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Thread: "Roller Vs Hanks"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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Roller Vs Hanks

Terry Shoup

I'll be fitting Inalla with new sails this fall, and I'm torn between roller furling and the current hanked-on sails. I kind of like the hanked on ones, but a number of folks are telling me that roller furling is the way to go. Any input from folks who have used both would be greatly appreciated.

Dave Kall

Terry. We just added roller. Mostly cause we're geting older and needed something a little easier. We're going to be doing some shake downs in the next week or so and will let you know. We added the Famet Reefurl because there is no halyard to wrap and there are no bearings to sieze. Also there has not been one cruiser that has had it that I've heard of having problems.

Kevin Kuper


There are a number of personal considerations to make here. Ease of handling and stowage are benefits of having R/F though there are disadvantages as well.

You are much better off not reefing a furling headsail(s) because of the very good chance you will blow out the belly of the sail and need multiple re-cuts on a frequent basis. There are R/F sails that have reinforcements throughout the body to compensate but under full canvas you are sacrificing performance with these. Also, R/F tends to lead people into complacency when it comes to regular servicing and cleaning of your sails. Water, UV, mold, salt, etc... Sails should be treated kindly and stowed in dry, shaded environs when not in use. How many of us have seen the R/F headsail with green snot all around the wrap?

From a safety standpoint I will take the opposite tack from Norm. Heavy seas and winds can compensate the head swivels of a R/F rig. Headfoils and lufftape on the luff of a R/F sail are all you have. Should your headfoil crack (uv exposure, age, physical damage) or your lufftape rip, headswivel break or foul, tack pin/drum/swivel foul you are in major trouble with no recourse for an at-sea fix. Hanked on sails are just plain simple mechanical contact points. You can always re-sew on a hank at sea. If your planning offshore sailing I would seriously think of reasons why you wouldnt want hanked sails with twine, scissors, needle and spare hanks.

There is no argument that hanking on a sail is more work. Sail changes are more work and all in all hanked sails = more work. But part of the experience of sailing is a bit of salty work.

All said, I have worked as a sailmaker for a few years and can tell you that R/F is the way most sailors are heading. The best units on the market in my opinion are the Harken systems and the Profurl.

Think about it some more. Talk to your sailmaker. Good luck.

Either way youve got a Westsail so your doing better than the rest.


Don and Margaret Lacoste

It's an interesting question Terry. For ease of sail handling and storage, it seems that the roller furler has now become the norm for most "cruisers". I think that is where Kevin's comments become very applicable for long distance sailors who may be better served by the simplicity of hank on sails.

Rollers have come a long way since 1974 (yes, my old 1974 Pearson had a roller furler which came with the vessel). Surprisingly, that old roller still worked in 2003 but not nearly as well as the more modern furlers.

When rollers fail, they are REALLY a problem and it usually happens when all hell breaks loose out there at sea. It's the same reason engine's fail when coming to a dock. I believe reliability has greatly improved but it's just another "system" on your boat that must be closely watched and maintained. When they work, and usually do, they are a fabulous member of your crew, as are autopilots and windvanes.

In some ways they can provide a level of safety for the crew. When wind and waves make it difficult and dangerous to go out onto that pitching bow sprit, the roller does all that work for you.

To answer your question, if you intend to cross oceans and circumnavigate, hank on may be the best choice. If you are a cruiser, roller is the way to go.

Norm Rhines

I have both roller on the jib and hank on the stay sail. I am hopeing to go all roller. For the following reasions.
1.) I will change sail more offten and by doing so will sail better on all points of sail.
2.) Onece in SF bay I got knocked down with my old hank on jib, had I had a furler it would not have happened. (retraction time)
3.) Stowage is a little cleaner.
4.) in general I don't reef the furling sails so it is out or in. But in theriory it is an option.

About the knock down, it was out of the south at around 50 Knts and I just could not get forward and haul down the sail in time we cane out from behind the eastern span of the bay bridge and I had the sail half down when it hit, we dipped the spreaders and I found the bulwoorks are a great thing to stand on when the boat is on her side. But after that day I swore to get furling and I am halfway there in that I have a furling jib but not the stay sail yet.

I hope My points help out.


p.s. I use a ProFurler soon hope to be two.

Norm Rhines

I guess I did not fully expound upon the safety thing that is improved by roller furling.

Not only is it more common to change sails but on my last trans ocean voyage I had a 100# crew member, which was able to deploy the jib or roll it back in without waking other crew or myself and without going forward. Which = better rested crew = safer voyage and safer boat. I also use two head sails one 215 and a 300 which I change depending on the run (my normal change seams to be every 1000 miles)

The care a maintenance of sails? not sure on that. My bagged sails stored below on the boat are not in as good as condition as the furled sail, and in the tropics this is even more so. If you have AC this may not be the case.

I do not really use mine as a reefer so (sail stretch may be an issue???) I hear that sail makers add foam or line to compensate for this??

As for failure at sea: Maintain it, inspect it, or just roll the dice ( my preference is for the first two, it is not that hard to do. ) Also a note which all seam to say (If you carry spares for it, it will never break)

For my recommendations
if you are just making long passages to big ports
Furling Jib, Hank on stay sail.
if you are going to go around the world and stop in all kinds of tight small and unimproved harbors with reefs.
Furling Jib, Furling Stay sail and retractable lazy jacks on the main.

Again the sailing safety issue (If that other system fails "dino burner") a furler makes getting in and out of a harbor so much easier.

Lastly there are those out there who would say NO to anti lock brakes (another system) but I kind of like things that make it easier and safer for me and my crew albeit with a small failure risk increases. (the pay off is usually a longer life)

There you have it, the norm view.

p.s. Always look and think for yourself, don't just do it because others do, and you will be a wiser person for it.

Lee Perry

I carry 3 headsails on my w32 Patience and like the option of hanking on another sail if i blow out one or just need a different size. Another way is to use a downhaul on your jib. Run a line from the mast through a small block at the jib tack point. Dont run it through all the hanks as it will bind up on you. Just run it free up to about the second hank down from the sail head. As you release the halyard to lower the sail haul in on the downhaul. My 2 cents worth-you will find your own way. Lee

Rod Lawson

Terry, after some discussion with fellow sailors and also some sailmakers I'm led to believe that furlers are not to be mistaken as reefers as they are often used. I would prefer to use hank on sails but I do have a furler on my headsail only since I single hand it's easy for me to deploy with a furler. My staysail is a hank on and I use the furling headsail to get the boat underway or as the last sail to drop when anchoring under sail. Once moving with the headsail I can then attend to the other sails and vice versa when coming into port or an anchorage. It is most convenient being able to work it from the cockpit. A sail on a furler does not have as good a shape as a hank on and you will note they usually have padding which also adds to the performance problem. When partially furled there is a big bunch of sail at the leading edge which again reduces efficiency. When totally furled there is more windage which could potentially change the dynamics of the boat when heaving to for instance. For me performance isn't a big issue and convenience is more important as a single hander, hence my choice for a furling headsail. Just thought I'd pass on the comments which have been made to me from some people far more knowledgeable and experienced than myself.

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