In-Boom Roller Furling Demonstration Video

I’m deep into writing an analytical comparison of in-boom roller furling, in-mast roller furling, and traditional slab reefing.

To that end, my friend Hans was kind enough to take me out on his Farr 56 Pilot House cutter for a demo of his in-boom system, which I videoed.

And, even better, after the demonstration Hans discussed the options for mainsail handling, based on his extensive experience owning and sailing boats many thousands of offshore miles in all conditions with all three common systems: slab, in-boom, and in-mast.

A few things that I did not properly clarify in the video (sorry, still learning video interviewing) is that Hans is emphatic that, when offshore in big breeze, to reef, un-reef, hoist, or stow the mainsail:

  • The jib must be rolled away.
  • The engine must be started to keep steerageway.
  • The boat must be brought head to wind to completely unload the mainsail.
  • The boat must have a topping lift as well as a rigid vang.
  • A crew member must be sent forward to monitor the luff tape roll.

And, yes, Hans has tried the back-the-jib method to avoid going head to wind, but found it did not work for him and he would not trust it in heavy weather, particularly offshore.

That said, input from John Kretschmer indicates that some of the above restrictions may be unique to boats over about 45 feet. More on that in the upcoming chapters.

Next we will be publishing the results of all this consultation in two buyer’s guide chapters (all written) in our Online Book on Rigging & Sail Handling, comparing the benefits and drawbacks of all three systems.

In the meantime here’s the video:

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Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Agree: Thanks to Hans.
That was very interesting.
I have written before that: the trade-off one makes for saving effort with labor saving devices is that, to use safely and effectively, the saved physical effort must be balanced off with a commensurate increase in mental effort in the form of attention to details and discipline in following a practiced set of procedures. And that often there is an increase in potential problems with labor saving devices (less forgiving), sometimes a big risk, if things go a little awry.
In the video, it was clear, that Hans had a clear idea of the steps to raise/reef/douse the main and was diligent in following steps and remembering details for doing so. Similarly, it was clear there were numerous ways that setting, dousing and reefing the mainsail could go pear shaped with only a bit of in-attention and, it sounded like some of those mishaps might end up with broken equipment.
I suspect that it might be the case that Hans was awakened for all reefing chores unless he has spent considerable time training and practicing a crew: a crew that needs to be at the top of its game even when tired, wet, and perhaps a bit scared in the face of a sudden squall at night or the like.
It also looked like there was a lot to do for one person when managing the main, up or down: lines to keep from misbehaving, switches to turn off and on, halyards to keep at the correct level of tension, etc. Is reefing/dousing at sea usually best done with two crew?
The comments on boat size were interesting: I was wondering if there is a boat size that makes in-mast or in-boom furling wise, or can slab reefing be made easy enough so that managing the main on a 55-60 foot boat be little different than what is required on a 35 foot boat?
All that said, I was impressed, as were you, with the sail shape and by the size of the roach, especially the sail shape I could discern when a reef was set. Is there anything Hans has done to get such a nice sail shape: I ask as so many of the in-boom and in-mast sails start to look terrible pretty quickly as sail is reduced?
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
PS. And then, there is the need to round up to reef/douse…

Rob Gill

Hi John,

Really interesting video and comparison. We have a 14.5 metre Beneteau 473 with the Leisurefurl in-boom reefing, but the system is manual and our Forespar solid vang is mechanical, not hydraulic. Our furling uses a Dyneema line rather than electric motor.

By keeping some tension on the furling line when hoisting, we avoid the overspill that happened where the mainsail unrolled prematurely and needed attention from Hal.

Our fully battened mainsail looks very similar in shape and materials, although we have more roach. The reefs also appear similar in size. We have about 20,000 nm using the boom and mainsail, 12k of those being offshore, but the sail looks like new after nearly 10 years. This is a major benefit in my view of in-boom system – I expect to get another 10 years at least with perfect mainsail shape, as it is always nicely rolled around the mandrel.

Like Hal we took some months initially learning the system and playing around with the set-up, to make it more reliable.

Our system is different, our process is different and our experience is different from Hal’s. To illustrate using his points:

  1. The jib must be rolled awaywe never do this as the jib helps backwind the mainsail. The battens inverting is the “green light” we are good to go and inverting quietens the mainsail and stops any flogging, even in 30 knots plus. Also, Hal had his mainsheet in, but ours is always loose – but then our traveller is in front of our hard dodger, so no chance of anyone being struck.
  2. The engine must be started to keep steerageway – we seldom start the engine to reef (in or out) unless there is no wind, or we are arriving at an anchorage – we use the jib to keep power on. Only in steep seas do we start the engine, in case we get caught in irons.
  3. The boat must be brought head to wind to completely unload the mainsail – we reef beating or reaching with the jib backwinding the main. As long as the mainsail is backwinded and the battens inverted, we have had no reefing issues. Being head-to-wind in high wind our mainsail would be flogging and we find being head to wind restricts our view of the mainsail luff with the boom and mainsail.
  4. The boat must have a topping lift as well as a rigid vang – agreed and have both, with our solid vang set to top the boom to the best angle for reefing or stowing (about 7 degrees above horizontal for us). In big seas, the topping lift takes the load off the boom, goose-neck and vang. Our vang line must be released before hoisting or furling – in Hal’s case this is all hydraulic so he sets the angle each time – I liked his analogue gauge!
  5. A crew member must be sent forward to monitor the luff tape roll – initially we had an issue with the mainsail bunching up at the tack, and we had someone forward. We learned to set our solid vang to lift the boom above the horizontal (as long as our vang line was released). Then we tied the mainsail further back on the mandrel (about 100 mm). Since then we never have anyone forward to reef or raise sail and we don’t have foul-ups. Our first mate reefs the mainsail on her own even on night watch. She does at least half of our reefing and furling.

We have had other problems which I documented elsewhere on this site, but these were caused by install issues, rather than system issues. Overall, we are satisfied with the system – we only have three things to check: our vang downhaul is off, the mainsheet is released and the battens have inverted.

Rob Gill

Hi John,

Reaching, I agree with you and wouldn’t try in those wind strengths. Above 35 knots upwind, say in a sudden line squall, I think if we were already close-hauled with the engine on, we would be fine, but I still wouldn’t roll our jib away completely – it still has great shape with two reefs (>50% furled).

Reefing downwind in heavy offshore conditions is still an unknown, so I rang KZ Marine in NZ. No answer, but left a message and Rick Hackett, the owner and originator of Leisurefurl rang me back within an hour.

Rick is a yachtsman and experienced offshore racer in his own right and has used the system for many years, as you would hope! I asked him specifically about reefing downwind in heavy airs (30+ knots).

Rick said his preference cruising is to head upwind to reef using the jib to backwind the main. He pointed out most of his reefing when racing is done reaching or going upwind.

When racing it is expected to be able to reef off-the-wind and he has done so racing, and in system testing in offshore conditions.

He said the universal joint attaching the mandrel works optimally up to about 35 degrees off the centre-line of the boat and loses efficiency after this. It will work OK at 45 degrees – more effort will be required but the fitting itself is easily strong enough.

With the boom over 45 degrees out, he said to realise you are putting more strain on the reefing system than is ideal, but “you do what you have to do”.

Rick suggests also:

  1. Reef early
  2. Top the boom slightly above normal
  3. Broad reach deep enough to eliminate risk of a gybe whilst reefing
  4. Boom up to 45 degrees out, more than this if needed, depending on how much mainsail is up
  5. Keep the sail off the shrouds to minimise system friction
  6. Keeping maximum pressure on the halyard, furl in small increments. No hurry, the sail won’t be damaged by being half-way reefed for short periods.
  7. Time each roll with surfing down a wave, when the mainsail and boom are briefly unloaded.
  8. Or if the swell is really high and you are already well reefed, time each roll for the trough of the wave when the wind dies off momentarily.

I then described Hans’ techniques on his larger 53′ boat with motorised operations, and going head to wind under engine. He stressed whatever works for each owner / yacht, and Leisurefurl encourage each owner to experiment and find their own “best” way which mirrors your post.

For me John, your post has also renewed my enthusiasm to experiment reefing off the wind in stronger conditions, when previously we would probably turn upwind in our “tried and tested” manner.

Thanks.

Rob Gill

Thanks John,

I think before we (1st Mate and I) come to any conclusion on downwind reefing using our Leisurefurl system, we need to experiment more than we have.

And, we need to build up our experience and technique slowly and work out where the downwind reefing thresholds are to document that in our boat manual how many reefs we already need rolled in for any TWS, to make it work reliably.

We need to start again in say 15 knots and working up so it becomes “normal” for us to reef downwind rather than each event a “one-off”.

Then, if as you suspect reefing downwind in near gale or above is not viable, the tri-sail is a great option and one we have deployed before offshore.

The Leisurefurl sail as you saw with Hans has a custom track at the back of the mast and our tri-sail has the same luff tape as our mainsail. We can stow the mainsail really quickly and then our tri-sail “sausage” bag straps tightly on over the boom where it rests nicely on the integral sail cover in the wide U channel of the boom.

We have quick to make / release clasps on the straps so this process takes seconds rather than minutes. Best still, this can all be down going down hill.

Next we shackle the tack strop at the base of the mast, run the sheets either side of the boom (they are ready in the sausage bag) and run the tri-sail head into the track feeder. Lastly attach the main halyard and tighten the leeward sheet ready.

Everything else operates from the cockpit – the zip opens as the sail launches and the bag remains captured on the boom, with the sail set above this.

Robert Berlinquette

Hey Rob, I’ve been learning lots from your comments as this system is very new for me. Do you have pictures of the try-sail setup and who made the sail and bag ?

Rob Gill

No pictures sorry Robert, but the sail and bag were designed and built by Doyle Sails in NZ to Cat 1 standards. Give me a few weeks and I’ll rig the bag + sail and take a photo, if I have time. Check back then, or perhaps subscribe to email notifications for this post above.

Rob Gill

Hi Rob, finally good weather coincided with free time at the boat, so I rigged the Trysail as promised. The first photo shows the underside of the trysail bag with free draining mesh floor and strap with buckles ready to attach over the boom

IMG_4047 Large.jpeg
Rob Gill

Next picture shows the Trysail bag secured on deck, and strapped tightly in place for passage making. The top zip is closed and the top clasps are made.

IMG_4048.jpeg
Rob Gill

Next picture shows the main halyard attached to the trysail head, awaiting launch with sheets ready .

IMG_4054 Large.jpeg
Rob Gill

Trysail ready to deploy from bag on top of the boom.

IMG_4054 Large.jpeg
Rob Gill

Sorry – this is the photo showing the sheets (blue) ready, and the top clasps still made. When we come to launch, the top clasps are released and the zip unzips from forward to aft as the trysail is hoisted. The claps under the bag stay in place connecting the bag, to the boom.

IMG_4053 Large.jpeg
Rob Gill

Agreed John, this is just one of the “features” of the Leisurefurl boom. The gooseneck and the vang fittings wrap around the mast which I like (see photo below of the trysail tack line belay), but a seperate mast track for the trysail would result in horrible sail shape on one tack.

Also the halyards and furling lines all come back to the cockpit and so the trysail bag would sit on top of these, creating friction when hoisting and possible SNAFUs with the tie-down straps getting caught in the halyard turning blocks.

To get around this, we designed the trysail with multiple eyes up the luff of the trysail, plus at the head and foot (you can see one at the head of the sail in one of the photos above).

If the mainsail mast track is U/S, we can drop the boom end on to the hard dodger (or the deck) and then use the topping lift shackled to the mast collar as a stay, with soft shackles securing the trysail luff to this makeshift stay.

Not elegant, but doable given we would likely be rigging all this going down wind, not crashing in to the wind and waves. If we were trying to make upwind in gale force conditions, we would most likely be using our mainsail, which has six reefs to select from.

IMG_4055 Large.jpeg
Robert Berlinquette

Hi Rob, Thx for the pictures, as John mentioned looks very well thought out. One question I have, do you have any issues with the bolt rope jamming when entering the track as the first section is flexible and maybe damaged. A pre feeder installed under track would take the load if the sail started to load up before set. This pre-feeder isn’t required on the mainsail as the mandrel does this.

Rob Gill

Hi Robert,

No problem other that being a storm sail, the head of the sail is quite stiff. But the Trysail has exactly the same bolt rope as our mainsail and the head of the sail feeds into the flexible track feeder section first, without too much trouble. Once in the track, it can wait with halyard attached ready to hoist.

A loose pre-feeder at the tack may cause more trouble than good – not sure.

But, I am going to get another straps sewn in at the front of the bag, with quick release clip in the middle of the strap, that runs forward around the mast (inside the halyards) and will hold the bag forward by the mast better than currently achievable.

I think this would do the job of your pre-feeder better maybe?

Rob Gill

Hi all,

Thought some may be interested in our test of reefing using our manual LeisureFurl boom downwind.

We had previously tried reefing running dead downwind with the boom centralised, but found this too fraught in any seaway and discounted the method on our yacht.

Test 1.
At anchor, we tried our boom out ~ 50 degrees from the centreline, with the mainsail stowed. I was able to roll the mandrel by hand pulling hard on the furling line, and very easily using the halyard winch. This proved to me that operating the reefing with this degree of articulation is OK of our setup. Any further than 50 degrees and the rolled sail rubs on our mast.

This would increase friction and load on the universal joint, but on the other hand it would counter the sail and battens bunching up forward on the mandrel.

Test 2.
Then, with full mainsail coming home in 20 knots TWS, we turned downwind to a broad reach. We were sailing too deep to backwind the mainsail, so kept the jib flying for maximum boat speed.

With the boom out at 45 degrees, topped about 5 degrees above horizontal, topping lift supporting the boom end, with our main halyard snubbed hard, plus three turns on our electric halyard winch, we furled the mainsail, rolling in two reefs. This took about a minute going slowly and deliberately.

By limiting the halyard winch to three turns, we have a natural override system where the furling line slips in the self-tailer, if I am snubbing too hard on the halyard.

I was surprised how smoothly it went really. The mainsail roll came a little more forward than normal, but it was not enough to cause any concern; mostly lining up between the mainsail track feeder and where the tack is lashed on to the mandrel.

Next test; 25 knots -> 30 knots.

Rob

P D Squire

I was surprised to hear none other than Nigel Irens stating that you have to head up to reef*. Mind you, it was a few years ago. Perhaps things have changed since then. In any case, I’ll be following the rest of this series with interest to see if my preference to reef downwind it that’s the way I’m going remains. * https://youtu.be/nMVPm9FH8ug?t=166

Tim Zimmermann

I am also very interested in this discussion as I am now learning the nuances of a Leisure Furl system on an Able Apogee 50, and trying to decide how I feel about it versus my instinctual preference for slab reefing.

So far, I do like the convenience of the system in light and moderate conditions (all I have experienced to date), and I use the topping lift and mechanical vang to set the correct boom height for successful hoisting and furling. But I will reserve judgement on the system overall until I can see whether I can reef in most conditions without starting the engine, and whether I can reef downwind. If I generally need an engine on to reef, and/or cannot reef off the wind, I don’t think I will prefer the system to slab reefing.

I will experiment with reefing on a close reach (when going upwind) and using the jib to backwind the main (per Rob Gill). As for reefing downwind, the Leisure Furl manual says it is possible:

Furling down wind
If it is necessary to furl down wind, we introduce a modified procedure to furling the Sail as was stated earlier.

  • − Square away to a broad reach, or flat run.
  • − Pull the mainsheet in so the boom is approx. 45° to the centerline.
  • − Release the vang a little and cause the boom to rise a bit, and pull in on the topping lift.
  • − Snub the main halyard off before releasing the main halyard rope jammer. Do not re- lease any of the main halyard.
  • − Initiate furling without releasing any main halyard, then slowly allow the halyard to pull against the power of the winch. A lot of power will be required. 

How feasible this will be in any breeze remains to be seen, and it is hard to imagine the sail can be unloaded at all if the boom is sheeted in to no more than 45% off the wind in breeze. “A lot of power will be required” sounds a bit ominous.

Many thanks for digging into this topic, John. The timing is perfect for me.

Tim Zimmermann

This is a very helpful video from LeisureFurl explaining the steps for offwind reefing. Using the jib or staysail to backwind or unload the mainsail is key. I am growing confident (subject to real-world testing!) that the mainsail can be reefed on a broad to close reach, which would be acceptable to me. (No engine, no head to wind required)

Rod Jones

Very interesting video John, hopefully you will invest in an other mic so we can hear both sides of the conversation.
Am 71+ and sail single handed here in the Med. Last year I changed from slab to in boom mainly due to mobility issues. Boat Hanse 415. My biggest issue is setting up for furling as although topping lift and vang sheets are marked , it never furls the same each time. What was the gadget that Hans had rigged that showed the correct position of the boom? As Hans says there is a learning curve but overall very happy with the rig.
Rod

Rob Gill

Hi Rod,

The topping lift mark is our boom height check, but in our case we also set our solid vang to spring up to the ideal height when the vang downhaul is released.

We use double braid Dyneema for the main halyard and furling line – Dacron would creep way too much and make it hard to set the reefs.

Then we keep good pressure on the halyard when furling and the furling line when raising. This ensures a nice tight roll on the mandrel. If the roll becomes loose, then the mainsail luff can become slack under sail unless you are using the shaft brake (which we don’t except on long offshore legs).

We mark the halyard at the clutch for each reef point for quick reference at night. We use one mark for our first reef, two marks for the second reef, etc. But with aft cockpit based reefing and rope creep (even with Dyneema), this is not completely accurate.

So we find hoisting slightly beyond our chosen reef point, and then tightening the furling line means we end up on our mark. Our main reference is we mark each reef on the mainsail itself (both sides) at the point it enters the track feeder, and at this mark the batten is exactly under the mandrel for each reef. Nice and simple.

Hope this helps.

Denis Foster

Hello,

Thank you John for this topic and video.

Could you (or Hans) give more details on the boom height indicator visible in the video? How is it attached to the boom?

Waiting for the in mast part.

Here is our downwind reefing procedure in our sailing procedures book:

Downwind furling instructions for Hibernia II HR46

Présentation

Hibernia II has inmast hydraulic furling Selden / Lewmar and Ocean 44 electric starboard winch for outhaul. Project of having Coastline radio remote control allowing to have good global view on the mainsail even with bimini and / or cockpit enclosure.
The Elvstrom 50 m2 mainsail has 4 vertical short battens is made of Hydranet.
Mainsheet is a 3:1 purchase through a traveller car on T2 track.with a dedicated Lewmar D2 And Océan 44 electric winch. The T2 track is behind the cockpit.
Preventer is pre rigged on the boom Dyneema 12mm and is connected by a 12mm line that goes to the bow cleat and back to the port electric winch. ⚠️ Check the breaking load of all the elements ⚠️ probably around 5000 kg to be on the safe side. Cf Palatino NZ accident inquiry. The preventer and traveller car seem to be the
“Weak” link. Project: actions to improve this.

When to reef downwind ?

The safe limit before reefing should be at the higher end of the upwind limit: 20knot TWS.

Keep in mind when sailing downwind that you might have to turn around and go upwind in an emergency : MOB or the autopilot failing to keep the boat on its downwind track broaching pushed by a freak wave or an AP failure.

Example : Sailing in comfort downwind at 8 knots in 28 knots TWS gives 20 knots AWS. But going upwind would be 28 + 7 = 35 knots AWS going upwind Heeling 25* !!! Not comfotable at all with full sails !!! So when cruising offshore have the sails reefed for the TWS and the corresponding sea state. The loss in speed is minimal and the gain in safety maximal.

When you think about reefing it s time to do it.

Reefing before sunset is also a good idea mostly if there are possible squalls High CAPE.

How to reef sailing downwind ?

Backstay released to have mast as straight as possible.

If possible be on starboard tack with boom to port at an angle around 45 – 60 * with axis of the boat. The mainsail should not touch shrouds or spreaders while furling.

Vang around 87* to have not to much tension on leech.

The boom is held in position by preventer and mainsheet with traveller to leeward. The vang and top lift also participates to holding the boom.

Having headsail (Genoa or stay sail) over sheeted to back wind the main.

Have outhaul line well flaked without kinks that could block.

Put one turn of outhaul line around the starboard winch. Holding firmly the line open the outhaul clutch.

Try to manipulate sail (mostly furling) when waves push the boat diminishing the AWS and pressure on sail.

TAKE YOUR TIME. DON’T OVERLOAD FURLING MOTOR. HAVE A GOOD VIEW OF MAINSAIL. LISTEN TO THE SOUNDS.

Furl by small increments of around 20 cm. Then release around 20cm of outhaul and furl in…. and so on. When sail is reefed sufficiently stop between two battens. Adapt outhaul and close clutch.

Re adapt preventer and mainsheet to point of sail. Eventually retighten Vang to have sail flatter if needed.

Resume sailing downwind with main reefed.

If big waves and strong gusty wind consider completely furling the main : safe prevention of crash gybe. If squalls are expected mostly at night sailing without the mainsail can be a good idea.

Best regards.

Denis

Raj Laud

Hi Denis,

We have a Hood in-mast furling system on our Brewer 44. Your procedure is similar to ours, except that we have not needed to over-sheet the genoa. We also keep some mainsail unfurled at all times, preferring not to be under headsail alone. Furling by small increments is definitely the key to success.

One thing I noticed “Backstay released to have mast straight as possible.” Our old Hood system calls for a very straight and stiff mast. Ours does not bend appreciably under backstay tension. I think that might explain some of the different outcomes people have with in-mast furling; too much bend could cause the sail to furl loosely and jam.

-Raj

Raj Laud

To be fair, I should note sail shape is a downside to in-mast furling. Per John’s comment in the video, we don’t get the nice roach of an in-boom or slab reefing main. And the stiffer mast means we don’t have as many options for controlling sail shape either.

Dick Stevenson

Hi all,
We have had excellent descriptions of mainsail handling when the main is in-mast and in-boom and comments about what a positive difference it has made for those who single-hand, who want to day-sail easily, and those who want ease of use, etc.
As people are wading in with descriptions of in-mast sail handling in an in-boom article, I have been tempted to balance things out and write about the ease with which slab reefing can be accomplished when the boat is well equipped to do so and perhaps with the addition of an EWincher or the like.
I will await doing so till further down this rabbit hole with you all, but could not resist commenting that I have yet to be convinced, from the reading, that slab reefing is any, or very much, more difficult than the procedures already described and slab reefing is far more forgiving of errors and in-attention and comes up with a better sail shape throughout the range of reefs.
I look forward to exploring this area in the future.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Robert Berlinquette

I have just purchase a Sceptre 43, which has a Leisure Furl Boom, which seems to have a big learning curve to get it right. All of the comments here have been very helpful and look forward to this article as I have only done slab reefing.
John have you looked at Schaefer’s in-boom furler system. Looks like their setup is a lot better then the Leisure Furl system.

https://youtu.be/PNVHaSUbcjg

Paul Kanev

Hi
This was a wonderful video. We have 15 years leisurefurl experience on a 51 ft Hinckley. There is NO topping lift just the hydraulic vang. We don’t run the engine for reefing down or shaking out the reef. We agree that keeping furling tension when hauling up prevents a sudden unrolling and when feeding down we keep a great deal of tension on the halyard and roll up slowly. The leisurefurl can be up to about 110 degrees off midline and still work fine. We align boom angle with markings on a batten in the vang
I single hand 80 percent of sailing and have terrific confidence in the leisurefurl boom. Previous yachts had slab feeding with lazy jacks, and in mast furling. The sail shape with leisurefurl is nearly identical with slab feeding in contrast to inmast
We never have to go upwind and in conditions where we need to feed would avoid this!
A terrific product

Paul Kanev

Rob Gill

Interesting comment Paul,

May I ask what you mean by “110 degrees off midline”? At 90 degrees I think the universal joint couldn’t even apply any turning force to roll the mandrel. So at 110 degrees it would only have 10% efficiency, or even less with system friction?

We have slightly swept spreaders so we couldn’t achieve more than about 75 degrees and less if we keep the sail off the spreaders.

Did you mean 55 degrees each side of the centreline?

Given the advice from Rick Hackett from Leisurefurl on reefing downwind in strong conditions in my comment above, please:

  1. What is the strongest wind you have reefed in downwind?
  2. What strain on the system did you experience?
  3. Does the sail tend to bunch forward on the mandrel off the wind if you keep the main halyard really tight and boom topped?

Any further recommendations for downwind furling in strong wind? I have no experience of this over 20 knots, despite nearly 10 years ownership. But our other experience is similar to yours, and I single hand and daysail often, when the Leisurefurl shines!

Thanks.

Rob Gill

Hi Paul,

To add to what John recommends here with some hard won experience – at the end of our summer cruise this year (Southern Hemisphere) we found ourselves in very short, steep two to three metre seas, some of which were breaking, whilst trying to make upwind around a headland tidal gate on our way home.

Whilst reefing the mainsail leech is unloaded and the boom unsupported by the sail. This induces a lot of flexing in the boom in any seaway and the alloy Leisurefurl booms are significantly heavier than a conventional boom – even more so if you have an electric motor at the end of the boom (we don’t).

The bolts securing our boom to the gooseneck worked themselves out (see photo) – ours were put in with silicone grease, instead of Locktite. This allowed the mandrel to drop out of its socket at the end of the boom and our furling became inoperable. We were unable to tension the luff or use the mainsail upwind and we had to turn around and run back to our port of departure.

Had we had the topping lift on whilst reefing, supporting and taking load off the boom, this probably wouldn’t have occurred so quickly, and I hope that I would have noticed the bolts starting to back before any major problems arose.

So I have to agree with John and Hans, that a topping lift is essential equipment for reefing with the Leisurefurl system, and possibly also a conventional boom for similar reasons, although there is less to go wrong with slab reefing.

Michael Feiertag

Rob,
Regarding bolts securing boom to gooseneck, I do not see a photo (mentioned). If possible, I would like to see photo.

Rob Gill

Hi Michael,
No trouble – my error.

IMG_3764 small.jpeg
Michael Feiertag

Our 2008 boom has a more substantial attachment. Photo attached.

20221015_121119.jpg
Michael Feiertag

Also, our 2008 gooseneck mast bracket pulled loose from the mast. We replaced it with improved post 2010 design bracket, which added a flange on each side to provide additional screws oriented to converge with the fore/aft screws. Photo attached.

20221016_122342.jpg
Rob Gill

Thanks for the photos Michael,

Interesting to see the differences in boom attachments and gooseneck attachments.

Our gooseneck is pretty substantial and the load is nicely spread around the mast (see new picture below).

This picture gives a better view of how the boom is attached to the gooseneck. I think this is plenty strong if its bolted on correctly (which it is now with Helicoil inserts).

Yes, it would have been nice if the flange had come out to the edges of the boom with three bolts a side (there is also one bolt underneath).

There is a consequence of this gooseneck attachment wrapping around the mast so much; it prevents us from fitting an effective separate trysail track which you appear to have. So we came up with a trysail work around described in a comment above.

We used the same gooseneck attachment for our solid vang, as I think this takes as much load as the boom gooseneck does.

Retrofitted furling booms, like our one was, are often attached without backing plates inside the mast (as this would require mast removal). When we re-rigged the boat in 2018 we added threaded aluminium backing plates installed inside the mast for all ten bolts on the gooseneck / mast attachment and same on the vang fitting.

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Rob Gill

Vang fitting for completeness:

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Hans Karreman

Hi John
Great topic.
Timing is also nice as I’m contemplating the changeover on our 50’er.
Over here in Europe, I see a lot of X-Yachts being delivered with the Danish built “Furlerboom” a very sleek looking composite setup. What I notice as being the biggest design difference with the Liesure Furl is that the Furlerboom is has an enclosed tack end whereas the Liesure furl is open at the tack end, Pro’s and cons would be nice to hear.
Second, my sailmaker is trying to convince me not to changeover, his thoughts being that the “Luff Tape” is a big issue, ie: has a lot of wear and that owners are constantly coming back to have it repaired and or changed, almost yearly.
The reason being that the battens push forward thus inducing extra pressure on the luff tape and wear as the sail is raised/lowered.

Looking forward to the conclusions.
Cheers

Rob Gill

Hi Hans,

Have no experience with the Furlerboom, but I actually like that I can easily see the universal and shaft and simply fresh water hose down the whole mechanisms fore and aft and the water runs out with the boom slightly topped. But the enclosed forward end does look sleeker!

We find the battens don’t push forward on the boom unless the batten is not fully under the mandrel when reefing and we have tight sail wraps around the mandrel.

When sailing, there is forward pressure on the battens, but no more than with a conventional mainsail track. Mainsail track cars solve this of course, but our battens are bolted through the high-modulus laminate sail and the reinforced luff pockets. This reduces the wear and we have only had to repair / reinforce one or two of the upper pockets. This could be a sail design / build issue not a boom issue?

We have owned the Leisurefurl boom since 2014 and the Doyle Stratis cruising mainsail with full battens was new at the same time. The luff tape is original, is in good condition and we have about 20,000 nautical miles on this sail, and it looks like it can do at least double that with great sail shape. We are coastal cruisers who occasionally go offshore. Permanent cruisers clocking up big offshore miles could well have to replace the luff tape more frequently. But Doyles tell me our luff tape can be replaced easily, if and when needed.

I know four other boat owners here in NZ with Leisurefurl booms and none have reported issues with luff tapes that I am aware of. I looked at the video of the Furlerboom operating and one difference I noticed is the Leisurefurl has a flexible luff feeder which directs the luff into the track to remove chafe as the sail un-rolls or rolls. The Furlerboom has a fixed luff groove which may cause chafe.

The bottom line for our decision was that our first mate has to be able to reef and furl our mainsail from the cockpit, on her own, and she does at least half the reefing on our boat. Then if something happens to me, especially as we get older (accident or health) she can cope having practised regularly.

Previously we had two boats with two different cockpit based single-line reefing systems and both these were totally beyond her operating capability. And there is no way that she could / would use double-line reefing that requires leaving the cockpit offshore or on rough passages, to reef or furl the sail.

Every system has pros and cons, but I am fully hoping to be sailing our 14.5 metre yachts well into my seventies or eighties health providing. The furling boom makes this practical.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Rob and all,
I will write more when slab reefing comes into focus, but, for now, from my point of view and experience, I wish to say that there is no reason that slab reefing can’t be done single-handed by the physically weaker or less experienced member of the crew with a little practice. And done easily from the cockpit (although I recognize that AAC recommends against doing so, we find it fits us to reef from the cockpit). I am talking of double-line slab reefing.  An EWincher has enhanced this ability.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Rob Gill

Hi Dick, John,

Our mainsail specification to go offshore, was for three reefs and an outhaul, all managed from the cockpit without any need to leave the cockpit to swap reefing lines, hitch reefing eyes, or pull down and secure the mainsail for stowing. All this with great sail shape (I am an ex-racing sailor).

That’s a lot of tackle and complexity inside a boom as a boat approaches 15 metres, and especially if it is double-line reefing. We had discounted single-line reefing solutions as being unworkable from the cockpit.

The loads are just so much higher on larger yachts and the friction gets greater as you add more tackles and more turns to get lines back to the cockpit..

And on a bigger yacht, the boom is much higher than on smaller boats. Just reaching the mainsail to capture the last few metres of the sail and headboard when dropping the sail offshore can be a challenge for any sailor, let alone for someone petite, suddenly alone and inexperienced.

John managed this with reefing at the mast, and I think that’s a great solution if both partners are confident sailors. Our first mate is not a natural sailor, so that wasn’t going to work for us and I suspect for many other cruising couples.

On smaller yachts, cockpit-based slab reefing with three double-line reefs and an outhaul can probably be achieved Ok, but most boom-end fittings only have sheaves for three ropes. We would have needed four sheaves and there was no space to retrofit this, so we needed a new boom anyway.

Still not convinced our spec could be achieved satisfactorily for bigger yachts with cockpit based reefing – just the amount of rope tails in the cockpit would be hard for a non-sailor to manage in a stressful situation.

And, I suspect that is a conclusion reached by others as yachts get larger, and why in-mast and in-boom systems are seen more frequently.

Matthieu Chauvel

Hi all,
First thank you for this article and all the comments so far, I have already learned a lot reading through, including the links, and the links within the links…
Does anyone have experience with hydraulic in-boom furling systems in below-freezing conditions (and/or proper heavy seas, 50 kts+)? Asking for owners of a yacht heading down to Antarctica that has what they (and the builder of course) say is quite a beefy, reliable custom system, but it hasn’t been tested in polar conditions yet. Even night temperatures should remain well above the hydraulic fluid freezing point (call it -20 C with a little error margin) during the summer season, but maybe viscosity becomes a problem above that level? General ice build-up solutions and difficulty of sending crew forward while getting hosed down, at night, in towering waves already mentioned to them, but it would be nice to hear from people who have managed in that environment without problems, if any. Thanks and apologies if a little bit too far out in the weeds.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John and all,
It has not been mentioned, I believe, but, as I understand roller reefing of the main, in-mast or in boom, but it sounds like the end-of-boom height over the cockpit remains the same as reefs are put in. As things get more and more boisterous and challenging and reefs are put in, I consider it a safety plus to get the boom away from head-sweeping height. This may not be an issue on the bigger boats we are talking about, but on my 40-footer, I really like that the boom end gets further and further from head height with each successive reef with slab reefing (I forget what sailmakers call this).  
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Mark GADUE

With deep and sincere appreciation to Hans for his video demonstration I take up my pen. It’s not easy to put yourself out there amongst such a large group of experts with undoubtedly critical eyes, so Hans, I do thank you.

I am unqualified to comment beyond the strictly theoretical and intellectual. I’m not a sailor like most people who comment on this site. I don’t have thousands of nautical miles of offshore sailing. I’m a reader and a dreamer who loves this site.

I was recently cruising on lake Champlain for a week with my wife. At our anchorage was a very sleek boat that I could not identify. Most of the larger sailboats in this area are Beneteaus owned by our French Canadian neighbors. I watched with great interest as this boat headed out for a day sail. It was an X yacht from Florida as it turned out. They sailed by us, and oh my God, what a beautiful boat. There are very few boats for which I would trade, but this might be one. When they returned a few hours later I witnessed the most amazing thing. It took them 90 minutes to lower their main sail. This was in the most benign conditions you can imagine. I watched in horror and fascination as the mainsail went up and down like a yo-yo. It had in boom furling. I only wish I could have heard them as they wrestled with the uncooperative sail.

Back to the Hans video for one second. I couldn’t play the video with sound more than once because of that beeping. Can you imagine the din in a serious wind? Can you imagine being sick tired hungry injured and scared doing any of that? The 5-minute mark was particularly appalling, no disrespect intended. Was the winch locked, unlocked, stuck? Again how would you do any of that in any kind of wind or seaway? How would you do it if you yourself were compromised in some way, as we almost always are.

Through and through I have been brainwashed by John and this site. Safe reliable redundant easy to understand systems that work in any weather, even if you are hurt or scared or tired.

In the White Mountains near me there are signs warning hikers that they are heading into an area that has the worst weather in the world. “If you don’t have extra food or clothing and are in any way unprepared, turn back now.” No one ever does turn back. Most are just fine. Over the years some die. Sometimes it’s a blizzard in August. Many more need to be rescued.

Isn’t sailing ultimately about hoping for the best but planning for the worst? Isn’t it entirely predictable that the in boom furling is going to fail? It’s not a question of if; just a question of when.

Mark Gadue
Tartan 34, Jack Aubrey