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  • #36644
    David Vella

    I’m after some insights and experiences: My boat came with a RWO foresail furling system and I do not intend on spending money on upgrading to the more expensive/sophisticated systems for various reasons.

    I sail single-handed.

    So far I’ve resorted to using the  (main and) Jib and have never sailed with the Genoa, but I would like to be able to make use of the Genoa. I would however feel more confident knowing that I can quickly reduce sail if need be, especially as intend to start venturing at sea rather than messing about on the river with safety boats close by should things go sour.

    Having looked over this forum and the wayfarer book, it seems to be “common wisdom” that using one of the simple furling systems such as the one I have, to reduce foresail can only be done in limited circumstances, and not particularly advisable for sailing upwind. These simple system should be primarily treated as a “switch”, i.e. you either have a foresail or you don’t.

    Is this truly the case or has anyone had different experience?

    If that is the case, am I better off reefing the Genoa in completely for upwind sections in windy conditions and sailing on main alone and then unfurling as required going downwind or on a beam reach?

    Perhaps using my furling system as a quick way to tidy up the fore sail and carrying two headsails (if on a longer sail) and using the jib if conditions start getting windy?

    Conversely given that I sail alone almost all of the time, should the jib remain my “habitual” foresail, and the Genoa in reserve for when conditions are particularly light?

    I fully appreciate and understand that these questions might be a bit open-ended and there are a lot variables to take into account. The true test is in practice and experimentation. I’d still like to get other people’s thoughts though and perhaps draw on their experience, particularly those in similar situations as myself.



    Jonathan Ferguson

    Hi David,

    I sailed with a similar setup to what you describe for a few years. First of all, the genoa is definitely useful to a single-hander. In anything less than about a Force 3, the genoa will give a lot of power going upwind that you’d otherwise lack (meaning you’d struggle to point into wind very well).

    Once you reef the main, you will want to reef the foresail too. This is to keep the centre of effort roughly in line with the centreboard. If you don’t, then you end up with more force on the main, giving lots of weather helm – this means that the rudder is having to be used constantly to keep the boat away from the wind, decreasing your forward speed.

    What I did was to raise the genoa as the standard sail with the furler ready to furl it away to clear the foredeck. If I needed to reef and therefore change headsails, I would then have to let off rig tension, drop the genoa, get out the pre-rolled jib, hoist it, re-tension it, unfurl it and sail onwards. A right faff, and involved going out onto the foredeck (not good in a chop!).

    I tried part furling the genoa to see what effect it had. It was awful. The top would twist away as soon as a gust came up, which ruins the shape of the sail and causes it to just catch the wind instead of producing any lift.

    I appreciate that you don’t intend to upgrade to a proper reefing system, but since it’s directly relevant I’ll add the following. A couple of years ago we upgraded to a reefing system. I haven’t looked back since. I hoist and tension the foresail at the start of the sail, then roll out as much as I want. If I decide to reef at any point, all I have to do is pull one line a little bit, and suddenly I have exactly the amount of sail I need in seconds and with no danger. There is nothing taking up space in the rest of the boat. The reefed sail is aerodynamically effective along its whole length. Going downwind, sometimes with no main, I can carefully fine-tune the amount of foresail I want out. If, going upwind, I feel the sailplan is slightly unbalanced for some reason, I can easily compensate by slightly changing the amount of genoa out. All of this without any messing about with halyards/tensioners/the foredeck. I now spend so much less of my time changing foresails, and no longer spend time wishing I had a different sized foresail up but not changing it due to the faff.

    Reefing needs to be as quick and easy as physically possible, otherwise you will either defer its execution or find yourself frustrated by the hassle. For me, the only system which can satisfy my requirements is a proper reefing foresail.

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