I usually sail with one other person, and I’m wondering how to choose between a continuous-line furler and a spinnaker sleeve for my asymmetric spinnaker. Which is easier to deploy, and is one better than the other for singlehanding?
-- Mark Trainor , Norwalk, Connecticut
Win Fowler replies : Both a furler and a sleeve are effective ways to set and douse an asymmetrical spinnaker. The argument for a furler is that once the sail is hoisted, it can stay there; you can furl and unfurl the sail from the cockpit. You can even hoist the sail at your mooring and leave it up all day, unrolling it for reaching and running and rolling it back up when it’s time for windward work. You would have a performance penalty when sailing upwind because the sail, although it’s furled, is still in the hoisted position. But if you are daysailing or cruising, that disadvantage is offset by the convenience of having the spinnaker ready to go when you unroll it.
An asymmetric in a sleeve usually has to be hoisted just before you want to use it and lowered to the deck after it has been snuffed. While you can set an A-sail in a sleeve by yourself, it takes a lot more planning than setting it on a furler.
The rigging requirements are also a bit different. An A-sail on a furler requires at least 6 inches of separation between its axis and the forestay; 12 inches or more is even better. If your rig is fractional, you need a masthead spinnaker halyard or a long spinnaker-halyard crane. To move the furling drum forward and clear of the forestay you should have either a bowsprit or a prod. Setting an A-sail with a sleeve or snuffer doesn’t require that there be any separation from the forestay. In general, a furler package will weigh more than an asymmetric in a sleeve and will probably be a little more expensive.