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Optimising the headsail furling gears control line

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What is the issue?
Roller-reefing/furling headsails offer excellent reefing potential. They make it possible to reef the headsail to the precise amount of sail required for almost every condition by effortlessly turning in-and-out the luff of the sail. A poorly set-up control line however can make the equipment difficult to operate and unreliable.

Why address this?
Anything that is stiff and difficult to work with will be an aggravation aboard, particularly, if it is a manual operation whilst weathering in a new set of sea legs.

Worse a poorly aligned furling control line will chafe more than any other line on the vessel. This is due to the sail loading and unloading, or the bow rising and falling on waves. This process causes a continuous tension and release of the control line that translates into a continuous back-and-forth line rubbing movement. This makes the control line highly susceptible to chafe and once a line is chaffed, or even slightly damaged, it cannot be relied upon to support loads and should be replaced. As with all marine fabric control lines are expensive to replace. This does not factor in the inconvenience of an operational failure in a stiff wind or worse, when furling gear goes bang and the complete headsail unfurled flapping itself and the rig to pieces.

How to address this?
Assist the control line support and furling drum alignment by welding a stainless-steel-tubing crossbar inside the pulpit with a lead block attached.

Pulpit crossbar and block assisting furling control line
Photo: Tony Gibson

The first block next to the furling drum is the most important block to set up correctly. Having one set on the crossbar makes this task much easier. Align the block along the crossbar so that:

  • (i) the control line is aligned vertically and the pull is straight back from it to the first deck mounted or guardrail attached block and

  • (ii) feed in at a height where it cannot come against the drum itself to cause chafe.

From this starting point, the row of small blocks along the guardrail stanchions should be set up so that the tensioned line is perfectly straight with the control line sitting in the middle of each sheave when loaded and not coming against the blocks chafing metal casings.

This additional positioning and control the crossbar provides, aids fluidity of movement whilst dramatically reducing chafe. The crossbar has a secondary benefit of triangulating the bow pulpit structure thereby greatly strengthening it. This provides both a useful step and the structural rigidity to support your weight better when stepping up onto the top of the pulpit to tie off a furling gear at the tack - to prevent it spilling out when unattended at anchor. If a piece of teak is attached to the top of the crossbar it can make for a more comfortable step if not a good bow seat.
Please note

It should be noted that this is only possible if it does not impinge upon anchor deployment.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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