Welcome to the UKWA Home Page Forums Technical Genoa furling (not reefing!)

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    I’ve spent this afternoon thoroughly googling and searching this forum, but to little avail.

    I recently became aware that there are a few inexpensive furling devices on the market- e.g. Barton, RWO, Seasure. Seems a drum and top swivel could be had for about £70.
    Now, I am fairly happy with my current setup (wire luff genoa, tensioned by muscle box, plus a small jib) but I do quite fancy the ability to quickly and easily stow the sail, e.g. for approaching the beach downwind, or for lunch stops, etc.

    So, whilst there is plenty of discussion on the merits of the various reefing spar systems- all seemingly costing over £200 and needing modifications to the genoa- I haven’t found anything about the different furlers out there. Are the cheaper ones I mentioned actually up to the task?

    Andrew Morrice

    The answer is it works “just lovely” (as we say in somerset), and the spars are only needed for reefing. If you leave the forestay up (which I suspect you will want to) you’ll still need a CD or other disc on the top furler and enough tension in the forestay to stop it furling into the jib.

    Aside from that as far as I know the only thing you need to bear in mind with a furler and top swivel is to ensure they’re capable of withstanding the rig tension. This information is generally available somewhere for the various models on the market. I’m not sufficiently technical to know you need to add any margin to the wayfarer rig tensions (ie in the range of 140 – 160kg) but I think it would probably be prudent. There are some that don’t fit the bill but as I recall, most do.

    happy furling!

    Boris – W6330 Delphy

    Dave Barker

    I found that none of the cheaper furling systems was satisfactory. The drums are OK because you’re pulling the line to make the drum rotate, but the top swivel is the part that can cause difficulty. Unless this remains ‘free’, even with full rig tension, the halyard tends to rotate more easily than the swivel, leaving the sail twisted up rather than furled or unfurled.

    My advice would be to go for the best top swivel you can afford, (or better still go for a reefing system). If you have to reduce rig tension to make it work, it isn’t really a suitable component IMO.


    Thanks for that. I can see how the top swivel would have to be very free running.
    I suppose people will experience different performance from furling systems depending on how much rig tension they sail with. I use a muscle box so whilst I have never measured the rig tension I am applying, I presume it must be quite a bit.
    I don’t think it would be a big hardship to dump the tension from the muscle box prior to furling the sail. This would still avoid the two biggest problems with the current setup- getting the halyard unhooked from the muscle box (and getting the halyard’s rope/wire join to go into the mast slot) and dropping the sail in the water.

    Which makes/models of top swivel will perform better at higher tensions?

    Dave Barker

    If you’re having to adjust the rig tension each time you furl or unfurl, presumably you’ll also need to adjust the forestay to avoid a wrap. At some point you’ll be tired and/or distracted and will forget one or the other. (I did anyway, during my brief and never-to-be-repeated experiment with a cheap swivel). I’d rather give up coffee/beer/meat and get a high quality top swivel (but reefing’s better). Harken high-load will do the job, others might do, some won’t.


    good point- I hadn’t thought of that. A cursory glance suggests over £100 for a Harken top swivel. I know you gets what you pays for, but that’s four or five times what I was expecting to spend on that component… which changes things a bit!
    If anybody’s had success with the cheaper systems I’d be interested to hear about it.


    Economy shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to safety…save up and get the Harken components with a proper reefing system.


    @tempest51 wrote:

    Economy shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to safety…save up and get the Harken components with a proper reefing system.

    Well, that’s your opinion 🙂
    If fitting a cheaper furler makes my boat less safe, then maybe I’ll just leave things as they are.
    I’m saving up for a new trailer so no budget for Harken gear I’m afraid…


    I bought a Mk I reefing kit from Rob Helyar. It came with a Harken HK163 bottom furler @ £105 and RWO top furler swivel @ £26 along with the MKI reefing tube which slides over your existing wire genoa luff with no alteration.

    I normally run around 140kg ish on the shrouds and have reefed in F4 gusting F6 without any problems yet, touch wood. I always retension my forestay (which I never remove),as tight as I can get it, after tensioning the genoa with a Highfield Lever.

    Having the genoa furled when leaving and approaching the shore makes life so much easier I can’t imagine life without it. I’m sure the MkI reefing spar is a little less aerodynamic than the MKII, but being able to reduce the the foresail with the pull of a string is a great safety feature and we still seem to be able (on a good day) to keep up with the 420’s on a beat.

    Regards, Davdor


    After a bit more research, I’ve noticed significant differences in the claimed loads which the various systems can handle.
    For example, the RWO swivel- which seems to be good enough for Rob Helyar- only claims a ‘maximum working load’ of 153kg. Contrast the Barton version with a ‘safe working load’ of 554kg (and a breaking load of double that).
    Yet I get the impression that the Barton is viewed less favourably in some quarters…


    The point is that the cheap swivels do not rotate under load. Maybe they do when they are brand new but they surely don’t once they are worn in. However, they may turn well, even when old, if the swivel is rigidly connected to the drum as is done by reefing systems. The dynamics of reefing systems is different from furling systems and should not be compared. Depending on your average load, frequency of use and sailing area, I would recommend the Harken “high load” version or the Bartels drum and swivel for furling. These parts are designed to turn well under (heavy) load. I am sure there are other drum/swivel brands with similar properties, it is just that I have not seen them yet. Keep in mind that a Wayfarer is sailed with a pretty high rig tension compared to some other similar sized boats.

    The reason I switched from a furling system to a reefing system is that I sail the river Meuse a lot. This river has big, old oak trees lining its shores. These trees cause severe gusts when passing them. The gusts are often that strong they cause the sail to unroll and twist. After two or three trees I end up with a ball of cloth on top of the drum and the rest of the sail flapping freely about. Because of this effect (caused by the sailing area) I never want a furling system again. With a reefing system this cannot happen because the swivel is rigidly connected to the drum. In other words, a reefing system is superior to a furling system, even when it is never used to reef a Genoa.

    One more thing; the usual 150 – 160 kg load is the pre-bend load. It is not the actual load while sailing. The sails (kicker, sheet, cunningham and halyard tension) add tension to the rig and it varies a lot. Also think about what waves and gusts do to the rig tension! (Not to mention that uncontrolled jibe, the other day). Peak loads may be closer to a Ton then you might think (pun intended).

    Colin Parkstone

    Idea, !!!!!
    Has anyone made a spreader type rod that goes from the front of the mast to the top swivel and holds it in place so it cannot twist, just swivel??
    Maybe the swivel could key into the spreader and hold it in place.????

    Dave Barker

    …or a line going to one or both sides of the swivel to hold it in place. Or a spar running from the drum to the swivel… 😆


    Just FYI… I have decided that the reviews/experiences of the lower priced furlers are too mixed, so I am going to stick with the simplicity of hank-on sails. Thanks for all the input!

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