Toby Hodges takes a look at the significant developments that have been a feature of the furler market in the last few years, and picks out some of the best options on the market
A tug on the working sheet and the furling line, the offwind sail spins open and your boat surges forward, the great joy of a furlers doing that for which they are designed.
You’re content in the knowledge that it’s simply a case of releasing the sheet and pulling on the furling line again to have all that sail area tamed and back under wraps in seconds – no wrestling with poles, no dancing around a foredeck grappling with socks or buckets necessary.
Continuous line furlers, together with the torsional ropes or cables around which the sails furl, have given us a lot to be grateful for.
The ability to manage large code or asymmetric sails with minimal crew is becoming ever easier thanks to advances in structured luff sails and the technology and reliability of furlers.
However, choosing the right furler for your bowsprit or stemhead can be quite complex. Are you running only one type of sail off each of your furlers and is that a Code 0 for reaching or a free flying A-sail for sailing deeper angles – or both?
The answer will likely determine whether it’ll be more practical to furl the sail from the bottom-up or, as has become more popular, from the top-down.
Here, we take a look at Karver’s latest KF V3 model as well as the current range of options in this sector.
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Most manufacturers of furlers now offer top-down units, either as a dedicated drum or as an adapter for their existing units. “We have seen a significant decline in Code 0s, with 80% of enquiries in the last 12 months for asymmetric sails and more and more for top-down furlers,” says Phil Anniss, director of Upffront.
His company supplies from all manufacturers, so he’s a useful source for discussing the latest trends in furlers. Upffront’s core market is 30-50ft cruising yachts and Anniss says these sailors increasingly want to be able to use top-down systems on their existing gennaker/A-sails rather than have to get a new sail.
“We sell the idea of a top-down adapter to allow people to use the same drums for furling both Code 0s and asymmetric sails,” he says.
Karver KF V3
French hardware company Karver has been helping to take the sweat out of furling flying sails since the launch of its first KF V1 furler in 2004.
Its latest V3 version targets a particularly broad tranche of the sailing market. A patented carbon and Kevlar continuous line wheel helps to reduce weight – the V3 is much lighter than its aluminium wheel predecessor – while the Kevlar teeth also create less friction and wearing.
Commercial director Tanguy de Larminat explains that the gains the company has made in weight has allowed for a reinforced structure while retaining the high performance.
The variety of units now offered should appeal to both racing and cruising sailors. There are eight sizes from 1.5-12 tonnes SWL (safe working load), all available in four different versions: Standard, Racing, Classic and Structural.
Interestingly, Karver has moved away from dedicated top-down units, preferring top-down adapters for all its new range.
A large drum version is available on the 1.5 and 3.0 models, which provides power to start the furl if doing so only by hand, but may not suit top-down systems that rely on speed.
De Larminat says Karver is also reprising its work with sustainable materials. “We are applying what we started to do 10 years ago. “Most of our carbon products can be produced by replacing the carbon with bio-sourced material such as bamboo or linen fibres, with no loss of performance.”
The price of KF furlers remains the same as previous models.
KF V3 3.0 Standard Price: €1,491.
Bamar RLG EVO 10
The EVO is the latest-generation Bamar furler, which has an independent tack swivel mounted on the aluminium drum.
This is a simple, well-engineered and light model for its 3.0 tonne SWL. The jaw width makes it difficult to use the bottom-up drum for a standard top-down cable, however Bamar has its own Rollgen stay that plugs into the EVO drum.
Seldén offers a GX range to suit gennakers or asymmetric spinnakers, or a CX range designed for Code 0. The latter is perhaps more versatile as they can use top-down adapters.
The CX drum size is small for top-down furling but it has a large jaw width to allow for adequately sized rope diameter.
In a similar vein to Harken, the Seldén drums are designed to work with its own branded cables. Seldén has a very competitive price point for its CX range, which
also includes torsional rope.
Facnor FX+ 2500
This offers impressive performance for the price in one of the lightest units available.
The new generation FX+ range was updated last year with new guides to secure the furling line around the drum. The well-rounded design has a decent jaw width and the option for a top-down adapter.
The Facnor FX+ is arguably the closest competitor to the Karver KF V3.
Harken Reflex 2
The Reflex furling systems have been developed for optimum use with load-sharing code sail technologies. They come with top-down adapters (pictured) but only for use with Harken cables – so are sold as complete kits together with Harken’s torsional rope.
Good value as long as you don’t need to interface it with an existing torsional cable. Price: €1,642.
Profurl NEX 2.5
This has one of the largest drum diameters to promote fast furling with minimal effort. Ratchet versions are available for greater control.
The NEX system is designed to be compatible with Profurl’s proprietary Spinex, a system with plastic balls around the torsional rope.
The NEX 2.5 is advised for cruising yachts up to 42ft.
Ronstan Series 160
Ronstan is one of the few remaining companies offering dedicated top-down drums. This is particularly appealing for owners of smaller yachts/sportsboats who typically only use A-sails.
However, at this 160 drum size, it may make more economic sense to choose a furler with a top-down adapter for use with multiple sails.
Ubi Maior FR125
Ubi Maior has a full range of dedicated top-down units or drums with adapters manufactured from single blocks of aluminium. These have high working loads and small drums, but jaw widths may limit practicality for top-down Code 0 furling.
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