Ask SAIL: Converting a Jib with Hanks to a Furler

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Q: My headsail has hanks and I am thinking of buying a new roller-furling unit. Can I convert the sail to a reefing headsail?

Hancock Head shot

Paul Warren, Burlington, VT


The short answer is, yes. However, you’ll need to really give this some thought, because it’s not a simple process and it’s going to cost you some money. If it’s a new sail in great condition then perhaps it’s a good idea, but don’t spend the money converting an old sail. First of all, the luff length has to be shortened to allow for the furling drum and swivel. This means that the head patch has to be removed and lowered down the luff and the leech has to be faired in—a big job. Also remember that the sail was designed to be hanked on, which means the luff curve will be different from that of a sail on a furling unit. Specifically, there is usually a lot more sag in a headstay with a furling unit, so the modified sail will have to take that into account. Lastly if you are planning to use the sail reefed, you need to make sure that the fabric, in general, is up to the task, since the original sail was not designed with that in mind. So, yes, you can convert a hanked-on sail, but at the end of the day you will end up with a compromise that may well cost almost as much as a new one.

Brian Hancock is a sailmaker, whitbread race veteran and creator of

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August 2015



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