We took delivery of an aeroluff pro carbon spar a few weeks ago and finally had a chance to test it properly in some good wind this weekend and thought you might like to hear the results. Note that only the carbon spar is suitable for reefing, the fiberglass version is for furling only although I would personally prefer to spend the extra money on Harken furling drum and swivel as these do the furling job fabulously without the need of any spar. If your thing is to have reefing (ie the ability to adjust the sail size to suit conditions ) then a spar is essential because as it prevents the sail untwisting and going baggy and helps maintain the luff profile.
The spar we bought is the very latest iteration which is cross-spiral wound carbon and vastly stronger (and somewhat dearer) than previous versions, I wont go into detail about its construction or pricing as the new aeroluffspars website which is due to go live soon is going to cover that in much more detail. For our Wayfarer we needed it made 4.2m long and it came with an optional very long bag to keep the sail on the boat while still wound on the spar. The spar directly replaces the luff wire in the Genoa and the sail attaches with the cords at head and tack to thimbles on the spar. Being only 8mm in diameter it does make the leading edge a bit fatter than the original wire but its not that significant and if anything I suspect makes a slightly better aerofoil shape more akin to a aircraft wing. Installation took about 10 minutes ( most of which was me faffing about with knots rather than any genuine difficulties ) and no modifications to sail or the harken furlers was required.
First thing to note is that although very stiff it does still bend enough that the reefed genoa can taken under the spreaders to get it to lay flat in the boat under the cover when not in use so a UV strip isnt necessary.
The spar doesnt stretch at all, this is good, but makes tensioning the jib halyard a new experience – the highfield lever is much harder to operate and the adjustment of rig tension is a little more difficult to get just right. In spite of its stiffness the spar will still sag a little in a big blow if not tensioned properly and can cause a crease on the sail. None of this is a problem if you tension it correctly before setting off and is easy enough to adjust when underway if necessary – just fully furl the sail, adjust tension, unfurl to your chosen reefing size and you’re off again.
Our first outing wasnt a success because the reefing line slipped though the cam cleat when the sail was reefed to about the size of a jib. This was no fault of the spar, the cleat was adequate for furling but just didnt have the holding power in a force 6 to preven the sail gradually unreefing. Better quality reefing line and a new clamcleat later and this problem was solved.
The next outing was this weekend and as you may recall with gusts hitting force 8 with pretty solid 6’s the rest of the time it was a good test. We single reefed the main and the genoa was reefed to about the size of a jib. My crew and I are heavy sailors but I suspect a lighter crew would need to take in more sail in the same conditions. The rig was balanced and controllable and a joy to sail in these heavy conditions, as the winds eased later we let a little more sail out to keep the fun factor roughly equal.
Letting the sail out from its fully reefed position is best done pointed into the wind otherwise the reefing line gets snatched though your fingers and the sail rapidly unfurls, its much better to hold the reefing line and a jib sheet and adjust in a controlled manner head to wind. I would also suggest marking the foot of the sail to show the best sizes to balance with one and two reefs in the mainsail to take some of the guesswork out.
Pointing seemed to be a little lower than an unreefed sail but having also tried it in lighter winds it seemed to me that pointing in lighter conditions seems unaffected and possibly even improved a fraction.
The leach became a bit excitable in the high winds and thrummed annoyingly, adjusting jib sheet cars didnt help much. I think this was becuase we used a standard cut genoa from Edge sails rather than the custom made reefing version from McNamara so there was a little too much fullness left in the leech when reefed. A second set of tell tales is needed about 12″ back from standard as the normal ones get wrapped up in the reefing and for some reason I found it harder to see the sail luffing when its reefed. Also the window ends up being both reduced in size and a little too high to be useful. Again I suspect both these issues could be addressed with a custom made sail.
We have kept the forestay and spacer as previously described and retensioned it once the spar was tensioned and there was no subsequent sagging issues or problems getting it caught in the sail while reefing.
I havent tried have any other foresail reefing systems to compare this with but there has been very little published about how well these work in practise so I hope the above helps someone. Certainly at this stage I have no hesitation in recommending the carbon aeroluffspar for reefing on a Wayfarer.