Latest News: Forums Technical Jib Furling Systems – an enquiry!

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  • #10911

    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.



    It seems to me that there is advice here on this subject that might become a bit misleading or indeed product steering. As far as I have read and experienced there are 3 or 4 reefing systems available to the market that all do the job they are designed for perfectly well. I believe that anyone contemplating purchasing a genoa reefing system could make the decision purely on the amount of moolah that they have in the pocket. Save the money for beer and cucumber sandwiches or indeed a new hat for swmbo.


    Sorry you feel like that, yes there are other systems available, this was written to help others and was as impartial as I could muster bearing in mind I am not a journalist with a complimentary version of every system at my finger tips to do a full cross-comparision review which admittedly would have been ideal and, I suspect, a great deal of fun, so indeed my article should be read in context:

    A reefing headsail could be considered a luxury but is comparable in cost to having a genoa/jib/storm-jib foresail set. As we recently retired our old sails for new cloth it was an ideal opportunity to chose the solution that maximised the weather we could sail in with minimum complexity within the same budget. It would be very hard to justify the cost if we already had a good set of headsails.

    I am a paying client and carefully considered all the dinghy/small yacht systems on the market I was aware of, speaking (or emailing) with each of the relevant manufacturers and reading all the existing reviews and advice that I could and including reading the patents and discussing with Jon at Edge sails about his experiences with reefing wayfarer headsails and I even considered engineering something myself before finally opting for the Aeroluff spar system. Indeed had to wait almost 6 months from first speaking with Ralph before the version I really wanted would be available which is why our new headsail hasnt yet been modifed. Mine was a very carefully considered purchase and certainly not primarily made on the basis on how much green was in my wallet; I wanted a lightweight, easy to fit, well-engineered, effective and aesthetically pleasing product from a manufacturer who could be communicated with should the need arise.

    In spite of advertising in the Wayfarer magazine regularly there was and currently is still pitifully little online about the Aeroluff system and as one of the first people in the country to have this brand new version I felt it was worth writing the review for the benefit of others and for no other reward or hidden agenda.

    Much of what I said would apply to other systems too – such as the modifications to the sail , setting to the correct size and making sure the reefing line holds fast etc.

    So yes it is imbalanced in terms of only looking at the one product which I freely admit and stated at the end of the article so if you read it out of context then you could assume it to be biased, but from my persective it is offered as my own opinion based on fact and real-life experience and was purchased after analysing the other available systems and is intended to be read with the other systems reviews published elsewhere.


    Winsbury, calm down, it may only be a commercial.

    My message referred to all posts concerning this subject, and not targetted at your experience to date. The point about reefing genoa systems is that very simpe systems do exist and should be explained in such a way as to encourage others to make their own minds up without introducing complications, otherwise we end up discussing the benefits (nil) of carbon tiller extensions ad infinitum.


    Lol – dont worry, I’m calm

    I am tempted to agree with you regarding tiller extensions but Carbon as a material for a reefing spar is far superior to anything else out there at present. Its lighter, stronger and smaller than any other dinghy system with equal or better torsional and longditudinal stress characteristics, is flexible enough to be stowed, doesn’t require sail modification, is very difficult to accidentally damage on shore or in use, effect on the sail’s leading edge is negligible and costs less than any comparable system except the Helyar mk1 system which in Robs own words: “under gusty conditions where insufficient sail has been furled away, the head of the sail will spring about one turn.” The Mk2 is better but remains a whopping 25mm diameter so by the time the cost of converting the headsail is taken into account there’s virtually no cost advantage.

    I’m going to leave it there as I’m in danger of preaching.

    However to balance things up a little heres some reviews of the other two leading competitors, lets hope WIT do a similar in depth article on the Aeroluff system soon too: … Helyar.pdf … artels.pdf


    Well, the thread goes from stength to strength! Having benefitted from all this discussion I thought I’d check in with my conclusions

    I’m assuming that anyone reading this has decided to go for furler reefing – no need to rehearse the general advantages – which seem to me to be significant.

    In the end I opted for an aeroluffspar which I purchased just prior to the new aeroluffspars website going live. Why? It can be seen as a further development of the Helyar system concept and as such I feel it successfully gets round the problems of altering the luff entry profile when unreefed. This might seem a bit fussy for cruisers (which I’m not – yet) but I imagine there are plenty of situations where time is of the essence and if you’ve also got tide and waves to contend with you want your boat sailing as efficiently as possible. The Bartels system seemed – to me – to be way over engineered and over-spec for a small boat, and for anyone that drops their mast more than a handful of times a season I imagine it also must be pretty cumbersome and inflexible to deal with the forestay issues – but I may be wrong there. We step/unstep every time we sail, and the aeroluffspar actually makes this process easier rather than harder. It easily bends back on itself once over so you can bend it under the shrouds well within its tolerance. For storage and transport the aeroluffspar is not as flexible as the Helyar system – but the version without the built in furler doesn’t need detatching from the bow each time, and it lies happily along the length of the boat when not in use. I just support it either side of the washboard and pop the cover over everything.

    I found that a CD suffices for keeping the forestay out of the way: but you need enough tension in the forestay once the rig is tensioned. On our boat we have two loops off the forestay wire, a long one with a small carabiner which we just clip on whilst we rig the shrouds under no tension, then, once we have the rig tensioned via the genoa/spar we change it over to a pretty tight shockcord loop. This means only taking the pin out of the bow fitting once.

    You do need to make sure of your sail size is right and for most people there will be the need to move the cringles. An alternative to this is if you have an outer sleeve fitted to the luff (which I happened to have) this bypasses the need to move the cringles. [attachment=0:159va8k6]luff-tube.jpg[/attachment:159va8k6] (NB – this is it before the old luff-wire came out) I think this approach probably makes the reefed luff a bit fatter than it would be with the clamping system that is an option, but if you’re looking to adapt an existing sail cheaply that might be a way forward for you.

    Lastly, in terms of customer service, as you expect with a member of the Wayfarercommunity, I’ve found Ralph Roberts very communicative and very helpful indeed. I think this is a really good technology which I would be suprised not to see on more and more boats – not just wayfarers – in the future.


    Why iron where a bit or rope suffices? Besides, a rope allows you to drop and adjust the sail so it closes the gap between the foot and the deck, the sail is more efficient that way. I use a rope purchase (several loops) of 3 mm rope to ease leech tension adjustment. (Please note that leech tension is not the same as rig tension).

    Why trouble with CD’s and bungees at all?
    If you have a furler there is no need for a double stay. Just use the stay that the sails furls around and get rid of the other one. It makes life so much easier!
    And please don’t mention the safety factor of a double stay! I have explained many times why that argument doesn’t fly. Even ocean going yachts sail around the world with only a single stay. Just make sure your (single) stay is in mint condition and strong enough for the job before you leave port. My second stay only goes up during races and only because the rules require it. It is the most useless piece of equipment on my boat. Even a little plastic ducky is more useful, it makes people smile when towed, the stay does not!


    Excellent advice on the forestay! Perhaps we’re all just “very superstitious” in wanting our belt and braces … Another example could be the insistence of bouyancy testing prior to the most supervised form of W sailing of all – racing.
    So that’s even more time and effort you’ve saved me Swiebertje. As it is I think of you gratefully everytime I put my mast away, now I can thank you everytime I put it up too.
    On the other point: don’t be distracted by the shackle on the photo folks – that’s the head of the sail before I re-jigged it, and I’m not sure why there was a shackle there – but it aint there no more. The picture is just to show you the additional luff tube sewn onto the front of the sail. there was a sweet little cleat on the sail to adjust the luff tension at the foot.

    tootle pip old fruits (and of course yet more friendly vegetables)



    Why iron where a bit or rope suffices?

    My new genoa was configured exactly the same as Andrew’s photo prior to removing the wire and shackle in order to replace it with the aeroluff spar and I agree is counter-intuative and raises the foot higher than need be. Now the reefing spar is installed the luff tension is barely affected by the halyard, instead it is set by adjusting 3mm cord at head and tack to the new thimbles on the spar and the foot is held considerably closer to the foredeck, in my case it ended up being almost 6cm closer and really gets the tack up close to the furling drum. A vast improvement.

    Please don’t mention the safety factor of a double stay

    okay I wont, simply because it cannot be reliably calculated. However, ocean going yachts dont step their masts all that often whereas trailing and touring wayfarers regularly do, even sometimes afloat in order to shoot bridges and this is the key advantage to leaving it there so for me this isnt primarily a ‘belt and braces’ issue. I’m delighted to say that the snagging issue is for all practical purposes non existant now the spar installed; we’ve found that we only needed to tension the forestay once when the mast was initially stepped, thereafter it has stayed perfectly tight because the need for various luff tensions have been almost completed eliminated because the spar maintains a straight leading edge regardless of wind loading. The sail furls much tighter and more evenly than it ever did without the spar which I think helps too. Admittedly we dont feel the need to re-tension the rig to suit conditions as we are cruisers not racers so have opted for average rig-tension settings but since racers have to keep the forestay they dont get much choice in the matter and most dont seem to mind fine tuning for prevailing conditions

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