Mainsail Choices | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Mainsail Choices

By Paul Shard, Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

What sort of mainsail setup is best for long-distance sailing?

On our first cruising sailboat - the 37 foot Two-Step - we had full battens and a rudimentary single-line reefing system. You can see the deep first reef in the picture below. By pulling the single line in the cockpit you would bring both reef points down to the boom using a pulley system hidden in the boom.
Unfortunately the sail-slides were just plastic and regularly broke. Also the single line system tended to get tangled inside the boom since the pulley system would spin around and add friction. Regularly we had to try to untangle the lines.

Both these shortcomings were eliminated by the clever setup in the Selden masts we had on our 2007 Southerly 42 Distant Shores. The sail slides are replaced by Selden's excellent roller car system … check out the link here
We also have this on the Southerly 49 and this system works VERY well. The cars slide easily, never bind and are quite strong. We carry a couple of spares, but in nearly 50,000 miles with this system we have only broken one car.
Reefing is similar to our original "single-line" system but with an important difference. The Selden system involves a car in the boom that cannot become tangled as it could on our older system on Two-Step. Basically the car moves back and forth inside the boom such that it can't rotate and twist. Clever solution to the problem. Here's link to Selden's website describing the system.
Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 11.14.15 AM

This system allows you to have 2 reef points, each reefed with a single line from the cockpit. We also have a third reef, but this can't be done the same way. We have that as a traditional jiffy-reef.

In-Mast Furling

We have never sailed offshore using an In-Mast or In-Boom furling solution, but I confess I have often wondered if its time to give them a try. In-Mast systems seem the most time-tested, and many boats have circumnavigated with this. On our last crossing there were numerous boats on the ARC with in-mast furling and I envied how easy it would be to reef in our out so easily. Here is a big Hallberg-Rassy 54 with a Selden inmast furling system and a full batten mainsail.
Our crew Anthony, an experienced offshore racer, has the Selden "In-Mast" system on his Bavaria 50 and has done a number of offshore races with it and thousands of miles. He got me thinking more seriously about giving it a try…

Disadvantages include added weight aloft and the potential for a jam if something goes wrong.

Advantages are ease of operation when sailing short-handed, your spend less time furling and covering the sail, and you're more likely get the sail out and set up on a light air day. We SO OFTEN see cruising sailors just motoring with the mainsail cover on when they might be able to sail. We might have been guilty of that ourselves on occasion…

If anyone has experience with this please chime in! Comments Please :-)
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