Furlers: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

What the best riggers in the business have to say about the systems they install, maintain, and repair.


By almost any measure, roller furling units have evolved to become nearly ubiquitous in our pastime. And, as we wrote in our Feb. 1, 2004 market scan of headsail furling units, that evolution has rendered many of these products superbly functional. To wit, an overwhelming majority of respondents to the reader survey that accompanied that article gave these products high ratings for reliability and functionality. Our experience concurs with that. (We installed furling units on two of our test boats in the past.) It seems that these systems are generally earning their keep, but that’s an outlook which needs to be further qualified. 

Furlers: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

To do that, we felt it would be instructive to field the comments of those who install and repair roller furling units on a regular basis, so we tracked down professional riggers around the country. Some of these individuals were involved in furler developments early on, and all of them have hands-on experience dissecting frozen set screws, replacing damaged extrusions and worn bearings, or simply puzzling though the machinations of differing installations. They often view headsail furling units in a harsher light than the rest of us, so we asked about the most common issues encountered, as well as their experience with particular products. Here’s what they said, followed by responses from the manufacturers:

Common Issues
“Most of the problems with roller furlers stem from improper installation,” said Svendsen’s Boat Works’ Doug Fredebaugh from the San Francisco Bay area, a 20-year rigging veteran. “Anything from having the foil the wrong height to having the halyard restrainer in the wrong position, to bad rig tune—an often overlooked culprit—can lead to poor roller furling performance. If you have lots of time and are very careful, roller furling units are easy to install. However, there are always going to be places where you can misinterpret instructions and end up doing something irreparable like cutting the foil to the wrong length.”

“Owner installation is a double-edged sword, because there are owners with different levels of mechanical abilities,” explained Annapolis Rigging’s Collin Linehan, who has been a rigger for nine years and a sailmaker for six prior to that. “It’s something owners can do, but often a customer comes into it with these grand ideas and then they run into problems and it takes me two and a half weeks to clear my schedule to get somebody out there. If you’re sailing in the northeast, that’s a significant part of your season gone right there.

“It’s when you stop paying attention—say furling the sail without looking up—that you risk running into problems. Old halyard wraps, improperly located halyard restrainers, and user error are the most typical problems we see. The most important thing that all of these furler producers could put in their operating instructions would be a line that says: ‘If you think there’s a problem, stop and look around.’ You should never need a winch to turn a furler, these units are meant to be operated by hand.”

“Of course I have a vested interest in saying that people shouldn’t put units together themselves,” admitted Keys Rigging’s Gary Shotwell, a 30-year rigging veteran, “but from a purely benevolent standpoint, I really think it is a fairly complicated process. We’ve had a few dismastings due to halyard wraps. The other thing to be on the lookout for is what some boatyards will do to a roller furling unit in the process of taking the mast down. Often the people doing the job don’t understand the mechanics of the unit. And reassembly by yard personnel almost always leaves the potential for some kind of trouble.”

“The cause of most problems is poor or improper installation and not the furler,” agreed Sound Rigging and Yacht Service’s Todd Rickard in Seattle, basing his remarks on 12 years as a rigger. “There aren’t that many problems with today’s furlers. The fact that most boats in the ’70s and ’80s had hank-on sails led to something of a roller furler binge in the ’90s. Roller furlers have been standard on new boats for the last three-to-five years. Buying a furler requires the same philosophy as buying winches, the benefits of over-sizing make life easier. I just saw a 44-footer with a Schaefer 2100 on it. The unit fit, but the owner is going to be disappointed in its performance in high winds.”

“One of the biggest problems we see,” opined Fritz Richardson of San Diego’s Pacific Offshore Rigging, “is owners not setting the sail up with the right length tack pennant. Typically, furlers don’t break now as they did in the earlier stages.”

“I’d say most of the problems start at the top end of the swivel unit,” offered Alan Veenstra of the Chicago Sailing Club, basing that on his 40 years of experience. “The length of the pennant is often incorrect, as is the angle. If the furler is too low, the halyard will wrap. If there’s a deficiency, it’s that the top swivel is paid less attention than the drum. It’s hard to know from deck level if the jib is the right height. If the sail is too long, it’ll jump off the furler and jam, if it’s too short, you risk a halyard wrap.”

“It’s not a very intricate thing to put together,” countered Eddie Brown, who is involved in installing about 60 furling units a year while commissions new Beneteaus for St. Barts Yachts in Charleston, SC. “If you are replacing one with the same brand, there’s no problem, you can put it right together, but if you’ve got to go and figure out measurements and mess with toggles and link plates and whatever you’ve got to hook up there, then it can be a little tricky doing pin-to-pin measurements.”

“The biggest challenge for an owner installation is changing over to a mechanical wire end fitting,” said John Fretwell of Rig Works in San Diego. That, and going aloft. Mechanical fittings are more expensive than a swaged fitting, and though you might end up coming out ahead eventually in terms of re-rigging, few people are going to own a boat long enough to worry about re-rigging it two or three times. Problems will vary by manufacturer, but in a general sense, corrosion between stainless and aluminum causes most of the problems we see, especially if the unit lives in an anchor well, which is now becoming popular.”

“We used to sell CDI—it’s best for trailerable boats. You can’t take it anywhere you need to reef as it’s sailed on a Flexible Furler that is too flexible.” —Doug Fredebaugh

“CDI came stock on MacGregors, and in my mind they don’t build a system suitable for much more than that, even though I know they make units for larger boats.” —Todd Rickard

“When properly applied, the CDI is a fine system. I’d have to say that my problem with the unit is not the design, but improper application. Invariably, people try to save some money and end up utilizing the wrong system for the wrong application. The CDI doesn’t have the load handling properties that other furlers have and as soon as you start running over the load sizes and the sail sizes, that’s when you really start to generate problems.” —Collin Linehan

“We’ve done a lot of CDIs. They’ve changed a lot over the years. We installed a lot of the Flexible Furler models. It’s a good, cheap unit. While it’s not a Harken, Schaefer, or Profurl, we will recommend a CDI for trailerable boats because they are indestructible. The design is very unsophisticated, changing sails is a bit of a problem, and something that you’re not going to be doing out at sea. We don’t recommend them for anyone who’s doing any blue water sailing. The fact that we hardly ever deal with warranty issues is a good reflection on the product in general.” —Gary Shotwell

“Most of the ones we’ve worked with were quite old and were troublesome, but it was mostly an age issue, as most were 10 years or older.” —John Fretwell

CDI’s Joe Dahmen responds:

“If you look back to the 1995 Practical Sailor roller furler survey, 100 percent [of the respondents] who owned a CDI unit said they’d buy another one again.

“It’s common to have a 10 or 15-degree gap between sections of aluminum extrusions, as getting the tolerances right when heating aluminum to extrude it is very difficult. Put together three splined sections and you typically have thirty degrees of twist. There’s no more wind-up with our unit than with splined joints, and there’s no Loctite to worry about coming loose. We make a unit simple enough for owners to install, and by using an internal halyard we’re able to eliminate problems with forestay wrap.

“A lot of these guys aren’t overly enthusiastic about our unit—we’re breaking their rice bowls by offering an extremely simple, durable, essentially zero-maintenance unit an owner can install.”

“I’ve only worked on old Facnors, not the new ones, but seeing these units when they are 10 to 12 years old gives you strong opinions about what will be a good furler 10 years from now. The earlier models had joint problems with the foil that tended to open up over time with wear.” —Doug Fredebaugh

We’re starting to get a little more involved with Facnor. Some of their units are quite nice. They’re doing some single-line-drive systems that have been developed from the Code Zeroes used in a lot of the racing programs. I don’t have a heck of a lot of experience using it, but as far as the system and installation, and the actual looks and the integrity, it’s a pretty nice system. However, I have had issues with Facnor getting parts that have put people out for some time.” —Collin Linehan

“We’ve done several Facnor installations, although mostly mainsail furler systems. These are also a fairly inexpensive unit compared to the others.” —Gary Shotwell

“Facnor is ahead of other competitors in terms of continuous line systems. I don’t know if you’re familiar with sails like Code Zeroes—extremely flat asymmetrical spinnakers—a lot of bigger boats are using continuous line furlers to deal with these sails. What’s different about this approach is that the luff is not attached, this unit attaches to the tack of the Code Zero and to the head; there’s no foil. These are systems that generally live with the sail, when it’s time to break out that sail, it gets tacked onto the deck, usually with a snap shackle arrangement, and then the sail gets hoisted in a furled mode; these are primarily used by racers for lighter air.” —John Fretwell

“Facnor has borrowed a lot from Profurl, but in my mind they haven’t improved on anything.” —Todd Rickard

“To me Facnor is a cheaper system as far as how it’s put together. It does have a good system for putting the tubes together, using a longer extrusion that goes inside of the tubes, so it’s pretty tough in there. One thing I see is that The Moorings uses them and that tells me that they are used hard and they hold up. I have had one or two cars that have failed, but it was a faulty ring that they had put in the car and they sent me two new ones, and it was an isolated incident.” —Eddie Brown

Facnor’s John Kileen Responds:

“No other furling manufacturer has created more new products or grown more in the last 10 years than Facnor. Since the company was started in 1981, we have continually created new products and improved on the existing ones. Significan’t changes in our standard jib furling line include sealed waterproof bearings, simplified installation process, and stronger connectors.

“Facnor’s involvement in the world of single-handed ocean racing, including the Vendee Globe and Around Alone, has led to the most innovative improvements in furling systems. Most of these race boats are equipped with Facnor furlers consisting of a continuous line furling drum and Kevlar or PBO headstay instead of wire and foils in order to save weight aloft. A similar arrangement is now available for racing and cruising boats of all kinds using the continuous line drum and our standard aluminum foils.

“Facnor will continue to develop products for ocean racing yachts and use that experience to improve furling products for all levels of cruising and racing sailors. We’re OEM on Beneteau, Jeanneau, and Wauquiez, to name but a few. Now with distribution in the U.S. through Charleston Spars, Facnor is in position to service customers in North America.”

“We used to have a saying, ‘FaMet rhymes with damn it,’ I’m not even sure if these units are still in production, but if they are, I’m sure they’ve improved.” —Doug Fredebaugh

“We really don’t deal with FaMet at all. I have absolutely no experience with those.” —Collin Linehan

“It’s interesting that you should mention FaMet because I’ve got a customer that has a damaged unit so I’ll be looking for new parts for it. I believe Regency Marine is fulfilling that now, but it’s been a while since I’ve had to go looking for them. Thirty years ago, the FaMet was a popular unit. They are very robust, but very heavy, kind of yesterday’s technology. Check back with me and I’ll tell you how it went.” —Gary Shotwell

PS couldn’t get a response from FaMet in time for this article.

Furlers: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

“Furlex is a design nightmare to put new wires into. The Norseman-style end fittings make it hard to work on, and the system is one that is not engineered with the idea of servicing effectively. Taking apart a Norseman fitting that has been under great strain for 10 years makes me think the manufacturers are trying to torture me. We had a Furlex that took six hours to put a new headstay in, while with a Harken unit, the process usually takes less than an hour.” —Doug Fredebaugh


“Furlex is a great system for the dollar, being that it comes with a headstay. These are tried and true, and really good for around the bay, or for your coastal guys. You could go on extended cruises with it, but I wouldn’t go around the world with one. I say that just because they don’t have the miles logged that say a Profurl system does; they also have a lot of moving parts inside there.” —Collin Linehan

“We’ve sold a lot of Furlex furlers, it’s our third most popular unit here. I don’t think I like it as much as a Harken or a Profurl. One of the reasons is the way the extrusions are put together, there’s a little bit of play in them. The last Furlex we worked on the extrusion machining wasn’t perfect.” —Gary Shotwell

“The Furlex price includes everything: the replacement headstay to the line for the drum, which means less running around for the installer and less complexity. I wasn’t crazy about Furlex until four or five years ago when they went from a plastic cage to a stainless steel body. More people are offshore with Furlex right now than any other. We’ve installed Furlex furlers on John and Amanda Neal’s boat Mahina Tiare III. I’d say Furlex is my favorite.” —Todd Rickard

“I’d rate Furlex unbelievable in their commitment to customer service. I’ve seen the company replace operator-inflicted damage at no charge. My favorite furlers are Profurl and Furlex. Most of my clients will be heading offshore, so even minimum maintenance requirements like flushing out the lower unit with fresh water is sometimes not possible.” —Fritz Richardson (Pacific Offshore Rigging)

Furlex’s Scott Alexander responds:

“We’ve designed our furler from a mastbuilder’s perspective and a complete understanding of rig loads. The guy from Svendsen’s is referring to a Norseman when in fact it’s a Sta-Lok, and he was likely working on a system 10-to-15 years old. We have great instructions on how best to dislodge the Sta-Loks after many years of hard sailing; they have fantastic holding power.

“When Furlex was redesigned in 1997, we addressed the issue of making it much simpler to release the Sta-Lok terminal. Furlex has always used Sta-Loks due to their excellent serviceability and long life in comparison to a swage fitting. All Furlex systems include a new forestay with a Sta-Lok on the lower end. Furlex has been supplied to quality offshore builders for many years: Hylas, Tayana, Farr, Nautor Swan, Halberg Rassy, and Sweden Yachts, to name a few.

“We intentionally have a small gap between the extrusions in order to avoid chafe of the foils with each other when sailing downwind with a slack forestay. We appreciate that Keys Rigging noticed this detail. Mahina Tiare III logs over 15,000 miles per year and enjoys sailing in the Roaring Forties. Need we say more?”

“Harken is what I consider the best. The disassembly is easy and you can still get parts for 10-year-old units. Harken has a big blue sheet spelling out the directions. You have to be sure to inspect everything, every foil. One out of a hundred has a burr on it, and if you miss that halfway through the installation, you are hosed as the joints end up being stuck halfway through. Harken and Schaefer are our most popular brands, these are units that we’ll sell more of by a factor of 10. As far as fitting extrusions together, Harken uses stainless steel screws, while Schaefer uses anodized aluminum rivets. The Harken wedge system is extremely durable. Infrequently there will be problems with not having enough Loctite on, but it’s pretty rare.

“The market on furlers is saturated, and you can expect furlers made today to last 20 years. I’ve seen Harken furlers that were installed in the ’80s that are still working. The only maintenance required is that you spray fresh water on the unit. If you want to get fancy, you can spray McLube on the sail. As far as warranty issues, in the last five years we’ve had one claim on a Harken unit and it was resolved instantly…the quality makes it something of a non-issue since it doesn’t come up very much.” —Doug Fredebaugh

“Harken has a great system. You’ll find that problems with the higher end systems come from installation error or user error. They have refined their unit to the point where if you know what you’re doing when you handle them, you’re all set. I think these companies are all pretty much on the same plane when it comes to customer service, shipping, directions, and warranties. We sell nearly equal amounts of Harken, Profurl, and Furlex.” —Collin Linehan

“Harken is my favorite, and is what I have on my boat. Harken is a very complicated unit [for owners] to install. I think Torlon bearings are an excellent idea, the ones on my own boat are 16 years old now and I’ve done zero maintenance and they are doing just fine. I also like the way Harken fits its extrusions together. It’s very positive and they use the red Loctite ®. There’s a little friction pad that holds it in place while the Loctite cures. Harken has been particularly attentive in terms of customer service, but I can’t say that they are that much better than other furling manufacturers in that regard.” —Gary Shotwell

“Harken units from 10 years ago are still being used successfully. Today you can change the lower unit of a Harken Mark II open drum for about $600, which is a lot cheaper than putting a whole new furler on.” —Todd Rickard

“I install a lot of Harkens, it’s a good, standard furling unit, but not so user-friendly to install. You have to have a swage fitting and it’s hard to modify the unit to fit. You have to take the unit apart to modify it, it’s basically built to be put up and stay up. I’ve found Harken particularly awkward and inelegant to assemble. The extrusions are a very tight fit.” —Alan Veenstra

“One problem that I run into with Harken, is the way that their bearings [foil connectors] go in, the way you have to work down—if you mess up you’d have to take the whole thing back apart.” —Eddie Brown

“Harken is the best choice for the racer as it’s the lightest. But it’s also more awkward than others for repeated disassemblies. For some of the racing boats who want to be able to break down and transport the boat not necessarily on their own keels, and those furlers are a little less easy for multiple disassemblies. It’s the Loctite®, the connectors, and the fact that the connectors need to be swaged on a rod or a wire headstay ,whereas with Schaefer units the connectors are split so that you don’t have to push every foil over every connector for reassembly.” —John Fretwell

Harken’s Dan Rondeau responds:

“Our furling systems take a little more time to assemble, but for good reason. The connectors are closed tubes so they are stronger for their size compared to a “C” shape connector. As a result, foils can be smaller for the same strength as well. Weight aloft is less, so there’s less heeling—something any boat owner can appreciate.

“A simple tool called a ‘pusher wire’ will speed assembly when sliding foils over the connectors. This wire is made of 3/16” 1×19 wire and is about 7 ½’ in length, just a little longer than the foil.

“We use red Loctite® because it gives a durable bond, yet can be taken apart with heat if the foil needs repairs. Coating the connectors with Loctite® spreads the load onto the joint, and takes the point-loading off the fasteners. The screws are really just a final lock for the foil joint. A couple of tips: when coating connectors with red Loctite®, smear most of it on the side opposite the plastic wedges. This is the best gluing surface. Also, instead of putting glue on the foil screws, put a drop in the connector hole.

“The manual has an easy-to-use chart to figure foil cut length so it saves you from doing the math. All you have to do is plug in your pin-to-pin measurement. Note: make sure you measure from the center of the marine eye to the pin that attaches the furler to the chainplate or link plates. Do not include the masthead toggle in your measurement.”

“The latest generation addressed the problems with the earlier ones. With those, the push button furlers were a nightmare to work on as the joints between the extrusions could get loose and cut the sails. We take a lot of Hood furlers in the 10 to 12-year-old range off of boats, and I’m told the new ones are a lot better.” —Doug Fredebaugh

“Hood has a good system, although some of the older ones are increasingly hard to find replacement parts for.” —Collin Linehan

“We’ve done a lot of work on Hoods, mostly on the older units, which had some serious corrosion problems. I’m grateful to Hood because they made the first good, strong roller furling unit that changed my mind about roller furling. They kind of sat on their laurels though, because I didn’t see a lot of improvement after that. The unit uses alternating Delrin and stainless steel bearings. They have a new system out, but my experience with it has been very limited.” —Gary Shotwell

“I don’t have experience with new Hoods, but to be honest we have done fairly frustrating jobs with the old ones, and I guess one of the reasons is because they were old, over 10 years, and we had one supplier for the parts.” —John Fretwell

Hood’s Mike Haber responds:

“In the 1980s, we didn’t have the anti-corrosive selection that we have today. Older parts aren’t in our new units as our newer designs have better functionality and longevity. You could keep a Model T running, but it wouldn’t make great transportation. Still, we try to make an upgraded parts kit and are pretty good at making things work. Many boats owners have replaced sails, rigging, chain plates, and so on. Furlers are one of the least maintained units on a boat, and the location on the pointy end ensures that they’ll be spending a lot of time getting sprayed with salt water. We’re uniquely dedicated to our customers and offer a program that gives 50 percent off the list price for owners of existing Hood furlers looking to upgrade.”

“Parts for earlier Profurl units are no longer available, and the bearings in these are somewhat archaic. A stiff, 10-year-old Profurl furler won’t perform as well as a 10-year-old unit from another company. The lifetime guarantees won’t do any good if the unit doesn’t spin.” —Doug Fredebaugh

“I consider Profurl to be my personal favorite. There have been a lot of miles logged on these units; they are very, very simple, straightforward, extremely durable, and low maintenance.” —Collin Linehan

“Profurl has sealed bearings, and it’s something that we’ve had good luck with, except that when they start to go bad they won’t let us repair them. The unit has to go back to their authorized factory to change the bearings.” —Gary Shotwell

“Profurl and Facnor are using sealed bearings. The benefits of sealed bearings aren’t as great as they say they are.” —Todd Rickard

“I hate to say it, but I’m satisfied with Profurl. Because these units are made in France, I installed one on my boat with some consternation. But no swaging needs to be done and the extrusions are large enough for a Sta-Lok or an eye fitting to pass through. I installed a Profurl on a 47-footer last year, and the process only took three or four hours. Profurl is better in my mind because you can take it down and work on it, any piece can come out and be replaced relatively easily. That said, I’m not fond of Profurl’s aftermarket replacement parts. I just bought a replacement set screw for $10. It’s a special screw, sure, but it’s not a $10 screw. If this company was concerned about customer loyalty, it should have just sent the screw for free. Also, a 7-foot extrusion costs almost $200.” —Alan Veenstra

“The best unit that I’ve seen out is Profurl. The installation is easy, and I’ve never had a failure on one. I’ve trained several guys who’ve helped me doing rigging for years and if they come to me and tell me there’s a part missing out of the box I tell them they’re lying. The quality control, as far as what’s in that box when I get it, well, everything is there—always. I’ve found one or two cases where they’ve sent me the bottom pin and they forgot to put the threads on it, but the pin was there. As far as stuff that’s in there, they are very customer friendly.” —Eddie Brown

Profurl’s Vernon Hultzer responds:

“It’s a true testament to the system that the older units being referred to are over 25 years old, and Profurl stopped making parts for them over 10 years ago. A 10-year-old Profurl unit that has been looked after will work better than an exposed plastic or stainless steel bearing that has been sitting in the sun and salt for 10 years. We extend a 10-year warranty on our Classic Range of furlers, not a lifetime.

“Profurl has established bearing service repair centers all over the U.S. If a dealer shows that he is competent to handle repairs, we are more than willing to allow them to open the units up. We have to stand by our product, and can’t allow everyone to open the bearing system; otherwise we lose control of the quality control. Our spare parts are expensive. Rolls Royce is also an expensive car. One gets what you pay for in this world.”

Furlers: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

“Schaefer is what I would consider to be a modern cruiser’s dream. The bearings are brilliant, needing only to be hosed down with fresh water once every six months. The riveted-together extrusions are well engineered, and replacing the forestay in the shop is easy. We put Schaefer on a lot of cruising boats. Harken and Schaefer are our most popular brands.” —Douglas Fredebaugh


“Schaefer makes a fine line of roller furlers. The Schaefer Snapfurl is an excellent system for boats under 26 feet. It’s simple and can be installed by the purchaser.” —Collin Linehan

“You can’t go wrong if you choose one of the top four: Harken, Furlex, Schaefer, and Profurl. Seventy-five percent of our installations are Furlex and Schaefer, the balance is Harken and Profurl.” —Todd Rickard

“Schaefer is gear that I like a lot. We sell a lot of them. They’re fairly simple, and I believe are better engineered than Profurl. They’re a little more robust, and fairly simple gear.” —Gary Shotwell

Schaefer Marine’s Fred Cook responds:

“Riggers are on the front line with customers and have the most ‘real world’ experience. We respect their comments, and their feedback is very important to us. Some call us conservative, but we take our responsibility to our customers, dealers, and riggers seriously.”

The functionality of modern roller furling units depends first and foremost on proper installation. Predictably, the riggers we spoke to favor professional installations, partially because they’ve witnessed the downside of owner installations, and, of course, because they too need to put food on the table. And many of them cautioned against the temptation to purchase undersized units as a means of saving money. As with anchors and winches, over-sizing has its advantages, but our riggers made it clear that this is only necessary if your brand of sailing warrants it.

These professionals also counseled that prospective buyers consider the aftermarket prices for things like set screws, foils, and bearings as most units eventually require replacement parts or some servicing, and higher end units will likely have higher aftermarket part prices. They also said that though maintenance on headsail furling units is now quite minimal (the sealed bearings of Profurl are virtually maintenance free, while other units require little more than a periodic rinse with fresh water), it’s a good idea to check the foil connections once a season. Set screws can work loose, and you should also check for signs of corrosion between stainless steel fasteners and aluminum foil sections.

Even with the proper installation, maintenance, and inspections, things can go wrong. Spinnaker halyards or other headsail halyards kept on the bow could inadvertently get wrapped in the upper swivel, and an overzealous or inattentive crew might damage the unit by not noticing this. Headsail halyard tension, several riggers told us, should also be eased when the boat is at rest for long periods to retain sail shape.

They also emphasized that there are other important considerations for those in the market for a new furling system. You need to consider your use of the product. Will it be for racing, occasional offshore cruising, or just daysailing? And how do you feel about swaged end fittings vs. mechanical terminals? What about foil shapes? Do you want rounded extrusions? And will you be able to keep up with the minimum maintenance requirements, or are you hoping that “maintenance-free” means just that? All of these are important considerations.

As an aside, there were several models that appeared in our Feb. 1 market scan—Alado Nautica, Bamar/Plastimo, and Reef-Rite—among them, that we haven’t covered here. These units were hardly mentioned by the riggers we interviewed, but that shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a slight on those products. More than one rigger admitted that he hadn’t any experience with units made by those companies.

So who comes out on top? Our unofficial winner in this highly subjective survey is the one product none of these riggers faulted; one that was invariably used as a standard for excellence: “I’m not sure I want this in print,” said an unnamed rigger who was referred to us by another manufacturer’s distributor, “but I highly recommend Schaefer. They’re reliable. I like the bearings, they require very little maintenance, they are robust, the installation is easy, and they are quite conducive to disassembly.” Harken’s furlers garnered high praise, though they seemed to be more complicated to install and disassemble, and Furlex and Profurl both won emphatic support among many of our riggers. All told, the bar has been pushed to an extremely high level by these four product lines, and collectively they represent solid investments.

• CDI, 607/749-4599, www.sailcdi.com
• Facnor, 704/597-1502, www.facnor.com
• FaMet, 785/842-0585, www.fametreefurl.com
• Furlex, 843/760-6278, www.seldenmast.com
• Harken, 262/291-3320, www.harken.com
• Hood Yacht Systems, 603/826-5791, www.pompanette.com/hood
• Profurl (Wichard, Inc.), 800/852-7084, www.profurl.com
• Schaefer Marine, Inc., 508/995-9511, www.schaefermarine.com
• Alado Nautica USA, 972/943-8262, www.aladous.com
• Bamar/Plastimo, +39 0543798670, www.bamar.it
• ReefRite, +64 9 407 8794, www.reefrite.co.nz

Darrell Nicholson is Director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division and the editor of Practical Sailor. A lifelong thalassophile, he grew up sailing everything from El Toro dinghies to classic Morgans on Miami's Biscayne Bay. In the early 90s, he left a newspaper job to sail an old gaff-rigged ketch across the Pacific and has been writing about boats and the sea ever since. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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