Fine-Tuning the
Roller-Reefing System

    Todays headsail-reefing/furling systems are extremely reliable. Failure is rare and is usually the result of improper installation or incorrect use.
    Halyard wrap.    A halyard wrapped around the forestay can jam the system or, worse, break the stay and result in a dismasting. Problems can occur when the swivel has been mounted too low on the foil column. This can create a long section of halyard that is prone to wrapping.
    When you hoist the headsail with the proper halyard tension, look up at the system's swivel (use a pair of binoculars if necessary) to see how it positioned relative to the top of the mast. The swivel should be close to the halyard's exit sheave or block, and only a short length of halyard should be visible.
    To fix a low swivel mount, release the tack of the sail from the system drum. Raise the sail until the swivel is as high as it can go without being pulled off the top of the foil. Measure the distance from the drum's tack shackle to the tack of the sail, and make a pennant of this size using Spectra (with the same strength as the halyard) or stainless wire with Nicopress eyes at eigher end. Don't use plastic-covered wire.
    It is best to attach the pennant to the sail head and swivel rather than to the sail tack and drum, especially if the sail has a short luff. Keep the pennant attached to the sail when it is lowered and bagged. If you use more than one sail with the roller-furling system, make a pennant of the correct length for each sail.

    Jammed drum.   A roller-furling system won't work if the furling drum becomes immobilized. Bad bearings may be the cause, but usually there is another reason.
    First, check the drum's tightness. Release the furling line and, if a sail is on the system, the jibsheets as well. Turn the foil column (or the furled sail) by hand; there should be friction-free movement in both directions. If something is binding but the furling line is not jammed, the swivel turns freely, and the halyard is not wrapped, use binoculars to see if the top of the foild column extends to the top of the stay. If you can see bare wire, chances are the foild column has becom dislodged in the drum and has slid down.

    Try to lift the base of the foil column from the drum. If it is loose, this is probably why the drum is hard to turn. Refer to your furling-system manual to see how the foil column is joined to the drum. Often the repair can be as simple as aligning set-screw holes in the foil with screws in the drum mechanism and retightening.
    Furling-line size is also a factor. Although a larger-diameter line is easier on the hands, it can fill the drum and cause it to jam. Boats 38 feet and larger require 3/8-inch line; 5/16-inch diameter line should work well with smaller systems.
    Jammed furling line.   When a furling line jams in an open or a closed drum, even when the sail is completely unfurled, the sail can't be furled or reefed. First check that the furling line exits the drum at a 90-degree angle to the center of the dru. If the line angles up, it can pile up on itself in the top of the drum; if it angles down, the same thing can happen at the bottom of the drum. Line can jump out of either the top or the bottom of an open drum, depending on the lead angle.
    Make sure the furling line's lead block is mounted as close to the drum as possible; the bow pulpit is generally a good place. Lower or raise the first lead block until the exit angle is 90-degrees.

    Broken furling line.   A broken furling line can result from chafe. With the sail completely furled, make sure the furling line is not touching any part of the drum or its component parts. Then, with the sail fully unfurled, cleat the furling line and check again to see if it is chafing the drum. Chafe could cause the line to part. You may need to reposition the first lead block and move the furling line away from the chafe point (remember to maintain a 90-degree lead angle).

    Broken Stay.   A good toggle system is very important for the roller-furling stay. An improperly toggled stay can break, causing a dismasting. The toggle between the drum mechanism and the stem plate must be free to move in both a fore-and-aft and an athwartships direction. If movement is restricted, add a toggle between the base of the furling drum and the stem plate.


    Torn or jammed sail.   A headsail can jam or become torn during hoisting. That is shy you should never feed a sail into a foil's luff groove and just blindly haul it up; instead, hoist it slowly and pay close attention to the head of the sail as it passes through each joint of the connected foils. The sail should pass smoothly through every joint; stop immediately if it doesn't. Check for a separated foil, which can rip the luff or, even worse, jam the sail and make it impossible to lower the sail without damage.

    If you suspect that there is a loose joint, lower the sail immediately. Different systems use different foild connections (rivets, screws, or glue), so check your owners manual. Go aloft to the damaged joint with the tools to repair. If you can push the two foils together by hand, secure them according to instructions in your manual.

    Using your roller-reefer.   You can avoid a lot of headaches if you remember these simple tips. Before you leave your dock or mooring, establish proper halyard tension and make sure the furling line runs freely through its lead blocks to the cockpit. Don't unfurl the sail while your are headed into the wind; it is better to fall off and let the wind unfurl the sail. Uncleat the furling line, and take several turns around a winch. Pull in the leeward jibsheet until the wind begins to fill the sail. Use the furling line to control the sail as it unfurls and the jibsheet to minimize flogging. Once the sail is completely unfurled, cleat the furling line. trim the jibsheet to the correct setting, and cleat it.
    Now go forward and sight up along the luff. Excess sag in the foil column means the stay carrying the furling system is too loose; the foil column will flip-flop as it turns, making furling more difficult. The loose stay also degrades sailing performance. tighten the stay or the backstay to achieve proper tension; the solution depends on the balance of the helm and the stay-adjustment method that is best for the boat.
    Before you reef the sail, head up to reduce pressure. Uncleat the furling line, and put a couple of turns around a winch if the wind is blowing. Uncleat the jibsheet, but maintain enough tension so the sail won't flog. Pull the furling line as you ease the jibsheet. When the sail is the size you want, cleat the furling line first. In most cases the jibsheet wonn't need to be trimmed much, although you may have to move the sheet block forward to get the proper angle for good headsail trim (about 1 foot for every 2 feet of furled sail).
    When you are back at the dock or mooring with the sail completely furled, wrap the jibsheets around the furled sail up to four times. Cleat the furling line, and tension and cleat the jibsheets. Wrapping the jibsheets around the sail keeps it from accidentally unrolling and flogging in a breeze.