then belay the line. The headsail can thus be continuously adjusted to any size.

During furling or unfurling you should maintain a light pull on the sheet and furling line at all times. This keeps the furling line neatly spun and unspun around the drum and reduces the risk of an "override", where the furling line binds on itself and makes further unfurling difficult. Take special care that the furling line is of the correct length. It should still be able to make about 3 to 5 turns around the drum after the sail is fully furled and pulled tight. Generally, the optimum length is between one and a half and two times the length of your boat.

Ensure that the foresail halyard maintains an angle of 5° to 10° to the forestay when the sail is set on the furling system. To ensure proper reefing system function, the halyard must not run parallel to the forestay. Pay particular attention to the specifications in the assembly instructions. Alternatively, special fairlead blocks can be installed to allow the desired angle.

If the drum of the roller furling system gets in the way of manoeuvring the anchor at the bow, it can be raised with an eye/fork extension or two stainless steel chain-plates attached via a hinge to the mainsail at the bow.

How do I choose the right roller furling system for my boat?

How do I choose the right roller furling system for my boat?

If you want to install a furling system on your boat, there are a few things to consider first. This includes the size and weight of your boat, the area of the headsail and the diameter and length of the forestay. In order to find the right furling system, most manufacturers offer general guidance based on a boat’s overall length and class.

Having instant control of the sail with maximum surface area, as well as the capacity to navigate larger boats with a high level of safety and control, especially while sailing solo, are strong reasons that have impressed boat owners all over the world for many years. A clear view ahead, as well as the ability to recover and set sail fast, add to the appeal of furling systems.

Roller furlers are safe and convenient, but they are also heavy systems that can inevitably cause forestay sag. If sag is too much, it will affect sailing performance, especially when the wind picks up, but also in particular when sailing upwind. In addition to adjusting the backstay, some rig types also allow the tension of the upper shrouds to be increased in order to influence the leeward slope.

How can I retrofit a roller furling system?

The first thing to do before you start to fit your roller furling system is to familiarise yourself with the installation manual. It contains detailed and illustrated instructions that will enable you to assemble a roller furling system correctly. It should be noted, however, that the assembly steps may vary depending on the model and on the profile configuration and the number of parts to be installed.

The manufacturers PROFURL, NEMO and FURLEX offer comprehensive instructions on how to install a roller furling system. Take a good look and then decide for yourself whether you think you can install the system on your own. If in doubt, please get help from friends and/or boat neighbours who have already carried out such an installation. Local sailmakers and service providers in the harbours are also happy to provide guidance and tips. Please also bear in mind that the existing headsails must be adapted to the requirements of the furling system. This work can only be carried out by a specialist company (sailmaker). Although some manufacturers allow upright mounting as an option, we always recommend that you mount your furling system in a horizontal position. Do this especially if your vessel is in winter storage, as it ensures better stability and potential loads on the mast can be reduced.

Does a furling system require regular maintenance?

Furling systems are designed to minimise the need for maintenance and servicing. Nevertheless, this does not mean that maintenance is totally unnecessary. If you want to maintain the functionality and efficiency of your furling system, regular maintenance should be carried out.

To maintain full functionality of your roller furling system, you should clean it regularly with fresh water to remove salt deposits and dust from the drum and the inside. Some roller furlers require additional lubrication during operation. Be sure to follow the instructions in the user manual.

Further reading: Roller Furling Systems, Jib Furlers and Accessories

Don't compromise on the quality of your new foresail furling system. Even if you are on a tight budget - SVB has the right product for you! Discover our selection of NEMO, PROFURL and FURLEX foresail furling systems in various sizes - all available for you to select according to boat type, forestay diameter and length. In our categories Roller Furlers, Jib Furlers & Accessories you will not only find high-quality furling systems, but also matching accessories, such as drums, swivels and profiles from brands like PFEIFFER, TOP-REFF, BARTON and OLEU WATERSPORTS all at unbeatable prices! Are you looking for individual spare parts for your FURLEX roller furling system? No problem! Check out our spare parts finder for FURLEX furling systems!