in boom furling catamaran

In-Mast or In-Boom Furling Mainsail for a Catamaran?

Catamaran Mainsail

I was wondering if you have ever written an article about in-boom and in-mast furling for catamarans? Any experience with those systems? What are your opinions about it? If a boat did not come with such a system, can you retrofit it even though the boat was not designed with that in mind in the first place?

Answer: The Mainsail on a catamaran is the main source of power.

– by Stephen Cockcroft

The mainsail on a cat, unlike a monohull which relies heavily on the fore triangle for power, is the primary power source. The jib or genoa are less important for powering, but are good to balance the sail plan. Remember most catamarans have a fractional rig which means that the foresail is smaller than a top rigged monohull for example. So, considering the importance of a powerful mainsail, the object is to have a large roach or flat head main with a high aspect rig so that you can take full advantage of the winds aloft. Full battens help to keep the sail shape and ensure an effective and efficient sail.

In-Mast Furling Mainsail

When you have to cut a sail to be able to roll into a mast, the leech has to be cut concave, so you loose a lot of sail area. You also loose the fully battened sail, so the sail shape is never as good and the performance of the mainsail is more like a jib or genoa than a main sail. While this might be a good option for a monohull where the power source is both in the fore triangle and the main, on a catamaran this would be my absolute last choice. Some manufacturers have in-mast furling mainsails with horizontal battens so they can roll into the mast, but if this was so great then why do we not see a lot more of this? Then there is always the risk of the sail jamming in the mast and then you have a whole new set of problems. To change to an in-mast furling system, you would basically need to replace the entire rig. There were some furling systems in the early days that were tacked on to the existing mast, but it was very industrial and I advise against this.

*Picture courtesy Harken

In-Boom Furling Mainsail

If you are going to go with a mainsail furling system, the in-boom furler is a better option. When you are rolling the main into the boom it means that you can keep the full battens and have a small roach, so the sail shape issue is addressed. Consider that if there is an issue with the furler then, unlike in-mast furling, you would still be able to drop the main onto the deck like a conventional system. To change from a standard rig to in-boom furling you would not need to replace the entire rig. The boom can be replaced with the furling boom and then a track would be attached to the aft of the mast to take the bolt rope luff of the mainsail. I would say that a new main built specifically for the system would be a must so the standard main would not work.

My Personal Preference for a Cruising Catamaran Sail-Plan

My personal preference would be a fully battened mainsail with a good batten car system and a large roach with a standard head. This system, together with a set of lazy jacks and a zip up bag, is the most reliable and functional in my opinion. While I really like the flat top mainsail, there is always the issue of getting the head and top batten back into the bag since it sits at an awkward angle. There are now systems that allow you to unclip the top batten so it lies flat but it is another step that is required when stowing or deploying the mainsail.

Estelle Cockcroft

Estelle Cockcroft

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3 thoughts on “In-Mast or In-Boom Furling Mainsail for a Catamaran?”

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What about a third option; a boom furling main with a hybrid sail. The lower half of the sail compatible with the boom furler, and the top side of the sail fully battened and full roach. This way you could easily reef without leaving the cockpit while shorthanded. When dropping the main you roll the lower half and drop the rest. This will leave you with less than 50% of your sail to handle and stow. Lot easier for short hand sailing a big cat. Would this work?

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That seems like a great option to me, but I am not a rigger. The ability to reef a main and stay in the cockpit would be very important to me.

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Hi Gary, yes we find that some of our clients prefer that option. You will not get the best sail shape but handling is a lot easier.

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in boom furling catamaran

Which Boom Furler is the Best?

Carbon Fiber Leisure Furl

When it comes to mainsail management systems, in-mast furlers appear to be losing popularity with cruisers while boom furlers keep popping up on more boats. We are noticing a huge increase in customers upgrading their conventional or even their in-mast units (yes, you read that right, read more below) to in-boom furling. I may even go as far as to say that in-boom furling will soon become standard equipment for the production boat market.

Oyster 880 with carbon boom furler and mast

Like many other things in sailing, boom furlers owe their origins to custom designed solutions for mega and super sailing yacht customers, where pricing is of little significance. While I wouldn’t call the current production systems down right affordable to the cost conscious cruiser, there are now plenty of choices for furling your mainsail horizontally. However, most of these furling boom manufacturers only have a carbon fiber option for their spar material, which makes for one very expensive boom. So what are some more cost effective alternatives?

Carbon fiber boom furlers the rigging company

Aluminum extrusions seem to be the answer here. So, for the sake of cost and to narrow down our discussion a bit, let us take a look at who’s building aluminum boom furlers:

  • The Pro Furl MKR by Wichard-Sparcraft (No longer in production)
  • Furlboom by Hood-Pompanette (No longer in production)
  • Schaefer Marine’s   Boom Furler
  • The  Leisure Furl by Forespar

As each of us here at TRC has had experience with all of these systems at one point or another, allow us to give you our thoughts on these seemingly similar, but yet ‘oh so’ different boom furlers. For more carbon fiber options please take a look at the links provided at the bottom of the article.


Pro Furl In-Boom The Rigging Company

Coming in at a tie for 3rd place is the Pro Furl MKR. Pro Furl boasts of a very sturdy double gooseneck assembly, and it does appear quite sturdy. This is a good feature when considering the concerns of boom weight with these systems, especially while gybing.

TIP: TRC always recommends the addition of a good boom brake system to help control the effects of an unruly gybe.

Pro Furl’s overall spar design is sleek and attractive. They also have the furling drum mounted on the inboard end, which we like because it keeps the weight inboard. The Pro Furl in-boom furling system is only available in painted aluminum. The system uses a proprietary vang which is a must, as it is with most of the manufacturers. Pro Furl’s vang is essentially a hard vang (with no adjustment) that kicks the boom up to its ideal furling position. This is a very good concept, the user just eases the main sheet, the sail flogs, and the boom returns to its proper position for furling. There have been problems reported with the vang however, users have stated issues about vang leaks and parts failure.

If you look at Pro Furl’s behind the mast track, it is very far stood-off behind the mast. This is likely for a clean lead into the sail track as the drum occupies the front of the boom and requires the sail roll to start pretty far aft. This, if nothing else makes for a very unsightly track system. The only real plus I see to this track system is it makes climbing the mast very convenient, it offers almost a ladder of sorts to the top of the mast ;-0). How does this system do in off wind hoisting and dousing situations?? Pro Furl In-Boom customers are encouraged to leave us a few thoughts below .

Furlboom by The Rigging Company. In-boom furler

This brings me to the other tie for 3rd (a close 2nd). Furlboom has changed hands recently to a new owner and hopefully they can take this seemingly promising design to the next level of refinement. Available in anodized or painted aluminum only, Furlboom’s spar is a square/rectangular style section that is tapered and can look at home on almost any modern day sailboat. Their biggest niche within the market, IMO, is pricing. Furlboom comes in as the least expensive of all of the options. This is a very appealing perk as these systems are known to cost a small fortune. Furlboom does not offer a manufacturer specific vang, instead recommends the use of Selden’s Rodkicker Vangs . Selden’s vangs are perhaps not the top of the heap when it comes to rigid vangs, but it is already a better option than what Pro Furl attempted. Leave the vangs to the guys that make…vangs. Furlboom has a lot going for it: low weight (relative to boom furlers), a manual override feature,  a solidly mounted behind the mast track, a low profile tapered spar design, and it is very well priced (comparatively).

Some of the downsides of this system are found at the top of the track; they utilize a sheave to extend the halyard out to the aft face of the track. This in conjunction with a non-hinging track, can make for some pretty severe halyard chafe, especially when off the wind or when the halyard is just sitting static for long periods of time in the stowed position. Although the boom material and construction seem to be a very nice quality, it seems that some of the track parts were cheaply cast and painted, instead of extruded/machined and anodized. The last part that is questionable is the chain drive which links the furling drum (mounted below the gooseneck on the aft side of the mast) to the mandrel. Regular maintenance and inspection of this chain is highly recommended. If the chain drive fails, the manual override feature cannot be used. When considering a boom furler for a smaller boat, the Furlboom is and has been always our first choice due to weight, size, and price.

NOTE: Only Furlboom and Leisure Furl offer manual override features!!!

Schaefer boom.

Schaefer Boom Furler The Rigging Company

Schaefer makes the podium at 2nd place, living up to their reputation for being robust and high quality. This boom is rock solid. It is made of high quality machined and extruded aluminum with a deep anodized finish. The Schaefer system lacks only in four departments: looks (no taper and just plain big), a loosely mounted behind-the-mast main sail track (must be noisy and is not attractive), the vang is a fixed length rod, and lastly Schaefer utilizes a furling drum that is mounted at the very outboard end of the boom; not an ideal place for added weight especially when considering the already big size of this boom. This can make gybing an already heavy boom even more interesting, especially if it is accidental. Although I am not in love the with their behind the mast track, it does seem to offer very good off the wind hoisting and furling due to the hinged design of the track. Schaefer’s proprietary vang is mandatory. The vang is really more of a strut as it is set at a fixed length. Although this guarantees an optimal boom height for furling and hoisting at all times, it restricts the users sail trim options.


Leisure Furl The Rigging Company

This leads us to the winner………the Forespar Leisure Furl {LF} System. This system has been around a long time. LF has had many years of R & D which usually means they have worked out most of the kinks. Leisure Furls are available in many sizes, configurations, and finishes: anodized, painted, as well as carbon fiber. There are also two smaller, entry level, models called the Leisure Furl Coastal and the ALL NEW LF Coastal Plus; which focus more on the small to medium size boat market. Here are some of the big pluses of the LF system:

  • A sleek solidly mounted behind the mast track
  • A fully functional (and required) Forespar Yacht Rod (one of the best rigid vangs on the market)
  • A tapered attractive spar design
  • An inboard mounted furling drum
  • A manual override (excluding coastal and coastal plus)

Over the years Forespar has only simplified, instead of adding to, or over-complicating their original design. We like that concept as it is in line with our company motto. They have also eliminated most of the plastic pieces except for the bottom feeder track, they call this the ‘Flexy Feeder’. This piece, which has been duplicated by many in-boom furling manufacturers, is crucial for better off the wind furling and hoisting. Another great feature of the boom is that it keeps a majority of the weight inboard by mounting the furling drum on the forward face of the mast. Initially, I was a bit skeptical (as I am sure most of you are) not just of the drum hanging off of the front of the mast, but also of the 1″+ hole that needs to be drilled at the gooseneck for the furling mandrel to connect to the drum.  It turns out that by putting a solid stainless steel rod through it, along with the massive gooseneck bracket that accompanies it, this typically weak and highly loaded area of the mast, is actually strengthened. Keep up the good work Leisure Furl.

Looking to Ditch Your In-Mast Furler for an In-Boom Furler???

Forespar, who have been building masts for many years, and is one of the most respected names in the industry, has developed and tested a custom made kit for converting in-mast furling masts, to conventional masts. The long and the short of it is, they have a specially designed tool which bends aluminum plates to the exact shape of your mast section. These plates are then installed so that the two mast walls, port and starboard, are tied together and the long slot that once served as the entrance for the sail housing is eliminated. Once this is installed the existing mast can be used to facilitate the Leisure Furl In-Boom Furling System. Want to know more? Please ask our experienced sales staff about details and pricing.

leisure furl

To wrap things up (pun intended)…

…. these booms are all priced very comparably and offer similar but different design features. I recommend checking each one out in detail for yourself by clicking on the images to link to the manufacturers website and find out for yourself. Keep in mind, all furling systems are convenience items and thus can become the opposite of convenient (a problem) if not properly installed, used, and maintained.  The big plus with horizontal furling systems is the halyard can always be released and the sail just comes down….just like in the old days.

Additionally, before you pull the trigger, keep in mind that there are some other final cost considerations that are required but not included…all of these manufacturers will most likely require replacing the mainsail, a specific vang, an  electric winch , and something to ‘snub’ with (i.e. snubber winch or polished stainless cleat).

Wondering who else makes in-boom furling systems?

The companies mentioned below only offer carbon fiber (even possibly only powered drive units). Here is a list of all of the ones that we know of, that we did not discuss, but are worth checking out:

  • Offshore Spars
  • Furler Boom
  • Formula Spars
  • Southern Spars

Be sure to ask us about any of these products or manufacturers. We’d be glad to help.

Thanks for the read and see you on the water.

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What is the easiest way to get a ballpark cost for a leisure furl for a 44-46 catamaran? Inclusive of installation, exclusive of the sail and the electric winch?

We live here in Annapolis and are in the market for said catamaran. These numbers will help us put together the ever growing post-purchase refit budget.

Just asking is the easiest….;0) We’ve recently completed two Lagoon installs in the same size range, so it is fresh in our mind. The boom system itself was around $22k and all in the two customers averaged around $30k for the final invoice. Hope that helps and let us know how we can help if you need us.

Cheers, ~T.R.C.

Thank you for the prompt response. Very helpful. I will circle back when the time comes.

I have two profurl boom furlers in my 50 ft ketch, both are now 15 years old. Many repairs to every part of them over the years, always due to user error, I have banned gybing. Putting a 3di main was an error as the system is now way over stressed. The extruded track is ugly, and no good for a ladder up the mast as the foot holds are too far apart, if you grab the track it bends. Boom is too heavy, even with the drum at the front. I love the convenience though and will be sorry to loose it

Hello Mark, I’ve designed a custom ‘boom furler’ to simply suspend a typical furler above my existing boom, using 2 pieces of metal bolted to the aft end of the boom and a band wrapped around the mast, to which a cable with the extrusion can be attached, with a ProFurl ‘flying sail spool’ instead of a drum furler, nearest the mast, attached to the band around the mast. This will cost a fraction of a Schaefer Boom Furling system and should be simple enough to be bullet proof.

It lloks that you would need a mast that either have a plate on top to place the back stay further back from the mast or does that piece comes with the system

Thanks for the comment. Usually the track will stop well short of interfering with the backstay so no backstay extension is required.

We have the Profurl version with the track that stands off behind the mast. The ‘pincer’ fitting which feeds the luff into the track was very poorly engineered and we have had another made. We have also increased the bolt rope diameter by 0.5mm so it doesn’t come out the track. The fixed vang means we can’t easily adjust leach tension so there is a lot of twist in the main only overcome by dropping the traveller down and sheeting hard. Not ideal. I love the concept but the engineering execution by Profurl is poor as too is their support for the system. I would like to upgrade to your No1 choice if I could!

Thanks for contacting us, and the comment. It appears ProFurl has discontinued their boom furling line, last I heard. Perhaps it is somewhat due to the reasons you have mentioned. Converting from the Pro Furl to the Leisure Furl is a pretty straight forward conversion. Please contact us at [email protected] for pricing and lead time information. Alternatively, you can use our Work Request Form found on this site. This will ensure a speedy reply and give us all of your pertinent info.

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

After reviewing all the boom furler designs and associated issues, I decided to keep my ‘standard’ hank up main sail configuration.

Thinking of changing rig on a Hylas70 from aluminum to carbon.mast and carbon furling boom. Any thoughts on which manufacturer(s) is/are best for that size boat. Many thanks

Thanks for commenting. We work with several Carbon spar manufacturers: Offshore Spars, Southern, GMT, Selden, just to name a few. All have good carbon options. The decision often times comes down cost and timing. My initial thoughts are GMT as they provide both quality carbon spars and carbon furling booms (powered) and if i’m not mistaken already have made several OEM Hylas spars.

I also seem to remember there being a similar conversion done here recently, A Hylas 70 aluminum spar to Selden Carbon Spar, but no boom furler…if I remember correctly.

Feel free to email us some more boat details for discussion. EMAIL [email protected]

Good morning I am owner of a Westerly Conway 36 (sloop), that has an additional (external) dysfunctional mainsail furlind system. Αs I think to change it to a boom furler, I’d like to know the cost (approximately) of the materials

There’s a bit to it, but for round numbers and the sake of conversation. You may need a budget of at least $15k. This is for the Leisure Furler System. The Boom Furler may be a bit less and also the Schaefer system may come around the same.

This won’t include a new mainsail, and is required. Also required is a powered winch.

Hope that helps, let us know if you need any further assistance. Feel free to use [email protected] .

Thank’s a lot

Hello, I am the proud owner of a Tai Chiao CT – 56, (Bob Perry / Taiwanese / heavy displacement cruiser ketch), which still has the classic lazy jack / flaking mainsail ‘system’. She is currently docked in Fort Lauderdale. Well, the mizzen is a furling (behind the mast) system and the jib and cutter are furling too. But, since I would be modifying the main, I want to do the ‘right thing’ and get a boom furling system. Which boom furling system would you suggest? Thank you, Doug Sabbag S/V Triumph

Nice looking boat. Bob Perry is one of my fav’s. I’ll keep this answer short. This boat, without question, I would recommend the Forespar Leisure Furl system. Let us know if you need further information by emailing us at [email protected] .

I would welcome input and recommendations on installing in boom furling on our privilege 745 catamaran.

My initial thoughts are carbon fiber GMT, Offshore, Southern Spars, or Leisure Furl (maybe Romar version). Are the boat’s headsail furlers powered? Electric or Hydraulic? What brand are they? Please contact us via email fro further details at [email protected] .

Thanks, ~T.R.C.

Hi Team, I am in Australia .I have had a Leisurefurl since 1993 (yes 24 years ), 12yrs of which was sailing around the world in my 35′ catamaran. The system has been trouble free except for one irksome problem. I keep having to replace luff tapes because the plastic batten ends on the luff fatigue and wear the luff tape. I have tried webbing and cloth ends but that creates too much buIk. I notice that Schaffer address this problem with an articulating mast track. Could I have your thoughts please.

Hi Chris, Hi from USA! I can certainly say that is a great Leisure Furl product testament and an interesting issue. The question is, is the track system and feeder the latest iteration. They have since (last 10 years or so) made some improvements, hopefully they are addressing this batten issue. My first thought is Kevlar reinforcement at the In-board end of the batten, AND batten tension (so that it is not driving so hard against the mast in lighter air). That is just my initial thinking and please keep in mind, I am no sailmaker. Having said…if you have the track, feeder and top piece upgraded, then go to a sailmaker (preferably one that knows LF sails) and see what they prescribe.

Thank you for commenting and I hope that helps.

Dear Sirs, Now i am sailing a Corsair 28R trimaran with Carbon rotation mast and rotation boom. The boom rotate with a handle trough the mast. You must go to the front of the mast to turn the boom with the handle hoist the mainsail with the cord into the groove of the mast give some space ( resistance) and also steering into the wind. The way back give the same problems. With two persons it’s working well,but allone it’s nearly impossible.(nobody on the helm) Buying a Southern spars in boom furler is maybe to use on my trimaran. But is it a good solid and functional alternative? They are the only one with a offer for such a small boat. If you have a solution please contact me: Hans Weijer IJsseldijk Noord 272 2935 BR Ouderkerk aan de IJssel The Netherlands Mob 0031 6 38540132 E-mail [email protected]

This Southern Spars boom seems to be great solution. We are a dealer for them as well, so let us know if you have any product needs or questions as well. Beyond that option, I have just converted my other customer to stowing the sail conventionally (flaked) on top of the boom with a set of our Dyneema lazy jacks.

Hi RTC, Please tell me more abouth stowing the sail conventionally (flaked) on the top of the boom with a set of Your Dyneema lazy jacks. If possible drawings and descriptions.

Hi Hans, Have you seen this diagram?

…also this article may be of use

Beyond that please feel free to give us a call, 443-847-1004 or shoot us an email @ [email protected] for more information. We’d be glad to help.

Merhaba benim kılasik yelkenli leopard 45 catamaranım var furlin boom sistemi taktırmak istiyorum yardımcı olurmusunuz Türkiyeden yazıyorum

Hi Mustafa,

Hi, I have the older version of the Profurl boom furler on both my main and mizzen. The mizzen has worked well, yet the main boom, has had lots of issues as it is much larger and thus heavier. Agree 100% that it has an ugly extrusion behind the mast, yet I do see in your picture above that they now cover this up, so maybe I can retro fit one of these. I have had vang issues on both booms as you suggest, yet an upgrade of parts has fixed all of the problems, I only get 3 years out of the gas struts though. The main problem I have had is the nuts hold everything together coming loose, so I would recommend changing them regularly with new ones. As they come loose the components work themselves to death which has led to most of my issues. I use boom brakes on both booms, and I would use them even if I didn’t have a boom furler, they are much better than a preventer. Considering my furlers are now close to 20 years old and how easy they make sail handling, I thank the previous owner that forked out the $ and installed them. Rgds Mark Hunter. SV. Evening Star, Hinckley 49

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Yes, I would have to do a little research but I am sure that these ProFurl systems can be upgraded…track or anything else for that matter.

Sounds like you are doing all of the right things to ensure that this system keeps working for you. Nice to see. Also ‘good on ya’ for using the boom brakes , they’re great!

Let us know if you need us to find about more ie ProFurl.

I am about to order a new Lagoon 52F cat which has a Leisure Furl in boom option. With a ‘senior’ crew of two, it seemed like a no-brainier. What would be your main positive and negative considerations? We will be sailing the lesser Antilles chain primarily. Will servicing or maintenance be problematic? (base in St. Maarten) Thanks so much!

Thanks for using us for your questions. These systems, as long as they are installed and operated correctly, will offer many years of trouble free and maintenance free service. Definitely, take the time to have someone show you the system…a customer sail so to speak, with someone who knows boom furlers. Also call Leisure Furl directly and speak with Alan Massey for specific tips and tricks. He will be a good contact should you ever have any questions or problems. Also take plenty of time to practice hoisting and reefing in light air conditions before setting off on any major trips.

This may have been a shorter answer than what you are looking for, but the negatives once set up correctly are relatively small. Clearly the closer you are to the wind the better the system will work for in terms of hoisting and dousing. Heavy air runs may require you to come up a few ticks to help unload things. The positives are quite a long list as stated in the article .

Thanks for the read and for commenting.

I have a Swan 47 with a carbon fiber mast and boom. Have you had any experience with a similar installation?

Hi Barry, we do. We do have experience in all aspects ….commissioning, repair, construction, stepping, assembly, refinishing? Even with Swan yachts in particular and/or carbon fiber spars in general.

Let us know how we can be of service further. Thanks.

Is there a boom fuler for a Victoria 18 ?


What about in boom furling system for a 80 feet blue cruiser? Better fiber carbon boom or aluminium? Thanks for any suggestion and an idea of costs. Massimiliano

I would likely recommend a carbon boom for something that size. It is very likely that any aluminum boom manufacturer may not have a boom big enough to fit your boat…80 foot is kind of on the edge. The manufacturers I would recommend are Leisure Furl (especially alu.) or GMT. For price you can expect to spend almost double for carbon, but as I said that may be your only option. Pricing installed can range from $35k (if we can get alu.) to $60k, not including the sail (which will also need to be replaced). The boat will require a hydraulic vang and an electric main halyard winch as well. I can generate a quote for you if you like… I will need the boat’s P dimension (mainsail max hoist), E dimension (mainsail max outhaul), and the boats displacement. Also the more info the better; what kind of boat is it, who is the manufacturer, etc…?

Thanks and I hope that helps.

I have a Jon Meri 40 (1988). What would Leisure Furl cost. My main is 10%!linger than standard main. Is Leisurefurl the best choice?

Thanks for taking the time. I would need some specific info, but can give you rough pricing. The system for this boat can run anywhere between $15-$19k (in aluminum, carbon and faired options available at additional costs) depending on what size boom is required. This is the system only price and not installed. Complete with install the $15k version could end up running around $20k installed. This does not include the new mainsail that would be required. A unit specific vang or hydraulic vang will also be a requirement. The boat will need a low stretch main halyard and an electric main halyard winch, which would also be utilized for the main furling line (electric drive versions also available, eliminating the furling line). Lastly we always recommend the use of a boom brake to help ease the forces of jibes.

Yes, Leisure Furl is the way to go here. Pricing is roughly the same throughout the various manufacturers, but LF’s product is superior.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions. Please let us know how we can help further, when you are ready.

I have a Jon Meri 40 sloop., 1988. It has a larger than standard Jon Meri main, +10% along the foot.

I am interested in a boom furling mostly because I am now 81 and still actively cruise. I sail almost exclusively in New England. I want the ease of putting the main away at the end of the day and the safety of reefing more simply.

Thanks for commenting, and yes a properly set up boom furling system can make for years of easier mainsail handling.

Feel free to contact us via email or telephone with any questions and more product information on the various Systems.

We’d be glad to help.

I have a Sabre 452 looking for approximate price for new boom curling system liesure furl and Schaefer . I have an electric winch which I currently use to raise the mainsail. Also looking for quality instillation. Will be replacing main. Boat is in Greenport Long Island . Thanks Steve Scaring

Good morning, I’m trying to sell my Moody 46 1998, she’s sloop rigged and have had an enquiry asking if the in mast furling (Selden) can be changed to in boom furling. Please can you give me some advice and ball park numbers for the conversion. Many thanks Tony Donnelly

Thanks for asking Tony. Leisure Furl just started OFFERING IN-MAST conversion kits. Essentially 6′ plates that are painted (or anodized) and riveted across the span of the opening tying the two sides of the mast together. This is a fairly new product so there is very little owner feedback other than what LF has done with field testing on customer boats. That conversation is better had with Alan Massey of Forespar.

This conversion, with new boom furling system, all said and done could run approx. $30k. Overall we think it would be best to purchase a new conventional mast (custom TRC or Selden). This would make the total more in the $50k range. PLEASE NOTE! These are very loose numbers, (and can vary as much as $5-10k up or down) so please don’t hold us to it. A proper detailed estimate can be provided upon request .

However, this should give the new owner a feel for anticipated costs. Hope this helps…

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  • Yachting World
  • Digital Edition

Yachting World cover

Is in-boom furling the next big thing in sail handling technology?

Yachting World

  • August 24, 2020

The engineering of in-boom furling systems has been considerably refined over the years and today’s systems are much better than early iterations, writes Rupert Holmes


Easy reefing on the Kraken 66 White Dragon during our heavy airs test, with an in-boom system by Southern Spars. Photo: Kraken Yachts

What’s on the market? 9 options for in-boom furling

This newly launched system has a V-shape carbon boom and is available in five sizes for boats of 40-70ft. The Danish company, whose team has 50 years of experience with in-boom systems, says it paid attention to every detail to make the system “both elegant and practical.”

The prototype was tested on an Xc45 using the boat’s electric coachroof winches. When hoisting, one turn of the furling line can be held around a winch to give the necessary resistance and the same can be done with the halyard when lowering the sail.

Following the trial, sales and marketing director Peter Westfal told Yachting World : “We are very happy with the result [and] all features were working like we expected.”


Mainfurl system sits within a V-shaped carbon boom

An electric motor can be built into the mandrel to provide a more automated solution, with the endless manual furling line retained as a backup.

A Dyneema strop of exactly the right length is provided to hold the boom against the gas vang at the correct height. The gooseneck fittings and luff track are designed for easy retrofitting to existing carbon and aluminium masts.

Neat features include grooves for attaching both sail cover and cockpit awnings. The mandrel is raised at the outboard end of the boom, which gives a more appealing aesthetic, as the aft end of the boom doesn’t appear to be raised as high.

On the downside, Westfal tells me the system can’t be used to furl when sailing downwind, but that it is possible on a reach if mainsheet and vang are eased to take the pressure out of the sail. Price: £33,600 for a 45ft yacht.


A Grand Soleil 45 sailing in Rhode Island with a Schaefer in-boom furling system

Schaefer Marine

Massachusetts-based Schaefer Marine engineers its systems using machined aluminium components, which are sleeker and lighter than castings, but more expensive. A key benefit of this system, which was originally developed in 2001, is that reefing can take place on any point of sail, including with the wind aft. This is achieved with a ‘scoop’ that leads the luff tape into a patented articulating mast track that maintains alignment with the gooseneck.

The furling drum is mounted at the aft end of the boom to free up space for a neat arrangement at the gooseneck. The downside is this furler position adds a little friction, but that’s unlikely to be a problem on a boat with electric winches. To minimise friction elsewhere, oversized dual race Torlon bearings are used at each end of the mandrel.

A heavy duty fixed rigid vang ensures the boom is always at the correct angle for consistently reliable operation at the expense of losing control of mainsail twist.

The system is available in two versions, Beta and Gamma, to suit maximum luff lengths of 13.4m (44ft) and 16.4m (54ft). The UK distributor is Warsash-based Sea Sure. Prices ex VAT: Beta US$13,800 (approx £11,000); Gamma US$19,900 (approx £16,000).

Leisure Furl

This well established brand is part of California-based Forespar and has produced thousands of systems for boats from 9-24m (24-79ft), plus custom units for yachts up to 100ft.

The company says furling can be carried out when sailing downwind, with the boom sheeted in to 45° to move the sail away from shrouds and spreaders. The furling drum is on the front of the mast and incorporates a manual override option.

Leisure Furl produces eight models for boats from 27-70ft in aluminium or carbon. Average price ex VAT for a 45-footer: US$16,000 (approx £13,000).

Romar Leisure Furl

This Dutch company was a Leisure Furl distributor, but now offers its own product in carbon or aluminium construction, with most being aluminium for yachts in the 45-80ft bracket. These are fabricated from shaped aluminium plates, bonded with epoxy resins using techniques developed in the automotive and aerospace sectors.

“This switch was done to get rid of any corrosion and to create a stiffer boom,” says CEO Johan Mulder. It also reduces costs by around 50% compared to a carbon boom, although a carbon fibre mandrel is used for extra stiffness. Manual, electric or hydraulic operation is available. Prices start from €18,000 for a 45ft yacht.

This is a 20-year-old Danish company whose products have been fitted to a wide range of yachts, from production cruisers to top quality designs.

Booms are produced in fibreglass, carbon and composite with a carbon appearance, for yachts from 36-70ft. They incorporate cockpit lights – white for use in port and red for night sailing – on the underside of the boom. Guide prices ex VAT for a 45ft yacht: fibreglass €27,432; carbon €41,208.

Danish spar manufacturer John Mast which produces the Hi-Low reefer system in three models to suit boats from approximately 6-12m (20-40ft). This costs €8,292 for a 40ft yacht.

Part of the French Wichard Group, Profurl has a wide range of in-boom systems for boats from 5-18m (17-59ft) with aluminium spars.

Sailtainer is a long-standing brand, with more than 1,000 units produced, and is sold in the UK by Jeckells. The furling drum is at the aft end of the boom and the system is available in sizes to suit luff lengths from 5-24m (16-79ft).

Hall Spars, part of the North Technology Group, produces five all-carbon models, catering for yachts from 40-100ft. The system’s geometry allows the mainsail to be furled or reefed while sailing downwind. Manual, hydraulic and electric drives are available.

First published in the July 2020 edition of Yachting World.

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. What’s on the market? 9 options for in-boom furling

Yachting Monthly

  • Digital edition

Yachting Monthly cover

Mainsail furling systems: an expert guide

Graham Snook

  • Graham Snook
  • December 21, 2020

Some sailors swear by mainsail furling systems, others swear at them. Graham Snook looks at way to keep your furling mainsail in check

A yacht with a furling mainsail system and in-boom furling

In-mast furling mainsails (left) have evolved significantly, and vertical battens allow more roach and better sail shape. Credit: Graham Snook

Mainsail furling systems have come on a long way.

Sails no longer need to be wrapped around a boom, nor does an in-mast mainsail need to be the hollow-leached, baggy triangle we first saw decades ago.

Furling mainsail systems can now offer more sail area than a traditional slab-reefed mainsail.

Be that as it may, every slab-reefed sailor knows a horror story about in-mast or in-boom furling that is enough to make them steer well clear, while those that have furling mains wouldn’t put to sea without one.

There is little doubt that furling mainsails are gaining in popularity, even for serious offshore cruising boats.

A damaged furling mainsail

Get mainsail furling wrong and it can lead to costly and potentially dangerous problems. Credit: Graham Snook

In 2018, 38% of boats sailing round the world in the World ARC had furling mainsail.

Hallberg Rassy reports that almost all new owners buying boats over 40ft opt for furling mainsail systems, with Discovery reporting a similar trend.

So has the reputation of furling mainsails been unfairly tainted, and are they more prone to user error, or have the systems ironed out the glitches?

Whether you’ve got a furling main on your own boat, or if you’ll be using one when you charter, it’s worth knowing how to avoid the pitfalls of furling mainsails.

How do furling mainsail systems work?

In an age where we expect everything just to be simple and to work, letting off one line, and pulling another to make the mainsail appear or disappear sounds appealing, but what is the best way to furl the mainsail?

Is there a correct way to do it?

‘Carefully,’ replies Jeremy White,of Elvstrøm Sails UK. ‘They’re mechanical systems and they need to be operated correctly.’

Whether you have in-boom or in-mast, they both work on a similar principle which anyone with a furling genoa will be familiar with.

Inside the mast is an aluminium foil that takes the luff of the mainsail, and in a boom a mandrel takes the foot of the mainsail; both the foil and the mandrel revolve to roll up the sail.

A lot of issues with in-mast furling are caused by the sail not furling properly inside the mast and the furl being too bulky or the sail rubbing on the inside of the mast.

Many in-boom problems are caused by an uneven furl with the sail bunching at one end or the other.

There are a number of issues to look out for with each system to ensure stress-free furling.

Different options

If you’ve bought a new boat that was ‘good value’ and it came with sails, question how good those sails really are.

Many original Dacron sails are built to a price that will get you on the water and get you sailing, but they may not be built for longevity or performance unless you’ve specified them and know what you’re getting.

There has been much advancement in furling mainsail design, improved materials, vertical battens, and increased sail area.

Many new furling mainsail systems present a larger sail area than that of a conventional slab reefing sail.

But what should you be looking for when buying a new sail?

‘Whichever sailmaker you choose, get the highest quality material you can afford,’ advises Jeremy.

It’s a false economy to buy cheaper sailcloth as it will stretch and you’ll be left with a baggy sail after a few seasons.

For example, the luff of laminate sail (on a 45ft yacht) might only stretch 15mm over its lifetime, but on a polyester sail that might be as much as 15 cm.

That excess sail has to roll up in the same space as did when it was new.

For those wanting maximum sail area, and sail support, full-length vertical battens are the way forward.

These support the leech giving a good full roach, and importantly, they support the sail over its full height which gives it rigidity while it’s being furled, whereas shorter, vertical roach battens can leave the sail unsupported at their base causing furling problems.

For those without the budget or desire for a battened sail using modern materials, a sail with a hollow leech still offers many advantages over a slab reefing system, namely ease of reefing, the ability to set exactly the right amount of sail, and the simplicity of stowing, even if you do lose some power from a smaller sail area and a less perfect aerofoil sail shape.

If you’re having new sails made consider getting them silicone-coated.

This helps the sail slide over itself making the furl inside the mast tighter.

In-mast furling

It may be a simple system, but how you unfurl and furl the main will help avoid problems.

If you were to look down from the top of the mast, the foil usually rolls onto the foil in anti-clockwise direction, that is, the unfurled sail comes off the starboard side of the foil, though it’s worth checking on yours.

This is the key to getting in-mast furling to work correctly; trying to furl on a port tack drags the full height of the sail over the side of the mast slot, adding friction where there shouldn’t be any.

Furling on starboard tack obviates most of this friction while you furl.

Batten on a furling mainsail system

Full-height battens support a larger roach, but make the furled sail more bulky. Credit: Graham Snook

Whether letting the sail in or out, the first thing is to release the backstay (to straighten the mast so the foil doesn’t rub) and put the boat on a starboard tack – with the wind slightly forward of the beam – this is so the sail feeds cleanly into the mast and around the furler inside.

Unfurling the sail is usually pain-free if the sail was furled correctly.

A diagram showing an in-mast furling system

With the yacht on a starboard tack and the wind forward of the beam, release the mainsheet and vang.

Ensure the furling line is released then pull out the sail using the outhaul.

A man easing a main sail via winches on a yacht

Ease the outhaul as your furl so the sail doesn’t flog but isn’t loaded up either. Credit: Theo Stocker

You shouldn’t need to control the furling line as there should be no pressure on the sail, even on a windy day.

If you intend to be reefed, however, don’t let it run unchecked. When the right amount of sail is out, make off the furling line. If you’re reefed, tension the outhaul to give the sail the correct shape (flatter in stronger winds and when close-hauled) then set the mainsheet and vang and away you sail.

  • Release the backstay (if you have one)
  • Put the boat on a starboard tack – with the wind slightly forward of the beam
  • Release the mainsheet and vang
  • When the right amount of sail is out, make off the furling line
  • Tension the outhaul to give the sail a correct shape, then sheet in

To furl the sail, after letting off the backstay and putting her on a starboard tack with the wind slightly forward of the beam, let off the mainsheet and then ease the outhaul a little and start to furl.

Always look at the sail as you’re furling – you’ll be able to notice issues as they happen and not after you’ve wound an inch-thick clump of sail through a half-inch gap.

A man sorting out reefing lines on a yacht

Having different coloured lines can make things simpler for your crew. Credit: Theo Stocker

If your sail has full-length vertical battens ensure the first batten is parallel with the mast when it enters, and if reefing, leave a batten just outside the mast groove.

Keeping too much tension on the outhaul will drag the foil aft in the mast, bending it and causing the sail to rub against the inside of the mast, creating friction.

Once you’ve taken the slack out of the sail, ease the outhaul and take in on the furling line again.

Try not to let the sail flog as this also bends the foil and causes more friction.

Repeat the ease-furl process until only the UV protection strip is showing.

A yacht undersail

Sail on starboard with wind forward of the beam for easy furling. Credit: Theo Stocker

If you have laminate sails, and they have been furled away wet, try to dry them at the first opportunity.

If you’re having problems furling using the lines, don’t be afraid to go to the mast with a winch handle and furl the sail at the mast.

Try it one day, it is remarkably easy.

If you’re having to do anything different, such as raising the boom or chanting a prayer to the god of furling fails, it’s worth looking at your system in detail for problems.

  • Release the backstay
  • Ease the outhaul a little
  • Take in on the furling line
  • Keep easing the outhaul and taking in on the furling line
  • Furl the sail until the UV strip is showing at the mast

Problem solving

If furling the right way still isn’t working for you, there are a number of things to consider…, 1. understand your system.

First to check is to have a look inside your mast at which way your system should furl.

If your furling system has the option, put a winch handle in the furling mechanism at the mast and turn it the direction indicated to make sure the sail is going into the mast in the correct direction.

Clicking over the ratchet at the mast before it’s time to furl will ensure it always rolls in the right direction.

2. Assess your sails

The biggest cause of problems is the sail itself – how old it is and the material it is made from.

Stretch in the cloth makes baggy sails, which furling systems will happily munch on.

Furling mainsails are cut flatter than conventional slab-reefing sails as accommodating the belly of the sail is problematic.

A baggy sail

An old or baggy sail may cause jams, as will creases from not enough halyard tension. Credit: Theo Stocker

Some older furling mains may have be made with an inappropriate, fully-bellied shape.

If your polyester sails have a deep belly, think about getting new ones as you’ll be fighting a losing battle.

As the belly folds, it doubles the thickness of the furl, causing unsightly and inefficient creases at best, and hideous sail jams or rips at worst.

3. Adjust halyard tension

Excess halyard tension can also cause the fabric to bunch up; vertical creases at the luff cause the sail to fold over itself.

A sail showing halyard tension

Vertical creases at the luff reveal too much halyard tension, and potential for more snags. Credit: Theo Stocker

To resolve this, release the halyard until you have horizontal creases at the luff, then add just enough tension to remove them, though you may need to adjust this when underway.

4. Check the backstay

While the mast is bending, the foil inside it remains straight; the furled sail will bind at the apex of the mast’s bend.

If all of this fails, it’s worth calling a rigger to check the foil tension.

If this has gone slack, as you furl the foil will bend and rub against the mast.

5. Smooth it out

The next thing to look at is reducing friction.

As is often the case, the lines to your furling gear and outhaul are led through various fairleads and blocks across the deck and up the mast.

Reefing lines on a boat

Move deck organisers to give slacker turning angles. Credit: Theo Stocker

Make sure all the angles they have to go through are a wide as possible – consider moving them if not – and all blocks and sheaves are running smoothly.

A good wash with fresh water and a squirt of dry lubricant can work wonders.

In-boom furling

Not a new concept, in-boom furling is an elegant solution, but brings its own challenges.

Unlike in-mast furling, in-boom systems can be retrofitted in place of conventional slab reefing.

For an in-boom furling system to work efficiently, however, it has to overcome a number of problems.

In boom furling system on a yacht

To start with, have a crew on deck to watch the sail as it furls to spot any issues. Credit: Advanced Rigging and Hydraulics

First of all, the sail has to be led from the boom to the mast, but there needs to be space for the bearings for the central mandrel and the boom’s gooseneck fitting, so the whole sail has to move aft along the boom.

To combat this, many in-boom systems have a protruding track on the trailing edge of the mast, while other units have the reefing mechanism at the aft end of the boom, or sometimes you’ll find a combination of both.

Whatever the system, there is usually a flexible feeder to guide the sail from the boom and feed it into the mast track.

A furling drum on a sail

The furling drum at the outboard end of the boom brings the main closer to the mast. Credit: Advanced Rigging and Hydraulics

Another issue with in-boom furling is the bolt rope, as Andy Cross from Crusader sails explains.

‘The sail has to use a bolt rope, and with it comes friction. Unlike a furling genoa that may only be raised and lowered once a season, the mainsail is nearly always used so the luff tape has to be reinforced.’

Any wear or damage to the bolt rope also requires a new bolt rope along the full luff of the sail, as any repairs would soon wear through and increase the friction.

The necessary extra reinforcement at the luff brings with it another problem: extra cloth thickness at the front end of the sail.

Boom on a yacht

When reefing, stop when a batten is just above the mandrel, then take in on the furling line. Credit: Graham Snook/Yachting Monthly

As the sail rolls around the mandrel there is more sail material at the luff than across the rest of the sail.

The solution?

To slightly raise the aft end of the boom, allowing the extra sailcloth at the luff to roll at a rate that matches the leech.

The angle from the mast to the top of the boom has to be 87° to the mast, 3° above perpendicular.

The full-length battens in the mainsail help stabilise the sail as it furls and the batten pockets have been attached to the sail to match the mandrel angle.

It’s the thickness of cloth at the luff and the battens that make the correct boom angle the most important part of the system.

sail on a yacht

The necessary bulk of the boltrope makes the boom angle critical.

Get that right and your life suddenly becomes a whole lot easier.

It’s essential to mark the vang when the boom angle is correct.

Some owners choose to make a strop, running next to the vang, out of a low-stretch material like Dyneema, so the topping lift can be pulled taught and the strop prevents the boom raising higher than it should.

When marking or limiting the boom angle, it must be easy for any crew to see, by day or night.

How to get it right

1. prepare to set sail.

‘Before raising, lowering, or reefing the mainsail,’ explains Kim Petersen, Elvstrøm Denmark’s in-boom sail specialist, ‘get into the habit of always releasing the backstay tension – this will successfully straighten the mast and takes any flattening tension out of the sail – and then making sure the boom is at the correct angle – this is extremely important.’

Electric winch control systems at the helm

Be careful with electric winches not to over-tighten halyards. Credit: Graham Snook

To raise the sail, after slackening the back stay and adjusting the boom level, point the boat into the wind, release the mainsheet and take up on the mainsail halyard, making sure that the furling line can run free as you hoist the mainsail.

Once set, increase the halyard tension until the horizontal creases at the luff have just gone.

2. Reducing sail power

If you don’t need full sail, only raise the sail until the nearest batten is at the mandrel.

Rather than being able to reef at any point, where the lower battens are fitted, the sailmaker will have reinforced the sail to take the clew loads.

Not reefing at these points means an area of unreinforced leech could be required to take a load it was not designed for.

A yacht with a furling mainsail

Each batten represents a reefing point. Credit: Graham Snook

You’ll end up with fullness at the foot of the sail and a stretched leech, or a damaged sail.

If you need to flatten the sail, for better pointing or in stronger winds, take in on the furling line without adjusting the halyard tension.

This will give the same result as using a cunningham to tighten the luff.

Furling the main

When lowering the sail, release the backstay and set the boom at the correct angle.

It’s then best to take all the pressure off the sail by heading into the wind.

It doesn’t matter if the sail is flogging; the battens keep the sail rigid and support it as it furls.

If there is any pressure on the sail, this will cause it to furl unevenly.

In-boom reefing on a yacht

With in-boom reefing you should still have a good sail shape even when deeply reefed. Credit: Graham Snook/Yachting Monthly

Unlike an in-mast furling system, where the sail is visible, on an in-boom system everything is happening on top of the boom, overhead and out of sight.

If you have a crew member spare and it’s safe, sending them to the mast to keep an eye on the sail as it furls can prevent damage, at least for the first few times using the system.

Pull in on the furling line, slowly and smoothly releasing the mainsail halyard, but keep a bit of tension on it.

Continues below…

in boom furling catamaran

The tools and spares you shouldn’t sail without

Give a thought to your inventory this winter to keep you cruising next season, says Rachael Sprot

Deck fittings

Why you should regularly check your deck fittings

What’s really going on under your deck fittings? Ben Sutcliffe-Davies investigates the hidden weaknesses


Essential reefing tips for cruisers

Reefing: how, when and why do we do it? The answers may not be as straightforward as you think, says…

in boom furling catamaran

How to: replace a halyard

Whether you’re replacing an old halyard for new, or mousing the mast over winter, Rubicon 3’s Rachael Sprot explains how…

If you have too much tension the sail will want to roll away from the mast; if you’re seeing creases running from the bottom of the track to the boom at 45°, release the halyard a little more.

If the sail is rolling up toward the mast, you’ll need to increase the tension a little.

As the sail furls, the luff tape will naturally first roll aft, then move forward and repeat this – it’s all perfectly normal.

Once the sail is fully down, tuck the head into the boom if your system allows it, and add the sail cover.

Reefing underway

To reef when sailing, release the backstay and set the boom angle.

In rough weather, or when there are big seas, it’s best to take up on the boom’s topping lift to secure the boom and stop it rising and falling as the yacht goes over the wave crest.

A sail being protected from the sun with a metal cover

Cover the sail once stowed to protect from UV. Credit: Advanced Rigging and Hydraulics

You’ll find it easier if you can bring the boat onto the wind and release the mainsheet to remove all drive from the mainsail; if the sail is flogging it’s depowered and can still be furled.

Next, take in on the furling line while slowly and smoothly easing the halyard as the sail furls.

Graham Snook

Graham Snook is a marine photographer and journalist who has been involved in testing yachts and equipment for over 20 years. Credit: Graham Snook

Once you’ve reached a point where the batten is at the mandrel on top of the boom, make off the halyard and then furl the sail until the batten is under the mandrel.

Without reefing pennants to hold and support the clew of the sail, the loads are transferred to the batten and the cloth around it.

Because of this, it’s recommended that for in-boom reefing mainsails, a stronger stretch-resistant cloth like Dacron reinforced with Vectran or Dyneema or a tough cruising laminate cloth be used.

Whichever mainsail furling system you have or choose, spending a bit of time practising what works and what doesn’t on your system, at a time when it’s convenient to you, will pay dividends when you find you do need to reef.

Mainsail furling has had a bad reputation in the past, but used properly and with a little care, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t give you trouble-free sailing for years to come.

To raise the sail

  • Release the backstay tension
  • Make sure the boom is at the correct angle – use a strop or mark the vang if necessary
  • Head up into the wind – it doesn’t matter if the main flogs as it goes up
  • Release the mainsheet
  • Take up on the mainsail halyard, but do not overtighten

To lower the sail

  • Make sure the boom is at the correct angle
  • Point the yacht into the wind
  • Take in on the furling line as you ease the halyard at a steady rate
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In-Boom Furling: Five Systems

in boom furling catamaran

Our last good look at in-boom furling systems was in the August 1, 1998 issue, when we liked both ProFurl and Leisure Furl, giving the edge to the latter despite its greater cost. The recent introduction of Schaefer’s new in-boom system gives us an excuse to revisit the subject and the systems in the field.

In-Boom Furling: Five Systems

From the outset we’d acknowledge that with each passing year, sailhandling systems get more and more refined and efficient—never mind the days of footropes and gaskets, of one hand for the headsail and one for yourself during routine jib changes.

Even so, the mainsail remains a challenge. Stacking systems, lazy jacks, the Dutchman, in-mast furlers… all contribute their share of convenience and control, but none has proven to be the answer. Stowing, furling, and reefing the main is still a sizable chore, especially as the size of your boat increases. And, as always when we attempt to conquer the considerable forces of wind and wave by mechanical means, we tread a fine line between convenience and chaos.

Background In the late ’80s, Hood Systems introduced the Stoboom, and rolling the sail inside the boom became an option. More affordable and less risky than furling the main inside the mast, these boom furlers were a big hit. However, the newly-engineered hardware proved to be more complicated and ultimately less convenient than it looked. It was, according to one owner who sailed a Hunter 42, “the costliest consumer mistake I ever made.” 

The sail entered and exited the Hood boom through a narrow slot in the top of the tube. For that and several other reasons Stobooms proved  jammable. They were also  fickle in terms of boom angle, and costly in terms of luff chafe. Hood tried education (a special aftermarket owner’s manual) and hand-holding (extensive customer service) before eventually pulling the Stoboom off the market. “However,” says Paul Boyce of Hood Yacht Systems, “we’re still involved in in-boom furling with hydraulic systems fitted to larger boats, most of which are in Europe.”

The advantages of in-boom furling that prompted Hood’s “noble experiment” have not disappeared with Stoboom. Compared with in-mast furling, the boom-based systems weigh less and keep weight lower. Probably the most significant selling point of a sail that lives in the boom, however,  is its shape. In-mast furlers require roachless, high-aspect triangles, thus reducing mainsail area, distorting ideal shape, and lessening draft control. We’ve talked with sailmakers, and most peg the overall performance loss that you’ll pay for the convenience of in-mast furling at 20% or worse. With a boom-furling system you can assure yourself of a powerful modern sailplan with plenty of roach, with the additional bonus of being able to use full-length battens to help control sail shape and reduce flogging.

There are other plusses—freedom from reefing-line clutter, variable sizing potential, automatic sail-covering, and the ability to retain your original spar, to name a few—but to us the most telling difference is safety: If an in-mast furler jams it’s probable that someone will need to go aloft to free it. Until then, you’ll be stuck with a hoisted mainsail in what may be exactly the wrong conditions. A jam in the boom can be addressed from on deck. If all else fails, just drop the sail as you would a normal main and furl it on the boom instead of inside.

But boom furling has plenty of detractors. Butch Ulmer, veteran sailmaker from City Island, NY, feels cautious about it: “The geometry still needs to be worked out. Big roaches drive battens forward. Overcoming that friction isn’t easy and it’s certainly not automatic.”

We asked the owner of a 73-footer who undertook a complete and costly refit why he hadn’t put a boom furler aboard. “I don’t need a $20,000 sailcover,” he replied.

Peter Harken, whose company makes headsail furling systems, said “We haven’t gotten into in-boom furlers because we think there’s a better way. We may be a bit prejudiced, but we feel that the batt-car system we’ve devised is the safest, surest, easiest way for getting a sail up and down easily and when you really need it. I  can just about guarantee those cars won’t jam, and you can’t say that about anybody’s boom-furler. Most of these systems work most of the time, but when you really need it, give me something that’s simple and foolproof.”

The In-Boom Furling Field Today there are five in-boom systems on the market. We’ve sailed them all, noting design, construction, and performance. Given the conditions, we did our best to see how each delivers on the promise of boom furling. And at what price?

One overall conclusion is that, while Stoboom may have spoiled the boom-furling parade for lots of sailors, today’s systems really work. We put the gear through paces that occasionally created problems, but those snags never kept us from executing our set/reef/reset/douse evolution.

Schaefer and John Mast have relatively narrow openings in the top of their booms, but among the others there’s a trend toward open-topped extrusions.

You can still hold the boom up with a topping lift while rolling the main in, but all the systems we saw used a fixed, solid vang to do the job.

While you can get by without power winches, the whole process of setting and reefing, especially singlehanded, is easier if your winches have power. This is not to say that there isn’t a certain swashbuckling appeal in rolling the sail with one hand cranking the self-tailer and the other easing the halyard (keeping good tension for a nice tight roll).

Though they share the same basic idea, the five systems are significantly different. So are the companies that produce them. Leisure Furl has been around since the early ’90s, and its track record and testimonials are impressive. Schaefer Marine, a well-established hardware company, on the other hand offers a new system born of three years of design and development, but without much time in service. ProFurl engaged in extensive aerodynamic testing and material analysis before introducing a boom-furler just over three years ago. The big French company with dealers in 52 countries has since been energetic in promoting boom-furling to both the general public and among sailmakers.

Furlboom (“designed and built in Australia by Aussie yachtsmen to suit our rugged sailing conditions”) has had a varied career and is now built and  sold by the recently-formed Yachting Systems of America in Costa Mesa, CA. Like Leisure Furl, the company has concentrated efforts on centralizing manufacture and now offers a system that is entirely American-made.

The John Mast (JM) Hi-Low Reefer is imported from Denmark by Lars Pedersen of Bente Trading Company, Mercer Island, WA. Pedersen has long been a boom-furling zealot; he worked with the Danish mastmaker to develop the system. Over 1,500 boom-furlers have been  sold in Europe since 1990.

Leisure Furl Over a decade ago New Zealand sparmaker Don Baverstock first came out with his roll-up system. Today KZ Marine, for whom Baverstock is a consultant, claims that “over 85 % of the new boats launched in New Zealand have our booms.” Says Bill Hanna at Forespar, US manufacturer of Leisure Furl, “Our system began with bigger boats and has evolved into boats closer to the everyday as it has gone along. The point is, we’ve been dealing with loads that are very significant right from the outset.”

Click here to view Leisure Furl images .

The first thing you notice about the Leisure Furl system is that the boom is virtually topless, with a wide “gutter” covered by a clever sliding sail cover. It has an attractively tapered silhouette and affords the convenience of letting you see and service the innards. The two key elements in the furler, however, are its “through-the-mast” drive shaft and the universal joint that joins it to the mandrel at the gooseneck. The “free-floating” universal means maximum power can be applied to rolling the sail. (Leisure Furl is the only manufacturer to use a universal; the other four systems rely on drum drives).

“We found it incredible that we could furl downwind in 50 knots in Bass Strait in the Sydney-Hobart Race,” reports one user.

Chuck Poindexter (Sound Rigging, Essex, CT) has installed 14 Leisure Furl units. “I was surprised to learn when we had a naval architect do the calculations that the drive shaft actually strengthens the mast…by 11% to be exact. When I first got involved it was because a customer wanted me to survey the gear on a boat that had made one and a half circumnavigations. It had a Leisure Furl. I ‘dissected’ the universal and it was perfect.”

Other components include a foot groove halfway from tack to clew. It captures a short bolt rope on the middle third of the sail, holding it to the mandrel. With a loose-floating tack and two-part clew pendant you can roll the sail (similar to the first rolls of a custom-luff headsail) so that the middle rolls in while tack and clew stay loose. What this gives you, we soon realized, was a flattening reef that offers an elegant range of draft control by adjusting the furling line while keeping the halyard tight.

A significant difference between systems is how they attach to the mast. Leisure Furl uses a conventional luff tape, captive in a “self-aligning” feeder that leads to a fixed luff groove. Dr. Robert Leaf, one of the first Americans to put Leisure Furl on his boat, had a big problem “chewing up luff tapes to the tune of three or four a season.” Cutting sails to minimize “pullback” and new, tougher luff tapes seem to have solved the problem.

“It’s how the sail drops at the tack,” Poindexter says. “If it drops right onto the mandrel you’re fine. I’ve been impressed that Leisure Furl has continued to evolve and improve.”

With halyard tension and boom angle you can control how your sail rolls onto the mandrel to a large degree.

Leisure Furl’s chafe problems at the tack seem to be its biggest Achilles Heel, and one to which sailors can address themselves as they learn their systems.

Leisure Furl is moderately encouraging about retrofitting your old mainsail to suit the system, but we wonder if it isn’t something of a false economy to marry top-of-the-line furling gear with a recycled sail, given the critical nature of how the sail fits and is reinforced. Because of the number of components, relationships, and variables, we think Leisure Furl’s “riggers only” installation scheme makes sense, too.

John Mast Hi-Low Reefer This reefer is the departure point from which the others have developed. The main idea at its inception was to make boom furling easy and accessible. Judging by the more than 1,000 boom furlers now afloat in Europe, it worked. The Hi-Lo gooseneck bracket is adjustable, and job one is mounting it to your mast.  The boom is open at its forward end for sail access and transfer. The sail’s bolt rope is inserted in a flexible PVC luff track, which can be fitted to the mast in different ways. The system is simple and works well, but it does not appear as solid as its rivals. (Even the furling drum looked somewhat undersized to us.) When we rolled in a reef (using a handheld electric winch grinder) a pleat formed along the boom. Rolling the sail out to re-reef did the trick, but the full-length battens pushed forward of the mast track and created more friction than we thought reasonable.

Click here to view John Mast Hi-Low images .

With the John Mast and the other in-boom reefers it’s best to reef down to a full-length batten, which can then help support the foot of the sail. Being incompressible, it acts like an outhaul to keep the cloth stretched well aft. “Infinite” reefing between battens is discouraged.

Schaefer Marine Fred Cook at Schaefer says, “We’ve studied some of the problems associated with boom furlers for quite some time and tried to come up with answers.”

To reduce friction the company’s new design incorporates four bearing races, two at either end of the boom. Made of Torlon, the bearings require no lubrication and are meant only to be flushed occasionally with fresh water. Hoisting the sail by hand felt significantly easier than with any of the other systems.

Click here to view Schaefer Marine images .

To handle the transition between the mandrel and the mast groove Schaefer developed a unique and practical  “sugar scoop” guidepiece. While we tested only in medium (12-15 knot) air, it seemed superb at sliding the sail back and forth from mandrel to luff groove.

The drum is mounted on the after end of the boom and worked via a single control line. The gooseneck pivot pin is hefty and made from 316-stainless bar stock. We wondered if the luff groove, a UV-resistant polymer, was as sturdy as the rest of the unit, but from the flogging that we put it through on our test sail it seems ready to withstand realistic abuse.

The track articulates with the boom, and this makes power-reefing (without completely depowering the sail) possible.

It’s good seamanship to take the strain off sail and gear by luffing the sail and/or bringing the boat into the wind when it’s time to reef or douse your mainsail. In a race, or due to navigational needs, however, this isn’t always possible. With the Schaefer system (and all others except ProFurl) you can reef without totally depowering the sail if you must. We think that adds to a system’s versatility and tolerance for error.

ProFurl ProFurl puts its furling drum (very similar to a headsail furler) at the forward end of its open-topped boom. ProFurl’s other salient feature is its  articulating luff track mounted aft of the mast. Positioned to pick up and deliver the luff tape directly from the boom, this set-up has proven chafe-free. According to tests  conducted at France’s Research Center for Nautical Architecture and Industry, the structure actually increases mainsail efficiency by energizing the airflow over the sail.

Click here to view ProFurl images .

As with all of the mainsail furlers, the angle between mast and boom (or tack angle) is critical. Like most of its competitors, ProFurl specifies an angle of “about 87 degrees.” We found that this precision wasn’t absolutely necessary. If the boom is cocked up a bit more than perpendicular it pulls the sail aft and helps it lie smoothly in the boom. Lower the boom end, however, and the sail will bunch at the forward end of the boom, leading it to jam.

ProFurl provides a mechanical vang with a limiting wire: Release the vang and it sets the boom at the right height for furling. Reef the sail, then trim on to adjust vang tension for shape control.

We did all of that, and were rolling a reef in when, in an effort to stop some of the sail’s considerable flogging, we took just the slightest tension on the mainsheet. The sail immediately bulged larger at the forward end of the mandrel until it would no longer roll. We reset and re-reefed with no problem, but the incident made us mindful of  the delicate balance involved in boom furling.

Retrofitting your old sail is possible. One sailmaker advises, however, to “throw out the ProFurl formula for dealing with luff curve. Anything greater than two inches of luff round is too much, period.”

ProFurl USA in Fort Lauderdale says installation of its unit is “relatively simple.” Their elaboration: “An owner with some mechanical savvy and a rivet gun can do it himself, but it takes 16 man-hours and some work aloft.”

ProFurl has recently gone to ball-bearing sheaves, and wire halyards can now be used with the systems, which come with a three-year warranty.

Furlboom One of the secrets of this furler is the way it’s built. “We have gusseted corners that make our entire extrusion structural,” says Dougal Johnson at YSA. “That lets us build a lighter, smaller boom that is still more than strong enough to do the job.”

The Furlboom drive mechanism is mounted on the after side of the mast and connected via a drive chain to the mandrel. We’ve heard of one of these chains failing, and think that provision for a manual backup would improve the system. An excellent feature, and one shared with Leisure Furl, is a locking mechanism that takes the strain of holding the sail in place once the sail is set (or reefed). This ratchet engages under spring tension and is released by a trip line controlled from the cockpit.

Click here to view Furlboom images .

Like most of the other systems, Furlboom employs a claw inside the boom. This guides the sail, both coming and going, and helps to assure a uniform roll. This is one of the several design features that enables Furlboom to handle rigs with considerable pre-bend (up to 8 inches, according to Johnson).

Like many of the systems we looked at, this one has had success on the race course. Johnson points to a Catalina 470 that came in fourth in class in the recent Ensenada Race. Toby Ritter, who took us for a demo sail aboard Tiger Too in Long Island Sound, raced  his Furlboom to Bermuda. However, when you see the slick “automatic” sail cover that you can slide into place once the sail is put to bed, it underscores the fact that you can’t knock boom furlers for cruisability.

Conclusions The thing we liked least about in-boom furlers is the intimidating welter of controls, prohibitions, and caveats that go with them. There are plenty of reports of furlers gone bad, despite the reasonable efforts of their owners. In any case, sailors should be free to explore their limits and develop mastery of them without undue fear of expensive failures.

The thing we liked most was the amount of research and development talent that this rolling target has attracted. Chart the progress from Stoboom to the present and you’ve got a record of innovation and clever design that makes the marine industry look pretty smart.

It’s hard to assign ratings to systems we’ve only evaluated short-term, and not in conditions that might demonstrate the survival of the fittest. But here are some basic assessments:

The John Mast reefer is an older design, and the company has yet to establish an aggressive sales presence in North America. Its unit for a maximum P (mainsail hoist) of 42 feet is $6,850. This includes a boom vang, but not a sail.

ProFurl gets high marks for convenience and quality. A 42-foot P unit retails for $7,920, including a solid vang and boom brake.

Schaefer’s promising unit looks like it will fill the need for a simpler system that people with small to mid-sized boats can use and afford. A reefer to accommodate up to a 44-foot P retails for $7,500. The boom vang is not included.

We think that Furlboom is an excellent value at $7,250 for a 42.6 P length sail, despite the fact that the boom vang is no longer included.

Leisure Furl still strikes us as the most-rugged, best-proven unit. To match up to a 50-foot luff length you will need to pay $9,300. Installation, boom vang, and a new sail will boost that price a lot. If you’re willing to pay the freight, that reefer will render good service and excellent convenience, but our feeling is that Leisure Furl’s competitors have closed the gap and make attractive alternatives.

Contacts— John Mast Hi-Lo, Bente Trading Co., P.O. Box 1621, Mercer Island WA 98040; 206/232-6156; . Leisure Furl, Forespar Products Corp., 22322 Gilberto, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688; 949/858-8820; . FurlBoom, Yachting Systems of America, 350 Kalmus Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626; 714/437-9600; . ProFurl, 401 N.E. 8th St., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304; 954/760-9511; . Schaefer Marine, 158 Duchaine Blvd. New Bedford, MA 02745; 508/995-9511; .


I have a 1982 sailboat (Classis 35, based in Rome, Italy) with an equally old Hood Stoboom. Except that it’s different from the one you describe: the sail does not furl inside the boom but around it. Were there different models. Incidentally, it works fine, you just insert the handle in the endless furler and roll the sail down while slowing the hailyard with your other hand to maintain some tension in the sail. With the autopilot you can furl the sail single-handed in a couple of minutes or less. I suppose there are some disadvantages with ’round the boom’ furlers since they are so uncommon and would like to hear about them.

Ooops, just realized the article is from 20 years ago. Who am I talking to?

Well, you’re talking to a guy in Maine…..but I didn’t write this article. I was referred to it by friends in the Cape Dory Association because I asked about their experiences with either in-mast or in-boom furlers. I’m thinking of putting some such rig on my Cape Dory 36.

I can make a comment, however, about your own experience. The Pierson Vanguard 33 had a mechanical boom furler rig available as far back as 1963. The current owner, who inherited the boat from her father and has sailed it all those years, said her father never used it….not has she. They both preferred to wrestle the sail down in the traditional manner. Great for the young folks….but I’m 76, and hoping to sail, sometimes singlehanded, for 15 more years.

Hi Jim, and thanks for replying. You don’t say what their problem was, perhaps it depends on the model. As I said, the Stoboom, or at least my Stoboom, contrary to what the article says, does not roll inside the boom but around it making it much less likely to jam. At least mine never does and reefing or pulling down a snap, you just turn the handle and it’s done, no need to pack the sail as the boom moves back and forth under you. I’m sure they must have some modern equivalent but I don’t know about it. Congrats on sailing single-handed.

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Mainsail Furling Systems – Which one is right for you?

With the variety of options of mainsail furling systems available, including slab, in-boom, and in-mast systems, it can be challenging to determine which one best suits your needs. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the pros and cons of each system, enabling you to make an informed decision that aligns with your sailing requirements.

The majority of yachts, specifically over 75%, utilize the slab-reefing technique as their preferred method for reefing the mainsail. However, as the size of the boat increases, there is a noticeable trend towards adopting systems that allow the sail to be furled within the spar itself. In-mast furling systems, in particular, are more prevalent in larger yachts with a length overall (LOA) of 50 feet and above. For craft measuring 65 feet and beyond, in-boom furling becomes the more commonly employed method.

In essence, as yacht size grows, there is a shift towards the use of in-mast or in-boom furling systems instead of the traditional slab-reefing method. This transition is influenced by factors such as ease of use, convenience, and the desire for improved sail control. Larger yachts often opt for in-mast furling due to its ability to reef the sail at any point of sail, while in-boom furling offers advantages in terms of sail shape and incremental reefing positions.

Slab (AKA ‘Jiffy’ Reefing) System

The slab-reefing method has stood the test of time and remains the most prevalent choice, with over 75% of yachts utilizing this system. Over the years, jiffy reefing lines have replaced the traditional reefing points stitched into the sail, offering a more convenient and efficient solution. There are variations of the jiffy system, including single lines and continuous lines, each with its advantages.

When it’s time to reef the mainsail, the crew releases the halyard tension to allow the sail to be lowered. Reefing lines, which are pre-attached to the sail, are then pulled through reefing cringles (sturdy metal rings) along the luff of the sail. These lines are used to gather and secure the excess sail material in a folded position. By pulling the reefing lines, the sail is gradually reduced in size, creating a smaller and more manageable sail area.

Once the desired amount of sail area is reefed, the reefing lines are secured, typically by tying them off to designated reefing points or reefing hooks on the boom. This ensures that the reefed portion of the sail remains securely in place. After the reefing lines are secured, the halyard tension is adjusted to raise the sail back up, taking into account the reduced size of the reefed area.

Mainsail Furling Systems

Advantages of Slab System

  • Best Sail Shape: When sailing upwind, the bellied shape of a slab-reefed mainsail optimizes its wing-like performance both at the luff and on the foot. This design ensures enhanced aerodynamics and improved overall sail efficiency.
  • Bigger Sail Area When Fully Set: The slab-reefing system allows for considerable roach in the mainsail, adding valuable sail area. However, it’s important to note that this advantage diminishes when the sail is reefed.
  • Adjustable Back Stays: Unlike in-mast systems, the slab configuration enables better sail shape through the ability to tension the back stays and bend the top of the mast head back. This adjustability contributes to improved performance and control.
  • Simplicity: The slab system boasts minimal complexities, reducing the likelihood of mechanical failures and simplifying maintenance requirements.
  • Lowest Cost: In comparison to in-spar furling systems like in-boom and in-mast, the slab system proves to be the most cost-effective solution. The absence of additional mechanisms such as mandrels, motors, and gearing significantly reduces overall expenses.
  • Better Stability: When the sail is furled using the slab system, the weight is concentrated on the boom, resulting in improved yacht stability. In contrast, in-mast systems carry the weight aloft, affecting stability in certain conditions.
  • Less Windage: The slab system incorporates a smaller mast section, reducing both cost and windage when compared to in-mast systems. Additionally, the boom’s smaller and lighter profile ensures easier control and eliminates the need for a preventer on all points of sail, as required with in-boom systems.

Disadvantages of Slab System:

  • Must Come Head to Wind: To set and reef the sail using the slab system, the yacht needs to be rounded up into the wind. This maneuver can be challenging, particularly in open ocean conditions with 40 knots or more of wind and waves reaching heights of 5 meters or more. Rounding up the yacht in these extreme conditions requires skill and experience.
  • Crew Required on Deck: When the mainsail needs to be fully dropped, it will require crew members to go on deck to lash down the main halyard, preventing the sail from snaking up again. This additional crew involvement adds complexity and potential risks, especially in adverse weather conditions.
  • More Sail Maintenance: Slab-reefed sails require more maintenance compared to in-boom or in-mast systems. The reefing point cringles, which take all the load when the sail is reefed, need to be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they do not break down. This additional maintenance requirement adds to the overall workload of sail care.
  • More Crew Needed: Setting a reef using the slab system typically requires a minimum of two crew members. This means that, depending on the size of the yacht and the sailing conditions, additional crew members may be required to put a reef in the mainsail. This can limit the sailing options for those who prefer to sail single-handed or with a smaller crew.
  • High Sail Stack: On larger yachts (45ft and above), the mainsail stack on the mast can become quite high when using the slab system. To fully secure the mainsail to the gooseneck, crew members will need to go on deck and climb two or three steps up the mast. However, it’s worth noting that the Harken T-Track Switch system can significantly reduce the height of the stack, offering a potential solution to this challenge.
  • Less Reef Points: Slab-reefed sails are generally limited to two or three reef points. In comparison, in-boom or in-mast systems offer a greater range of incremental reefing options. Having more reef points allows for more flexibility in adjusting the sail area to match various wind conditions, enhancing sailing performance and safety.
  • More Lines in the Cockpit: When the sail is reefed using the slab system, there are more ropes present in the cockpit, requiring proper stowage to prevent tangling and ensure a clear working area. Managing the additional lines can be challenging, especially in fast-paced or demanding sailing situations.
  • Needs Lazy Jack Bag: A stack-pack bag, also known as a lazy jack bag, is required on the boom to contain the mainsail when it is furled using the slab system. While this bag facilitates sail stowage, it adds windage and potentially affects the aesthetics of the yacht. The impact on aesthetics may vary depending on personal preferences and the design of the lazy jack bag.

In-Boom Furling System

In-boom furling is a method used to reef the mainsail on a yacht by rolling the sail inside the boom. When it’s time to reef the mainsail with an in-boom furling system, the process begins by activating the mainsail furling mechanism. This mechanism is typically located inside the boom and is connected to a mandrel, which acts as a spindle for rolling the sail. By operating the mainsail furling control, the mandrel rotates, causing the mainsail to be gradually rolled up inside the boom.

As the sail is rolled up, the excess material is neatly stowed within the boom. In-boom furling systems often feature full-length battens that help maintain the shape and stability of the reefed sail. The mainsail furling process continues until the desired amount of sail area is reefed, adjusting to the prevailing wind conditions.

Once the sail is fully rolled up inside the boom, it is securely held in place. In-boom furling systems usually incorporate a locking mechanism to prevent any unintended unfurling of the sail. This ensures that the reefed sail remains tightly furled and ready for use when needed.

Mainsail Furling Systems

Advantages of In-Boom:

  • Good Sail Shape: The in-boom system allows for a better wing-style sail shape compared to the in-mast system, though not as versatile as the slab system. It enables the sail to maintain a more efficient aerodynamic profile, enhancing overall performance. It’s important to note that while some claim the sail shape can be the same as that of a slab system, this is not entirely accurate. The sail and its full-length battens must be rolled around a straight mandrel (the in-boom spindle), and excessive belly built into the sail can cause it to stack forward onto the gooseneck, leading to undesirable consequences.
  • More Reef Positions: With the in-boom furling system, there are typically more reef positions available. The furling process finishes at a point well between the battens, allowing for smaller increments of reef compared to the slab system. This finer control over reefing enables sailors to adjust the sail area more precisely to match varying wind conditions, optimizing performance and maintaining a comfortable sailing experience.
  • Less Weight Aloft: When the sail is furled, it rests on the boom rather than being positioned aloft, resulting in a better righting moment compared to the in-mast system. The reduced weight aloft contributes to enhanced stability and maneuverability of the yacht, particularly in challenging weather conditions.
  • No Reefing Lines in the Cockpit: Unlike the slab system, the in-boom system eliminates the need for reefing lines in the cockpit. This simplifies the setup and reduces clutter, providing a cleaner and more organized cockpit layout. It allows for better movement and minimizes the risk of tripping or entanglement during critical maneuvers.
  • Less Windage on the Mast: The mast section required for the in-boom system is generally smaller compared to the in-mast system. This reduction in mast size, similar to the slab system, leads to lower windage. The reduced wind resistance contributes to improved performance and maneuverability, particularly when sailing upwind.
  • Bigger Sail Area: With the in-boom system, the mainsail can have a substantial roach, similar to the slab system. The roach refers to the extended area of the sail beyond a straight line connecting the head and clew. A larger sail area allows for increased power and potential speed, benefiting both performance-oriented sailors and those seeking exhilarating sailing experiences.

Disadvantages of In-Boom:

While the in-boom system offers several advantages, it’s important to consider its limitations and potential drawbacks before making a decision. Here are some disadvantages associated with the in-boom mainsail furling system:

  • Must Come Head to Wind: Similar to the slab system, the in-boom system requires the yacht to be rounded up into the wind to furl and set the sail. This maneuver can be challenging, particularly in open ocean conditions with strong winds and large waves. Rounding up the yacht in adverse weather or rough sea conditions may pose difficulties and require skilled seamanship.
  • Longer Furling Process: When furling the sail using the in-boom system, the sail takes longer to drop compared to the slab system. The mandrel, which the sail is rolled around, requires more time to take up the lowering sail. As a result, the helmsman must hold the yacht into the wind for a longer duration, extending the mainsail furling process. This prolonged time spent maneuvering into the wind can impact overall sailing efficiency and require additional attention from the crew.
  • Two-Man Operation: To ensure the sail is not stacking forward excessively during the mainsail furling process, crew members must be stationed on deck to monitor the furl. This means that the in-boom system typically requires a minimum of two crew members or more. The need for additional crew members may limit the flexibility and ease of handling for single-handed sailors or those operating with a smaller crew.
  • High Cost: Among the three mainsail furling systems discussed, the in-boom system tends to be the most expensive option. In addition to the furling system itself, the installation often requires additional components, such as a powered vang to assist with lifting the boom. The higher cost of the in-boom system should be taken into account when considering budget constraints or cost-effectiveness.
  • Propensity to Stack Forward: If the helmsman allows the boat to fall off the wind while the sail is being furled and wind fills the sail, even at the leech, there is a risk of the sail stacking forward. When this happens, the sail must be re-hoisted and the mainsail furling process restarted. This potential for the sail to stack forward adds complexity to the furling procedure and requires vigilance from the crew to prevent such situations.
  • Needs a Preventer: The in-boom system, due to its larger boom size and the inclusion of furling mechanics, requires the use of a preventer on all points of sail. A preventer is a line used to secure the boom and prevent unintended jibes or sudden movements. The presence of a preventer adds complexity to sail handling and requires careful attention to prevent accidents or damage to the rigging.

In-Mast Furling System

When utilizing an in-mast furling system, reefing the mainsail is a straightforward process. The mainsail furling mechanism, typically located inside the mast, is engaged to initiate the mainsail furling operation. As the furling control is activated, the sail is rolled up around a mandrel positioned within the mast.

As the mainsail is furled, it is neatly stored inside the mast, reducing the exposed sail area. The mainsail furling process continues until the desired amount of reefed sail area is achieved, providing better control and stability in stronger winds. In-mast furling systems often allow for infinite reefing points, enabling precise adjustments to match the prevailing conditions.

In-mast furling provides sailors with a reliable and user-friendly solution for reefing the mainsail. Its versatility, ease of operation, and streamlined cockpit contribute to a more enjoyable and efficient sailing experience, particularly for cruisers and those seeking simplicity in sail handling.

Mainsail Furling Systems

Advantages of In-Mast:

The in-mast mainsail furling system is widely favored among larger offshore cruising boats for its convenience and ease of handling. It offers several advantages that make it a popular choice for many sailors. Here are some advantages associated with the in-mast mainsail furling system:

  • Doesn’t Need to Come Head to Wind: One of the significant advantages of the in-mast system is that it allows the mainsail to be furled at almost any point of sail. Unlike other systems, which require the yacht to be rounded up into the wind, the in-mast system enables reefing or furling without altering the yacht’s course significantly. Even when running downwind , a simple change of course by around 20 degrees can lift the sail off the shrouds and spreaders, facilitating easy reefing.
  • One-Man Operation: Depending on the chosen system, the in-mast furling can be operated by a single crew member. Electric or hydraulic systems, in particular, offer the convenience of effortless furling with minimal physical exertion. This feature is advantageous for short-handed sailing or when there’s a lack of crew members available to assist with sail handling.
  • Less Rope in the Cockpit: Compared to the slab system, the in-mast system reduces the amount of rope and lines in the cockpit. If equipped with an electric or hydraulic motor, the sail furling can be controlled from the cockpit, minimizing the need for crew members to go on the deck during sail maneuvers. This contributes to a clutter-free and safer working environment onboard.
  • More Reef Points: The in-mast system allows for infinite reef points, offering more flexibility in adjusting the sail area to suit various wind conditions. Sailors have the freedom to reef the sail incrementally, tailoring it to the prevailing winds and maintaining optimal control over the yacht’s performance. This versatility is particularly beneficial for long-distance cruising or when encountering unpredictable weather conditions.
  • Medium Cost: Compared to the in-boom system, the in-mast system generally falls into a more moderate cost range. While specific prices may vary depending on the chosen manufacturer and additional features, the overall cost is often more affordable, making it an attractive option for sailors seeking a balance between performance and budget.

Disadvantages of In-Mast:

The in-mast mainsail furling system is widely popular, particularly among larger offshore cruising boats. It offers several advantages, but it’s also important to be aware of its limitations and potential drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages associated with the in-mast mainsail furling system:

  • Flatter Sail Shape: One of the drawbacks of the in-mast system is that it doesn’t provide as good a sail shape as the slab or in-boom systems. The need to wrap the sail around the mandrel inside the mast restricts the ability to achieve an optimal wing-style sail shape. This limitation can impact overall performance, especially when sailing upwind.
  • Bigger Mast Profile: The in-mast system requires a larger mast section to accommodate the mandrel and the furled sail. The increased size of the mast profile can lead to additional weight aloft, affecting the yacht’s stability and righting moment. It’s important to consider the impact of a larger mast profile on the overall sailing characteristics and performance of the yacht.
  • Smaller Sail Area: With the in-mast system, the sail area is generally smaller compared to the slab or in-boom systems. To accommodate the furling mechanism, the sail cannot have battens and instead relies on a hollow shape (the reverse of roach) to minimize leech flapping. This reduction in sail area can limit the yacht’s performance, particularly in light winds or when maximizing sail power is crucial.
  • Greater Weight Aloft: Due to the inclusion of the mandrel and the furled sail within the mast, there is increased weight aloft with the in-mast system. This additional weight affects the yacht’s center of gravity and can have a slight impact on the righting moment. It’s important to assess the implications of increased weight aloft on the yacht’s stability and overall sailing performance.
  • Possible Sail Jam: One concern with the in-mast system is the potential for the sail to jam within the mast. Although this is a concern for many sailors, it can be mitigated by adopting proper furling procedures. Releasing the outhaul line gradually, followed by tensioning the sail through the in-mast motor, can help prevent jamming. Some manufacturers have also developed automatic outhaul systems to further reduce the chances of sail jam. However, it’s crucial to be aware of this potential issue and take the necessary precautions.
  • No Mast Bend: Unlike other systems, the in-mast system requires the mast to remain straight. Bending the masthead back, which is possible with other systems, can cause the sail to jam. The inability to adjust mast bend restricts the ability to fine-tune sail shape and performance, especially when sailing in varying wind conditions.

When considering the various mainsail furling systems available for yachts, it’s important to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each option to determine which system best suits your sailing needs. Here’s a summary of the main points discussed for the three common mainsail furling systems: slab, in-boom, and in-mast.

Slab System: The slab system is widely used and offers several advantages. It provides excellent sail shape and a larger sail area when fully set. It is relatively simple, cost-effective, and lightweight compared to other systems. However, it requires the yacht to come head to wind for reefing or setting the sail, which can be challenging in adverse weather conditions. Additionally, it requires more crew members for sail maneuvers and has a higher sail stack on larger yachts.

In-Boom System: The in-boom system keeps the furled sail low down and allows for good sail shape. It offers more reef positions and reduces weight aloft, contributing to a better righting moment. However, it also requires the yacht to come head to wind for furling and setting the sail, which can be time-consuming. The system tends to be more expensive, often requiring a powered vang for boom lifting. There is a propensity for the sail to stack forward, necessitating the use of a preventer on all points of sail.

In-Mast System: The in-mast system is favored for larger offshore cruising boats due to its convenience. It eliminates the need to come head to wind for reefing or furling, allowing for easier sail handling at any point of sail. It can often be operated by a single crew member and has fewer ropes in the cockpit, enhancing safety and reducing clutter. The system offers more reef points, allowing for incremental adjustments to the sail area. However, it compromises on sail shape, has a larger mast profile, and results in a smaller sail area when fully set. Sail jamming is a potential concern, but can be mitigated with proper sail tensioning techniques.

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There are over 3000 systems in use making passages all over the world.


Heavy weather in-boom mainsail furling & reefing for sailboats 26′ – 35′ Maximum luff (P)=40′ Maximum foot (E)=14′

This powerful boom system incorporates an end boom drive system with a minimum of moving parts which is effective for smaller boat applications. Our Offshore, through the mast, drive system is used on more powerful mainsails on boats from 35 ft – 85 ft.

The aft drive mandrel uses the nylon composite bearings similar to those used in the construction of big boat high load blocks. The forward universal allows complete freedom of rotation under the highest loads.

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Each boom is custom made at our plant in Southern California by professional riggers. The boom is tapered for refined styling and weight savings.

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WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE Leisure Furl ® ?

  • Safety – With all lines lead aft, Leisure Furl ® gives you the ability to reef and control the main from the safety of the cockpit. Leisure Furl ® eliminates the need for completed lazy jacks or sending crewmembers forward in heavy weather.
  • Ease of use – Hoisting, furling or reefing is a one-person operation.
  • Reefing – A Leisure Furl ® boom allows infinite reefing position on all points of sail.
  • Appearance – Leisure Furl ® the sail furls neatly into the boom protecting the sail from harmful ultraviolet rays. Boom is elegantly tapered for attractiveness and weight savings.

Leisure Furl ® COASTAL™ SYSTEM

Heavy weather in-boom furling & reefing for sailboats 26’–33’.

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Derived from our Leisure Furl ® family of big boat offshore furling and reefing booms, our Coastal™ model boom incorporates exceptional drive and universal technology with a minimum of moving parts which is effective for smaller boat applications. Our Offshore, through the mast, drive system is used on more powerful mainsails on boats from 35 ft – 85 ft.

The aft drive mandrel uses fiber impregnated composite bearings similar to those used in the construction of big boat high load blocks. The forward universal allows complete freedom of rotation under the highest loads.

  • Five Year Limited Warranty
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Our Leisure Furl ® Coastal™, in boom, mainsail-furling system has been installed on our Catalina 30 for approximately six months now. We could not be more pleased.

The system has worked flawlessly from the day it was installed. It has given us the confidence to sail short-handed in conditions where we would have hesitated with a conventional reefing system. My wife especially likes not having to deal with the sail ties and the dirty mainsail cover.

The design, engineering and production quality of the Leisure Furl ® Coastal™ system is better than other systems that we looked at.

William E. Garrett, Jr., CPM

President Inter-Pacific Asset Management

Westminster, California

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Professional application on sail reduces friction allowing for tighter wraps


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Luff System

Leisure Furl ® uses high modulus PVC luff feeder.

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Each boom comes standard with a built-in sail cover for convenience and ease of handling. The Sunbrella® cover protects the sail.

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Lagoon Unveils Furling Boom System

  • By Cruising World Staff
  • January 23, 2024

Lagoon Catamarans has unveiled a furling boom system that’s been in development for a dozen years. It’s available starting this month as a factory option on the Lagoon 51 and the Lagoon 46.

“We did the first set of prototypes, which failed,” says Bruno Belmont, Lagoon’s multihull expert. “So, we restarted five and a half years ago with fresh ideas, and we started building efficient prototypes three years ago.”

Those newer prototypes have been undergoing field tests ever since. Lagoon worked alongside Sparcraft, which makes masts and rigging; Incidences Sails, which has been in business for more than 30 years; and Facnor, which specializes in furling systems.

“The furling system could not be a copy of a monohull system because of the horizontal compression of the batons,” Bruno says, adding that Lagoon ultimately created a system that is not enclosed within cowling. “We wanted the sailor to look at what they’re doing and be capable of reacting in case something went wrong.”

Overall, he adds, the idea is to simplify and improve the sailing experience, especially for people who are newcomers to boating and still getting used to all the skillsets that are required. 

“Most of our sailors are first-boat buyers, so they don’t have a strong experience of sailing,” he says. “The idea is that the boom is quite high, and accessing the lazy bag could be viewed as difficult. Also, reefing the main can be quite challenging for new sailors.” 

The Lagoon Furling System relies on four key principles: completely easing the mainsheet so the sail and boom can move freely; having the boat positioned head to wind, to keep the boom close to the vessel’s centerline; hoisting the topping lift to a point where it’s locked in the predetermined position so that the boom is level; and applying tension to the slack easing line to ensure that the luff of the sail remains tight.

Key components include a stainless-steel furling mandrel, a rotating boom with pivot bearings at the front and rear, a stainless-steel aft bearing unit, and a steel-wire topping lift to limit stretching. 

See the Lagoon Furling System in action:

Lagoon also notes that the sail is not enclosed in a carbon-fiber or fiberglass casing, as some other furling systems are. With the Lagoon system, sailors have a clear view of the operation. Three lines—the main halyard, furling line and topping lift—control the furling mechanism.

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The reliability of a simple reefing system is imperative. As much as they are a great help to monohulls , rarely do we see in-boom furlers or in-mast reefing systems on multihulls . Their higher loads and the fact that most multihulls have fully battened mainsails, which makes even in-boom furling complex, don't lend themselves to any other way of reducing sail except the slab or jiffy reefing system. This is by far the mostly reliable and best system to reduce the size of a catamaran 's mainsail.

Even if one only considers oneself a coastal sailor, reefing lines should be ready and pre-fed through the respective leach cringles. Reef systems vary but having only one line for each reef (leach and luff) which, along with halyards, can be led back to the helm,


will add to friction and greater mess in the cockpit. The advantage is that one does not have to climb forward to the mast to reduce sail. No matter what system one employs, it is a good idea to pre-feed at least 2 reefs out of the typical 3 reefs. This will prepare the boat for the worst conditions, without the need to rig lines when the wind suddenly increases. The leach of the mainsail is often equipped with reefing blocks, which are designed to ease loads, prevent chafe and make reefing easier. It is, however, my experience that a well reinforced, simple reef cringle is stronger and actually will be better in preventing chafe. In addition, it will be lighter, one less part to break and cannot foul.

Furling the jib is straightforward and beefy roller furling hardware has made the trip forward to handle jibs unnecessary. As you control the jib sheet, slowly ease it out until the sail starts to luff sufficiently for the reefing line to be hauled in. In stronger winds the line will wrap tightly around the furler, therefore it is important to have enough tail to completely furl the sail. When you partially furl the sail, the jib lead should be moved forward to retain proper clew-lead geometry and prevent a full sail. It is a good idea to check the furling line for chafe often and to double it up via a lashing when leaving the boat at a mooring for extended periods.

I often hear discussions concerning experiences in gale conditions and the necessity to reef at certain wind strengths. Very seldom, however, is the sea state mentioned. In my mind multihulls are much more affected by the sea state. Wave height and intervals are the primary consideration when making the above Usually, catamarans hardly lose any speed when reefed, but gain more balance and control. With a single reef in the main and a reduced jib, the Bahia 46 is ready for an increase in wind strength.

decision of when to reef. Of course, wind and sea state go hand in hand, yet often the waves do not correspond with the wind, as they might be left over from an older low pressure system. To simplify it, there is one basic rule of thumb associated with reefing: on a monohull you typically reef to the strength of the gusts, while on a multihull you reef to the strength of the lulls. Most catamarans are just as happy with reduced sail and you will be surprised how little speed you really lose with less sail. Slow down to a more moderate speed. Think of it as similar to slowing down your car when you come to a rough road by shifting into a lower gear for more control.

At what point does one reef? This is the most common question concerning multihull safety. The answer is deceptively simple and an often heard principle: "It is time to reef when you first think about it." This is not meant to disparage the importance of knowing that time. As you acquire more experience with your boat , the more "feel" you will get for the process. From the subjective point of view, when you begin to feel uneasy, apprehensive or concerned, it is time to reef. When the boat no longer has its feather-light touch at the helm, it is time to reef. When the lee bow seems to want to plunge and bury, it is time to reef. When you are no longer strong enough to crank in the sails, it's time to reef.

Reefing, as referred to in this section, includes both headsail and mainsail. As a rule, for masthead rigged boats going upwind, start by partially reefing the jib first; downwind, reef the main first. It is hard to generalize about fractional rigs. Sailing under main alone is typically far more controllable if the boat remains balanced. The fully battened mainsail, which has the most sail controls, is held on two sides by spars, and can be given optimum size and shape. Generally, it is important to reef main and jib together in order to assure that the boat remains in balance. For instance, simply reducing the main to the third reef and keeping a full jib will result in lee helm. Although less of an issue, but still possible, is severe weather helm. This happens when you only furl the jib but leave a full main. The stronger the wind, the more you will feel imbalance, which puts unnecessary strain on the autopilot and increases drag as the rudders are over-compensating. Therefore, always reef main and headsails together.

To sum it up, reefing depends on the force of the wind, the sea state, point of sail and the capabilities of vessel and crew. Above all, remaining humble and respectful of the elements will make you a better sailor. Following wind speed benchmarks will assist in determining when to reef which sail.

In light-to-moderate conditions, the mainsail can be reefed in a conventional way by heading up, easing the main and luffing. Yet, if you are overpowered by a strong beam wind, especially in big seas, I prefer to reef the mainsail by running downwind. This might sound completely untraditional and unorthodox, but modern mainsail sliders and a proper procedure will assure success. Since wind and sea state will demand reefing, rounding the boat head into the wind will only increase Apparent Wind and can expose a catamaran at speed to dangerous centrifugal forces. Beam seas are the most dangerous for a multihull and should be avoided at any cost, even if only for seconds. Conversely, falling off avoids this critical sector of seas; Apparent Wind is reduced and the motion of the boat is easier. Easing off the halyard and pulling on the reef lines will force the sail down. "It is not pretty," I always tell my crew, because the battens contort into S-curve shapes before they drop into the sail bag. Here is a little trick: to prevent battens from jamming against the mast you can load up a luff reef, or downhaul, and release the halyard when momentarily bearing away. The Apparent Wind will be briefly reduced, compression on the battens eased, and the main will slide down. Your lazy jacks will catch the excess sail and prevent it from billowing out. Reefing downwind is far more controllable and safer than having to turn the nose of the boat into the teeth of a gale and taking the waves onto the beam.

When you take a reef in the mainsail it is important to relieve the strain on the jammers under the boom, whose clutches can quickly chafe through them. Lead reef lines to winches instead.

On longer open-ocean passages, where rough weather is expected, it is particularly important to double up the reef.

By dead-ending a strong line around the boom, passing the end through the leech reef cringle, and tying the bitter end tightly around the boom, one has a second way to secure the reef. By easing the reef line slightly, one can then divide the loads between the two lines. This will subdue squealing of the below Gennaker and spinnaker sheet blocks are located as far aft as possible in order to accommodate the geometry of the large sails that they help to control. These blocks experience massive loads and must be secured with adequate backing plates beneath the deck.

Reef Cringle Blocks

leech blocks (if used) and prevent premature chafe, which could cause the reef lines to part. Acrobatics must be employed to perform boom work, therefore during this operation it is recommended to always wear a safety harness and have another crewmember spot you.

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Readers' Questions

How does reefing work on a catamaran?
Reefing on a catamaran involves reducing the area of the sails to decrease the amount of wind that the sails are exposed to. This reduces the power of the wind to slow the boat down while still allowing it to travel forward. The reefing process is done by shortening the sail size, either by rolling or folding the sail at the top or by rolling the sail up from the foot.
How to rig 3 reefs on a catamaran?
Rigging reefs on a catamaran is a process that allows you to reduce the size of the sail area in strong winds. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to rig three reefs on a catamaran: Familiarize yourself with the sail plan and reefing points: Before you start, study the sail plan and locate the reefing points on the mainsail. Most catamarans have reefing points marked on the luff (the leading edge of the sail) and the boom. Make sure you understand the setup. Prepare the boat: Ensure the boat is at a safe and stable position, either at a dock or anchorage, with the sails down. Make sure there is no tension in the sail before beginning the reefing process. Attach the first reef: Start by attaching the reefing line to the first reefing point on the luff. This point is typically marked by a reefing eyelet or strap. Pull the reefing line through this point and secure it to the boom using a sail tie. This secures the luff of the sail to the boom, reducing the sail area. Make sure the line is properly tensioned. Secure the reefing line: Once the sail is secured to the boom with the reefing line, make sure it is neatly organized and not likely to get tangled or caught on anything. Coil any excess line and secure it out of the way so that it doesn't interfere with the sail or rigging. Repeat for the second and third reefs: If your catamaran has additional reefing points, repeat the process for the second and third reefs. Attach the reefing lines to the designated points on the luff and secure them to the boom. Ensure each reefing line is properly tensioned and organized. Adjust the tension: Once all the reefs are rigged, check the tension of the reefing lines. They should be tight enough to secure the sail to the boom but not overly tight, as this may damage the sail or rigging. Adjust the tension as needed. Check the sail shape: Once the reefs are rigged, step back and examine the sail shape. Make sure the reefed sail retains a good shape and that there are no wrinkles or excessive draft. Adjust the tension or trim the sail if necessary. Test the reefed sail: If weather conditions permit, it's advisable to test the reefed sail before heading out into stronger winds. Raise the sail partially or fully, depending on the reef, and observe how it performs. Make any necessary adjustments to achieve optimal performance. Remember to always follow your catamaran manufacturer's specific instructions and consult a sailing professional if you are unsure or inexperienced in rigging reefs. Safety should be your priority when sailing in strong winds.
When to reef a caterman?
Reefing a catamaran occurs when the wind is too strong to safely and comfortably sail. The sails should be reefed when the wind reaches approximately 15 knots.
Do cruising cats have in mast furling?
Yes, many cruising cats have in-mast furling systems. These systems are designed to be used for sails such as genoas, mainsails, and spinnakers. They allow for easy adjustment and require fewer adjustments than traditional sails.
How to reef catamaran?
Reduce sail area: Depending on the type of catamaran and the amount of reefing necessary, you may want to start off by partially or fully reducing the mainsail. This can be done by rolling up the mainsail and tying it with a sail tie, or by partially reducing the sail area by moving the mainsail halyard and loosening the outhaul. Secure the jib: Once you have reduced the mainsail, you will want to make sure the jib is also reefed. This can be done by moving the jib sheet, tightening the jib sheet, and/or moving the jib halyard. Secure the reefing lines: Once you have reduced the sail area and secured the jib, you will want to secure the reefing lines. This will ensure that the sail remains secure during the reefing process. The reefing lines should be tied around the boom and the mast and then cleated off. Check the rigging: Finally, you will want to check the rigging to make sure it is secure and that all the lines are in the correct position. This will ensure that the catamaran is sailing safely and efficiently.
Where can i get mainsail prefeeder?
Mainsail Prefeeders can be purchased from various online retailers such as Amazon, Wayfair, Walmart, and Overstock. They can also be found in many sailboat and marine supply stores.

Moscow Muled

Moscow Muled

Why do moscow mules come in copper mugs.

Why Do Moscow Mules Come in Copper Mugs?

Oct 18, 2019

Have you ever wondered why the Moscow Mule cocktail is served in a copper mug? In this post, we answer that question in detail. As it turns out, the answer is partly based on historical events and partly based on the extra "kick" that copper brings to this classic cocktail. Let's dive in!


Moscow Muled copper mug filled with liquid ice and sliced lime on its rim

A remarkable cocktail is something you notice from across the room, easily identified by the signature drinking vessel it's served in. Few are more distinct than the burnished copper mug of a Moscow Mule. 

Great cocktails aren't just alcohol and mixers––they should be something more, a full sensory experience from beginning to end. It starts as you observe the precise convergence of ingredients in a golden ratio that blossoms into flavors and aromas of citrus and spicy ginger. It is then delivered into an ice-filled copper mug and garnished with fresh mint and a slice of lime.  Finally, it is presented before you, shiny and cold, compelling you to taste.

The copper mule mug not only tells the story of the drink it contains, but also is essentially functional to the full experience. You might already know that the cone-shaped bowl of a long-stemmed Martini glass was designed so that olives would stand perfectly upright, and the elegantly curvaceous welled Margarita glass was designed to add ample salt, sugar and garnishes.

But why are Moscow Mules served in copper mugs?

Inquiring minds want to know, so this article will sum up the science and history of why traditional Moscow Mules come in copper mugs, and other legit benefits of serving cocktails in pure copper mugs. This includes:

A Brief History of the Moscow Mule

The science of using copper mugs.

  • How Copper Mugs Amplify the Taste & Aroma of your Moscow Mule
  • The Enhanced Experience of Drinking from a Pure Copper Mug

The origin of this timeless cocktail is the tale of the American Dream. One fateful day in 1941 , three struggling entrepreneurs had a serendipitous meeting at the Cock 'N Bull bar on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood: A bar owner passionate about his unpopular home-brewed ginger beer, a businessman who took a big chance and purchased Smirnoff vodka, and a Russian immigrant with a cache of copper mugs she couldn't seem to sell. That day, the unlikely trio wisely decided to join forces in a bold venture that would not only save their individual businesses, but also create an iconic American cocktail.

Essentially, the Moscow Mule is the most successful marketing campaign in cocktail history. At a time when most Americans had never even heard of vodka, this cocktail introduced them to the traditional Russian alcohol, and established Smirnoff as a necessity in both bars and homes alike.

Thanks to celebrity endorsement, the Moscow Mule soon took the Hollywood cocktail scene by storm, and quickly became the most beloved mixed drink of the 1950's.

It's popularity understandably waned during the Cold War, and it was briefly re-branded as the Smirnoff Mule to distance itself from communism. However, the recent cocktail renaissance of the 21st century has seen the Moscow Mule come kicking back, as evidenced by lists like Esquire's Top 10 Cocktails of 2019 , and Business Insider's 8th Best-selling Cocktail in the World, 2018 .

But the answer to why Moscow Mules are served in copper mugs goes much further than a conveniently clever alliance between co-founders desperate for a big break. The story of the Moscow Mule is both the struggle of the immigrant searching for success, and the flashy lifestyle of the rich and famous.

It boasts a simple recipe , yet a complex flavor profile, encapsulated in a shiny copper mug. And as delicious and refreshing as the Moscow Mule may be, it's the copper mug that makes the cocktail so extraordinary.  Like the drink itself, the pure copper mule mug is a balance of form and functionality.

copper mug filled with ice cubed placed on black table

The most scientific benefit of the copper mug is its ability to regulate temperature. When a drink is served in a copper mug, it gets cold fast––and stays that way.

Copper is a renowned thermal conductor that will keep your beverage frosty in any weather, and is one of the reasons the traditional Moscow Mule has become synonymous with summer. Add a little ice, and the copper chills drinks instantly, and sustains a refreshingly icy rim with every sip.

Because copper is such an excellent conductor, it can keep your cold beverages colder for longer. The downfall of many ill-fated cocktails on a hot summer day is melting ice. Copper mugs stay brisk, and don't disrupt the recipe's ratio, so the simple yet distinct flavors of the Moscow Mule remain strong till the last drop.

Another important feature of the solid copper Moscow Mule mug is the handle. Much like the stem of a wine glass, the copper mug handle keeps the nearly 100 degree body temperature of your hand from impacting the status of your deliciously frosty cocktail.

How Copper Mugs Amplify the Taste and Aroma of Your Moscow Mule

If you want to know what a Moscow Mule tastes like, purists would insist the only way to experience it is in a 100% copper mug. Aside from being a great American tradition, copper mugs offer some unique enhancements to both the flavor and aroma of the Moscow Mule (or almost any finely-crafted cocktail).

Although subjective, most discerning drinkers would agree that copper mugs imbue cocktails with a superior taste. Experts explain that the copper oxidizes the vodka upon contact, thus enhancing the flavor profile and potency of the aromatics.

The intense cold of the copper also creates more stability in the bubbles of the ginger beer carbonation, and balances the tangy citrus of the lime with the earthy spice of the ginger.

For the skeptics out there, the theory of superior taste is easily verifiable. Simply make or order two Moscow Mules––one served in a plastic cup, and one served in a copper mug. Take a moment to inhale deeply, enjoy a big sip, and let your senses be the judge.

The epiphany should take a matter of moments, and you soon realize why a Moscow Mule is best served in a copper mug, and why any other cup or glass is vastly inferior. The difference can be so vivid, you might even consider drinking all your favorite beverages from copper mugs, even hot tea and coffee!

The Enhanced Experience of Drinking From a Pure Copper Mug

Throwing back shots with reckless disregard is a great way to get hammered, but a terrible way to enjoy something delicious. People order cocktails for the full package––observing its creation, revelling in its presentation, and slowly savoring its captivating story and unique taste.

Not only is a cocktail a well-balanced combination of spirits and mixers, it's also about the aesthetic and function of the vessel it's served in. A cocktail should be an object of inspired beauty, presented thoughtfully in a suitable glass or mug and garnished appropriately. It should take time, because it's made by hand.

Although the copper mug has become the symbol of Moscow Mules, it can also pair exquisitely with many other cocktails. Many people seem drawn to the shine and nostalgia of the metal, and Mixologists seem impressed by the scientific properties of the copper mug. Other drinks prominently featured in copper mugs include Dark 'n Stormy, Mescal, Gin & Tonic, and Cuba Libre.

No matter how frosted a beer glass gets, nothing can keep a mixed drink colder than a copper mug. The sensation when one's lips touch the ice-cold rim with every sip is part of the unique experience.

The flavors are heightened, the aromas amplified, and the balance of vodka, lime juice and ginger beer is never watered-down by melting ice. Provided your Moscow Mule is served in a pure copper mug, the last sip should be just as robust and enjoyable as the first.

The benefits of drinking from copper mugs aren't a newfound discovery. In fact, copper has been the preferred metal for drinking vessels for thousands of years.

Gurus in India have been using copper mugs for hundreds of years, and copper goblets called Escra have been found in ancient Irish ruins. Even American settles in 1645 drank exclusively from a massive tankard made of pure copper, known today as the Virginia Tankard .

The Moscow Mule is a classic drink served in a magnificent copper mug because it tells a compelling story, and enhances your consumption experience. It is an unforgettable drink because it's served in a mug that is both more beautiful than and functionally superior to glass.

Three Reasons Moscow Mules Come in Copper Mugs

The reason your Moscow Mule is served in a copper mug is not a fluke. It is not because it's the latest trendy hipster craze. It's not just a marketing ploy (although it definitely started out as one), nor is it a conspiracy by the lobbyists for Big Copper.

Moscow Mules come in copper mugs for three reasons: taste, temperature, and presentation.

The unique experience of drinking a Moscow Mule is a balanced combination of these three elements. It's also the reason this drink is not only the most recognizable, but also consistently one of the most popular drinks in global cocktail culture history.

Taste: The natural properties of the copper oxidize the alcohol, resulting in powerful aromatics and superior flavors. The bubbles of the ginger beer stay fizzy, and perfectly counter the acidity of the fresh lime juice. It's spicy yet refreshing. Simply put, it's delicious!

Temperature: Copper is an ideal thermal conductor, instantly chilling your beverage upon creation, and maintaining a consistently arctic temperature. This prevents the ice from quickly melting and dulling the cocktail ratio, while keeping the rim refreshingly frosty with every sip. The handle also keeps your hot little fingers from fluctuating the temperature with every touch.

Presentation: A glinting copper mug looks authentic and catches the eye. It is vintage, yet modern, and tells a story of creativity, charm and resilience. It is instantly recognizable, and makes for a fine looking beverage. Yes please!

The Bottom Line

The copper mug is iconic, a great American tradition of nearly 80 years, and is the only proper way to drink a Moscow Mule. Cheers!

Did You Enjoy This Article?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, you might also like the following articles:  How to Clean and Care for Copper Mugs: The Definitive Guide and  Why You Should Only Use Moscow Mule Copper Mugs With Stainless Steel Lining

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John Leguizamo Joins Taron Egerton in Apple Drama Series ‘Firebug,’ Kari Skogland to Direct

By Joe Otterson

Joe Otterson

TV Reporter

  • John Leguizamo Joins Taron Egerton in Apple Drama Series ‘Firebug,’ Kari Skogland to Direct 3 hours ago
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John Leguizamo Kari Skogland

John Leguizamo has joined the cast of the upcoming Apple TV+ drama series “ Firebug ,” Variety has learned. In addition, Kari Skogland has boarded the series as director and executive producer.

Leguizamo joins previously announced cast members Taron Egerton and Jurnee Smollett in the series. It was originally greenlit in December 2022.

The series is loosely based on true events and also draws from events documented in’s “Firebug” podcast. The official logline states that the show “will follow a troubled detective and an enigmatic arson investigator (Egerton) as they pursue the trails of two serial arsonists.”

Leguizamo is a highly-versatile performer with a career spanning four decades. He is known for his roles in films like “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” (which earned him a Golden Globe nomination), “Romeo + Juliet,” “Summer of Sam,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The Pest,” the “Ice Age” franchise, and “The Menu,” among many others. His TV credits include “When They See Us,” “The Power,” “Waco,” “Bloodline,” and the MSNBC travel series “Leguizamo Does America.” He received Emmy nods for both “When They See Us” and “Waco.” He has also performed multiple one man shows on Broadway, including “Freak,” “Sexaholix,” and “Latin History for Morons,” earning himself multiple Tony Award nominations.

He is repped by Mosaic, UTA, and Jackoway Austen Tyerman.

Skogland won a BAFTA Award for her work on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” while also earning an Emmy nomination for directing on the series in 2018. Her recent directing credits include “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” for Disney+/Marvel Studios, “The Loudest Voice” for Showtime, “The Walking Dead” for AMC, and “The Americans” for FX. In addition, she serves as the CEO of the independent production company Mad Rabbit.

Skogland is repped by WME, Anonymous Content, and Hansen Jacobson.

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The Moscow Mule ~ Blenheim Ginger Ale Style

The recent global cooling in Blenheim, South Carolina has our minds turning to a way to stay warm and enjoy a hot, spicy Blenheim Ginger Ale . A sip of Blenheim Old #3 is usually enough to fire up your sinuses, but these extra chilly winter nights have been causing us to think about adding a little flourish to our Good Ole Blenheim.

Vodka is one of the most popular liquors in the world. It is especially popular in the frigid climates of Russia and other northern European countries.  Vodka is made by fermenting such items as grain, rye, wheat, potatoes, or sugar beet molasses. Traditionally the finest Russian vodkas have been made with potatoes, but today most vodka is made from grain or wheat. Vodka shares a certain history with Blenheim Ginger Ale in that both were originally produced and utilized as medicines. Vodka is an excellent antiseptic, and promotes increased blood flow through the blood vessels. A few sips of vodka will instantly heat up the esophagus on the way down, and soon after your belly gets its own pleasantly warm glow the same way ginger-blasted Blenheim Old #3 makes you feel after a big gulp.

A great cocktail that contains vodka and Blenheim Ginger Ale is a Moscow Mule. The Moscow Mule was invented in 1941 by John G. Martin of Heublein Brothers, a spirit and food distributor, and Jack Morgan who owned the Cock ‘n Bull Tavern on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California. They created the Moscow Mule by mixing ginger beer with Smirnoff Vodka in order to increase the market for both ginger beer and Smirnoff vodka . Their drink is credited with causing a boom in vodka sales during the 1950’s, which had been dominated by gin as the American’s choice for white liquor. A Moscow Mule was traditionally served in a copper mug, although it’s rarely done today.

Here is our Moscow Mule Recipe using Blenheim Ginger Ale instead of ginger beer:


  • 1 1/4 oz Smirnoff vodka
  • 3 oz. Blenheim Ginger Ale
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup-(equal parts water and sugar melted together)
  • 1/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1 sprig mint
  • 1 lime wedge

In a cocktail glass, pour vodka over crushed ice. Add sugar syrup and lime juice. Top with your favorite Blenheim Ginger Ale and stir. Garnish with mint sprig and lime wedge.

Of course, as with any alcoholic beverage, vodka should only be consumed in very moderate amounts. Always drink responsibly and savor the flavor; we want everyone around to enjoy Blenheim Ginger Ale for a very long time to come! (It’s O.K. to drink as much Blenheim Ginger Ale as you want)

Follow Blenheim Ginger Ale on Twitter with the tag @goodoleblenheim, and check our Official Facebook page for updates on ordering, availability and retail locations that carry Good Ole Blenheim Ginger Ale.

Tags: Old #3 , Vodka

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 11:45 am and is filed under Drink Recipes . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

For more info call 1-800-270-9344 or email: [email protected] ©2009 Blenheim Bottling Company. Site by INKHAUS .

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  21. Why Do Moscow Mules Come in Copper Mugs?

    The reason your Moscow Mule is served in a copper mug is not a fluke. It is not because it's the latest trendy hipster craze. It's not just a marketing ploy (although it definitely started out as one), nor is it a conspiracy by the lobbyists for Big Copper. Moscow Mules come in copper mugs for three reasons: taste, temperature, and presentation.

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  24. The Moscow Mule ~ Blenheim Ginger Ale Style

    Their drink is credited with causing a boom in vodka sales during the 1950's, which had been dominated by gin as the American's choice for white liquor. A Moscow Mule was traditionally served in a copper mug, although it's rarely done today. Here is our Moscow Mule Recipe using Blenheim Ginger Ale instead of ginger beer: Ingredients: