A Deeper Look at Top Down/ Spinnaker Furlers

Top down furling is the new revolution that makes flying the big sails a much more achievable task. However, nothing is just push a button and ‘bang’ there’s your spinnaker. Although this system makes it much more viable to fly a spinnaker there is still a learning curve. This system is all about set up and even then, it is not without its problems.

Spinnaker Furling for Sailboat

The 1st secret to a good Top-Down Furler is the torsion rope. Then it’s also the bearings in the drum, tack swivel and head swivel having a large capacity for high loads. Lastly and most importantly, it’s very much the users technique. That being said, the issue that seems to haunt top down furlers (and it’s always something) is called “back twist”. This is where the sail has suddenly stopped furling, but the person on the furling line is still furling. This means that torque has to go somewhere and that is up the torsion rope. This induces lots of stress on the system and the sail, but also creates a lot torsion loading on the rope itself (hence the rope being the most crucial component). Then once the person realizes the sail isn’t furling, stops furling, eases the tight furling line, and all that torsion comes spinning back down the rope and into furling drum. This can make a partially furled sail unfurl, or even worse, begin to furl the sail in the opposite direction and make for a sail that won’t furl or unfurl any further. This will need to be lowered spread out on a lawn and dealt with that way. The good news if this should happen, it can always be lowered.

Bliss yacht Spinnaker furling

One way to alleviate this is to ensure the torsional rope is very tight. This will stiffen the cable and reduce cable torsion, and also provide a better axis for the sail to furl around. Adding a 2:1 spinnaker halyard or tack line…or both is also a great way to achieve this. However, over-tightening can lead to the bearings in the furler trying to bind and thus make furling very difficult. So it is a fine line. The next component is to make sure that the sheet trimmer is paying out enough line during the furl, especially during the initial portion of the furl.

~Lastly, make sure that the person on the furling line never ever lets off of the furling line if it feels tight or bound up.~

Comanche Spinnaker furling

So let’s take a quick look at the various manufacturer’s and what their doing to address these issues: The systems worth looking at are Pro Furl, Selden, Karver, Facnor, Bamar, and as of recently Harken joined the line up. All of these systems are very similar as it’s pretty hard to reinvent the wheel but each offer some unique feature or selling attribute.

Profurl Spinex Top down and code zero furler at The Rigging CompanyPro Furl offers the Spinex. They have very good reputation, have a very nice looking product, and use the balls along their torsion rope to help alleviate stress on the sail and perhaps alleviate the ‘back twist’ issue. Hampidjan, maker of some of the best torsion cables on the market, makes their cable.

Selden GX/CX Top down and code zero furler at The Rigging CompanySelden Masts offers the CX/GX systems. One of the first to bring this to the mid size cruisers market. They have won some consumer awards for these furlers. They also, just like Pro Furl, are using the Hampidjan cable.

Karver KSF locking Top down and code zero furler at The Rigging CompanyKarver offers the KSF. Karver utilizes a unique ratcheting drum that locks in one direction and spins in the other. This is their solution for dealing with the ‘back twist’ phenomenon. Not a bad idea, perhaps? With Karver you’ll need to find your own torsional rope as they didn’t want to partner up with any one cordage company.

Facnor FX Fast Top down and code zero furler at The Rigging CompanyFacnor offers the FX+ Fast system. This is and was one of the markets leading “go-to” pieces of hardware for Code Zero furling. If you look at the impecable quality of their hardware you’ll see why. By adding their swiveling Fast Thimble, also a nice piece of hardware, you’ll turn this legend into a great top down furler. Also, top down cable not included.

Bamar RLG EVO 2.0 Top down and code zero furler at The Rigging CompanyBamar offers the Rollgen. One of the only companies that I know of that offer electric or hydraulic asymm. or code O furling drums. Bamar is the grandfather of all top-down furling, claiming they were the first to take on this endeavor. Their systems were being tried and tested on really big boats where spinnaker handling is a REAL task. Rollgen also uses some beautiful hardware on their EVO 2.0 unit. Lastly they offer a foam buffer on the torsion rope (acting much like Pro Girl’s balls) which is said to provide a superior furl, help alleviate ‘back twist’, AND apparently, is nicer for the sail in general. I am not sure if their torsional cable is provided, but please comment if you know…

NEW Harken Reflex Top down and code zero furler at The Rigging CompanyHarken offers the Reflex. Harken’s waited the longest to release their furler and watched while everyone else fumbled around with this new tech. So this is the newest product on the market in this category, but if Harken does anything right it’s furlers and bearings. The big bonus is their very own proprietary torsion rope which is said to have next to NO TWIST! They say halyard tension doesn’t have to be so incredibly tight that it will bind the system, instead their new rope transfers torque up to the top better than anyone else’s. I’m looking forward to giving one of these a whirl. It looks like it works really well…

ALL of these companies either offer the addition to add an adjustable tack or one can be easily retrofitted. This certainly is not a must in our book, just another string to pull, but it’s there if you want it.

ONLY Harken and Selden offer complete packages where all items needed (other than the sail) are included. Sounds like these two have a lot going for them if you ask me.

ASK US MORE about the various products as well as information including pricing, availability and what system might be right for you!

Posted in Annapolis Sailing, Around the World, Baltimore Sailing, Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Product Review, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hood SL Foresail Furlers

Hood Yacht Systems Cruising Furler

When shopping for headsail furlers one can find a wide variety manufacturers such as: Pro Furl, Facnor, Harken, Hood, Bamar, Schaefer, Reckmann, Reefit, CDI; as well as a wide variety of prices. So where does quality and low pricing find a happy marriage? How can one possibly make a decision that’s worthwhile with all of those options? Well, that’s where we come in. The Hood SL line of products have been around for what has to be at least 8 years, and yet this furler really hasn’t caught on as a popular request (We think this is mostly due to poor marketing but we’re here to help :-)).

HOOD HEADSAIL FURLER. HOOD HALYARDS RETRAINER. ALL ALUUMINIUM HOOD TOP CAP SL 808

Now, this isn’t Hood’s premium line (probably why they don’t talk about it much) but the market has hungered for a good quality, budget friendly, cruising furler for quite some time. Especially since the loss of Harken’s Cruising Unit, perhaps one of the best bangs for your buck up until about 8 years ago (maybe more). It was when a customer insisted that we install one of these Hood furlers on his boat, about five years ago, that we first fell in love with this thing. So, after some 5 years of installing mostly these furlers over any other brand, we thought it high time to take Hood’s little secret and let it out of the closet.

CATALINA 36 HOOD HEADSAIL FURLER

Just like our two other favorites, Schaefer and Harken, Hood SL Furlers feature heavy duty 6061 anodized and powder-coated aluminum construction for maximum reliability and performance. They come in two model sizes, easy peasy, the 707 for boats from 25′ to 33′, accommodating forestay wire sizes from 3/16″ to 9/32″; the 808 for boats from 34′ to 46′, accommodating wire diameters from 5/16″ to 7/16″.

RIGGING A NEW HEADSAIL FURLER, HOOD 808

This Hood furler is yet again another product supports our motto, “safety and functionality through simplicity”. The system is simple to install, furl, reef, hoist, douse and most importantly to us…maintain. What more could you ask for? Combining a proven design with state-of-the-art materials, the 808 and 707 SL models are a user-friendly and here to stay. Not to mention, we’ve been installing these quite a lot over the years and discovered them to be rock solid and without any issues. Customer’s have been nothing but satisfied.

HOOD SINGLE LINE FURLERS, BEST CHEAP FURLER ON THE MARKET

So if you have a question about pricing, product information or any of our other products for that matter, please don’t forget to leave us a comment below or just give us a call. We are here to help. At The Rigging Company, questions are always free of charge.

If you’re in town, stop by our new location and look at our furler displays and give them a spin yourself.

Thanks for the read. See you next time.

~T.R.C.

Posted in Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Product Review, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Integral Backstay Adjuster

Hydraulic Backstay Adjuster

Integral backstay adjusters can play a big role in how a boat sails. Being able to adjust the backstay tension from the pump of a handle can be useful on cruisers just as much as racers. We all need to make general changes to the boats trim depending on wind and wave conditions in order to keep control of the boat.

 

Please note: in the case of the offshore cruiser or racer, one should have a fail-safe device rigged by a professional for any hydraulic backstay tensioning device.

Holmatro Backstay Adjuster

HOLMATRO {click image to link manufacturer website}

Holmatro, makers of the Jaws of Life, are trying to set some new standards when it comes to integral adjuster technology. Holmatro’s HIA line-up comes in two different colors, classic black or a silver metallic. One of the design flaws that I’ve notice on earlier model adjusters (regardless of manufacturer) is that you have to crawl on the deck to try and read the gauge; causing most of us leisure sailors (myself included) to not even look at the darned ‘thing’. This is bad practice, considering the power of hydraulics. The feature that really sets Holmatro apart from the rest, is the automatic two-speed function of the ram. The automatic two-speed function allows you to achieve adequate backstay tension with fewer pumps of the lever than some of the older/ other manufacturers.  Once the hydraulic cylinder detects a specified amount of pressure, the unit kicks into “second gear” and fine-tuning is achievable with some additional pumps of the lever.

Although fairly new, this unit comes at a price starting about $800 more than the competitors. In my opinion, just to have the gauge in a more visible location is well worth the price alone. Read here for more information.

UPDATE: Although still available through our friends at Euro Marine Trading Inc., these units are now harder to get in the USA and are only available through suppliers in Europe; due to this, lead times can be excessive for parts orders.

Navtec integral backstay adjuster

NAVTEC {click image to link manufacturer website}

For those of you that are a bit more price conscious and like to go with what works, the Navtec unit has an incredible reputation. Navtec’s integral units seem to be the most popular on wide array of boat designs. The units offer similar design to those of Holmatro (I am pretty sure that Holmatro’s designers were copying Navtec but that is just my opinion).

For a reliable/ quality adjuster for a reasonable price look no further! Some models have the gauge on top some are down at the deck. You’ll have to look for yourself and see what their latest design is, as they are always changing. Although cylinders that are driven by panels, usually in the cockpit,  come in black or silver, Navtec’s integral units come in black only, for now…

Harken Integral Adjuster

HARKEN {click image to link manufacturer website}

The newest of them all is Harken’s New Hydraulic Lineup. This is such a new product there is no real r&d which I can see as a concern to some, but rest assured this is a company known to its dedication to quality (just ask Americas Cup Teams). Once again Harken known for innovation, boasts a gauge that is mounted on top (much like the Holmatro) AND can also adjust to 4 different positions allowing it to be seen from almost any angle, THANK YOU HARKEN! Instead of the two speed function which Holmatro adds as a luxury, Harken has created a pump that is 1:1 actuating. Meaning that oil is delivered as the handle goes in and out, instead of the competitors’ design which only delivers oil when the handle is being pulled away from the cylinder. This may also be a work around for One Design rules (all of you J105 racers out there!), disallowing two speed pumps………at least until they catch on ;-0)

“Price wise, Navtec, Sailtec, and Harken integral adjusters are all comparable.”

NEW model Sailtec adjuster

SAILTEC {click image to link manufacturer website}

Lastly, we have Sailtec‘s line of integral adjusters. Sailtec is also a reputable company on a  smaller scale. This company (like Navtec) has also been around for many, many years, proving their quality and dependability. What I like about Sailtec is that they have left their design relatively unchanged over the years which makes service parts readily available!

Service intervals:  all of these units need to be serviced at some point. The service intervals, like anything else, will mostly be determined by geographical location as well as wear. Navtec units are the most affordable to service followed by Sailtec which require slightly more parts and time. Holmatro and Harken’s are still too new to really know anything about service intervals and cost, so we’ll just have to hold out and see.

All in all, all of these products truly do an outstanding job at what they are supposed to do, tension a stay hydraulically. Not to mention these are all reputable companies that will stand behind their product 100% (within reason). That being said the decision will come down to personal preference, look, functionality, and service life. As well as of course, purchase price.

Click the links to the various manufacturers, take a look for yourself. If you need help deciding you can always give us a shout, we’d love to hear from you.

As always thanks for the read and if you have a question for us or would like us to take a look at your rigging hydraulics, leave us a comment down below……….

Posted in Americas Cup, Annapolis Sailing, Around the World, Baltimore Sailing, Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Product Review, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments