How to Choose Your Sail Furling System

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Guide to Choosing the Best Sail Furling System for Your Vessel

If you’re passionate about sailing, you’ll know that choosing the right sail furling system for your vessel is crucial to optimizing performance and your experience on the water. Whether you’re an experienced sailor or new to the world of sailing, understanding the different options available and how to select the most suitable one for your needs is paramount. In this article, we’ll explore the various types of sail furling systems, their advantages and disadvantages, and provide practical tips to help you make the best decision.

Types of Sail Furling Systems

Conventional Genoa Furlers:

⚓ These systems utilize a drum and furling mechanism for the headsail (Genoa or jib). Commonly found on larger vessels, they offer good sail performance and control.

  • Ideal for headsails like the Genoa.
  • Allows easy deployment and retrieval of the sail from the cockpit.
  • Suitable for cruising and recreational sailing.

Foresail Furlers:

⚓ Specifically designed for smaller sails like the jib, these systems are simpler and more compact. They’re ideal for smaller sailboats or those seeking a more cost-effective solution.

  • Provides a compact solution for boats with limited mast space.
  • Suitable for smaller sailboats and light sailing vessels.

Mainsail Furlers:

⚓ These systems allow for quick and easy furling of the mainsail. Popular on larger sailboats, they offer the convenience of controlling the sail from the cockpit.

  • Designed for mainsails.
  • Facilitates sail handling from the cockpit, especially useful in adverse weather conditions.
  • Improves safety by minimizing the need to go up the mast.

Spinnaker Furlers:

⚓ Used in high-performance sailboats, these systems enable rapid furling and unfurling of spinnaker or gennaker sails. They’re ideal for racing and sports sailing.

What the different types of furling systems have in common

All these product families have several elements in common:

Firstly, they are all designed to assist sailors in managing their headsails. That is, they are there to optimize and adjust the sail area by furling or unfurling the various sails. These maneuvers are performed according to the encountered weather conditions. Furling systems also contribute to the vessel’s safety system by allowing for quick reduction of the sail area.

Additionally, all these products can be operated from the cockpit. This ensures the crew’s complete safety.

Finally, these products complement each other. This means that different systems can be combined on the same boat. For example, on a coastal cruise, a manual furling system can be combined with a flying sail furler. Each product will be designed to furl or unfurl its own sail.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Sail Furling System

Type of Vessel:

The size and type of your vessel will influence the choice of the appropriate furling system. Consider the size of the sails and how often you sail to determine which system best suits your needs.

Ease of Use:

Opt for a system that is easy to handle and provides precise control over the sails. Comfort and simplicity are key, especially if you sail with a reduced crew or solo.


Look for a system that enhances your vessel’s performance. Some systems may affect sail aerodynamics or adjustability, so be sure to choose one that optimizes speed and maneuverability.

Intended Use:

Do you mainly sail in coastal waters or offshore? Do you participate in races or prefer recreational sailing? Consider how you will use your vessel to determine the most suitable system.


Sail furling systems vary in price, from basic options to more advanced systems. Define your budget and look for options that offer the best value for your money.

Ease of Use:

Prioritize comfort and ease of use. A system that allows sail manipulation from the cockpit can make sailing safer and more enjoyable.


Consider the maintenance required for each type of system. Some may need more attention and care than others.


Consider the quality of materials. Look for corrosion-resistant components that require minimal maintenance to ensure a long lifespan.

Questions you should ask when choosing a furler

Although these different furlers have several points in common, they do not fulfill the same needs. Here are some questions we suggest you ask yourself to help you choose your furling system without making mistakes:

Do I need to partially furl my sail?

The concept of partial furling is essential aboard a sailboat, as it effectively refers to the furler’s ability to partially reduce the sail, especially if weather conditions worsen. Of all the available products, only the manual Genoa furler or the motorized Genoa furler can be used to partially reduce the sail. The other product families (flying sail furlers and stay furler systems) work on an all-or-nothing basis. In other words, the sail can only be used fully unfurled. In the Profurl range, we have manual furlers (cruising, racing, or below-deck furlers) and motorized furlers that allow for partial furling of the sail.

Do I need a structural system?

A system is considered structural when it contributes to the mast’s strength. In other words, if the selected product is not structural, you will still need to have a stay on board to keep the mast in place. Of all the listed products, only the stay furler and the structural flying sail furler allow for keeping the mast in place. Contrary to popular belief, manual (or motorized) furlers are not structural. These are adjusted to your boat’s stay, which passes through the furler profiles. It is the stay that keeps the mast in place. Flying sail furlers use an anti-torsion cable installed between the reel and the swivel. In no case does this cable contribute to the mast’s strength. 

What sail do I need to furl?

The number of sails aboard a sailboat can be high. Depending on their characteristics (size, shape, area), they are intended to be used at certain times or under certain conditions. Here’s a quick summary:

The Genoa is a sail with a luff and foot that can be inserted into the manual or motorized Genoa furler system. Therefore, it should be used with this type of product. Foils and solents equipped with snap hooks (or in covers) should be used with structural Pro Am flying sail furlers. Solents or staysails are breeze sails that can be used with either a manual (or motorized) furler or a NEX flying sail furler (or even a stayfurler). Gennakers, light genoas, code 0, and asymmetrical spinnakers are flying sails equipped with an anti-torsion cable linking the reel and swivel. They can only be used with a NEX or SPINEX flying sail furler (in the case of an asymmetrical spinnaker).

Do I need to lower my sail?

All product families, except for the stayfurler, can be used to lower the sail. In the case of structural Pro Am flying sail furlers, the sail can be lowered using the swivel, which also allows the sail to be hoisted.

Lowering the sail has several advantages, such as reducing rigging and avoiding sail wear. Once lowered, the sail is stored below deck in the sail locker. If the sail is used as a staysail, lowering it after use facilitates tacking and passing the Genoa sheets on the bow of the boat.

What is my navigation plan?

Your navigation plan will also impact your choice of products. If you plan a cruising program, you can choose between a manual or motorized furler system for the Genoa or staysail. You can also choose a NEX flying sail furler (very useful in light winds). If you are a daytime sailor or coastal racer with a boat under 10 m, the structural Pro Am furler is just what you need. And if you plan to participate in offshore races, NEX furlers, nEX STR stayfurler systems, and bow sail swivel locks will be your best allies for increasing performance.

The special case of bow sail swivel locks

The bow sail swivel lock was originally developed for offshore racing boats such as IMOCAs and Class 40s. It occupies a special place in the range of products designed for furling sails since it must be combined with a Profurl NEX furler reel. It can also be used to furl flying sails, and once the sail is furled, to lower it by disconnecting the bow sail swivel. Following its success in the Vendée Globe, the bow sail swivel lock is becoming increasingly popular on fast cruising yachts.

In summary

To choose the right furling system, you should consider the following points:

  • What type of sail do I want to furl? A flying sail will mean you need a flying sail furler.
  • What is my navigation plan? You can choose from a wide range like cruising.
  • Do I want to partially furl? You should choose a manual or motorized furling system.
  • Do I need a structural system? If so, choose a stayfurler system.

How to Maximize Performance

Keep Mechanisms Lubricated:

Regular maintenance will ensure smooth and efficient operation of the sail furling system.

Regularly Inspect Lines and Pulleys:

Check lines and pulleys for wear or damage, and replace them as needed to prevent system failures.

Adjust Tension Correctly:

Ensure sails are tensioned appropriately according to wind and sailing conditions to maximize performance and safety.

Practice Maneuvering in Different Conditions:

Familiarize yourself with the operation of the sail furling system in a variety of wind and sea conditions to be prepared for any situation on the water.

Tips for Choosing the Best System

Research and Compare:

Take the time to research the different options available on the market and compare their features and prices. Don’t rush into making a decision and consider the opinions of other sailors.

Consult with Experts:

If you have doubts or need additional guidance, don’t hesitate to consult with navigation experts or specialized stores. They can offer you personalized advice based on your type of boat and specific needs.

Try Before You Buy:

If possible, try out different furling systems on the water to evaluate their performance and ease of use. This hands-on experience will help you make an informed decision and find the system that best suits you.

In summary, choosing the right sail furling system is essential to enhance your boat’s performance and sailing experience. Carefully consider your needs and preferences, and don’t hesitate to seek professional advice if needed. With the right choice, you’ll be able to enjoy a more comfortable, safe, and enjoyable sailing experience on every voyage.

Fair winds and following seas!

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