Flying Sail Furlers

Sailboat using a furler

By Tom Burden; Last Updated: 10/28/2019

Not Just for Racing

If you are like a lot of sailors, you may be familiar with the concept of “flying sail furlers,” and you probably associate them with high-performance (and high-dollar) racing boats. Think again.

Flying sail furling systems also offers simplicity, convenience and improved performance for cruisers. While long-distance cruising sailors must prepare their boats to withstand storm conditions, most of the cruising we do consists of light winds, often proceeding under engine power. Here is where flying sails and their new technology can help you sail more, motor less, and pay for themselves in reduced fuel costs.

Types of Sails

Flying sail furlers are designed to be used with light and heavy flying, asymmetrical sails, at heading angles between a close reach and a broad reach.

  • Light sails: gennaker, code zero, screacher, light or multi-purpose genoas, fisherman.
  • Heavy sails: solent, reacher, staysail, storm jib

Top-down Furlers

The latest development in flying sail furlers is the top-down furling systems that fit downwind sails with a soft luff and full midsection. The sail starts furling from the head and continues down to the bottom of the torsion cable (hence the term “top-down furler”. Only the head of the sail is attached to the torsion rope, the rest of the sail is independent from the furler, and the tack is connected to a floating ring on the lower drum, allowing it to remain stationary while the drum turns. The sail deploys easily and rapidly, without the crew needing to leave the cockpit. Usually, a top-down furler does not require any modification to your existing sail.

A bowsprit is often a good idea to increase the gap between the furler and the headstay, but the furler can also be attached directly to the bow, depending on your boat. Ronstan offers top-down adaptors that fit their Series 80, Series 120 and Series 160 Gen 2 Flying Sail Furlers. Karver also is now making this style, in their KSF2 and KSF5 top-down furlers.

FX code zero and gennaker furler

Is a flying sail furler structural?

A “structural” furler stows and deploys a genoa or working jib and replaces your boat’s headstay, or fits over the existing headstay. Flying sail furlers are not structural, and are easily removable. Combined with a 2:1 purchase, a flying sail furling system is an efficient alternative to a removable stainless steel forestay.

Can I sail with my sail partially furled?

No, the flying sail furlers are made to sail with the sail fully unfurled. You cannot reef, or partially furl, your code zero or other flying sail. It is an “off or on” sort of technology.

Where can I buy an anti-twist “Torque” rope?

Rope manufacturers, riggers, and sailmakers usually sell this kind of product. Contact West Marine Rigging, and we can fabricate this for you. According to Ryan Scott at our West Marine Rigging Newport location, “We just sent off a Karver KSF2 Top-Down Furler with anti-torsion cable and furling line. The anti-torsion line is Marlow 9mm ProDrive which we finish here in house. The furling line is also Marlow, it is their 8mm MGP Furler 50.”

“If you have any questions, or are looking for any information, feel free to contact us. We now are able to offer the full kit for your top-down furling needs, including the furler assembly, completed anti-torsion lines and continuous furling lines.”

Can I use my current sail?

Yes, however a sailmaker must integrate the anti-twist cable into the luff of the sail, except in the case of top-down furlers, as discussed above.

I am not a racing sailor; can I use this kind of furler?

Flying sails furlers are an excellent upgrade for anybody looking to improve performance (professional skippers or hotshot racers, but also sailors keen on cruising). For a cruiser, the whole benefit of flying sails is their ease of use, so you’ll sail more in light weather and motor less.

Furler System Information and components