Product Spotlight - Harken Reflex Top Down Furlers

Harken Reflex FurlerWe’ve all been there.  That moment when you’re out sailing, the wind starts to drop and your mind whispers “these are the perfect conditions to put up the gennaker.”  For a moment you are excited at the thought of your boat cruising along with that beautiful sail full of wind…until you remember how much work it is to drag the sail up from below, set up the lines, raise the sock and risk deployment with just the two of you on board to handle that huge sail….so you sigh, and go start the motor instead.

But what if you had the ability to quickly and safely deploy your light wind sails by simply unfurling them from the cockpit – just like your headsail?  In this Navigator we’ll introduce the Harken line of “Top Down” Reflex furlers that are putting light wind sails back into the mix for casual cruisers everywhere.

What is Top Down Furling?

Basically, top down furling allows you to furl spinnakers, gennakers and code zero sails – just like pulling your headsail in and out with your roller furler – making them a breeze to deploy and snuff.  Even better, when you’re done sailing, simply lower the halyard and stow the furled spinnaker.  No more rushing around trying to control socks flying across the deck when the wind picks up.

Harken Reflex Furler SystemBenefits

  • Easy prep – set up consists of raising the pre-furled sail on a halyard and running the lines at the dock before you depart.
  • Ease of deployment means handling your gennaker with confidence – just pull on the furling line and watch the sail deploy.  
  • Increased safety when sailing shorthanded – deploy and furl the spinnaker from the safety of the cockpit – no more scrambling around on deck underway.
  • Use it or don’t – since you can hoist the sail prior to departure and leave it up while sailing your headsail – it’s there when you need it, and out of the way if you don’t.
  • Better performance – using ALL the sails in your inventory means using the right sail for the conditions – which equals more sailing and less motoring.
  • No mess while gybing – just furl in the sail, make your turn and unfurl the sail on the other side.
  • No more soaked sails – even when you need to bring the sail in fast, it will never end up in the water, or worse – under the boat.
  • Easily adapt to wind shifts – if the wind spikes, just furl in the spinnaker, unfurl your headsail and keep sailing!
  • Easy stowing – at the end of the day, simply drop the furled sail, unhook the furling drum and stow everything in the sail bag.

How it Works

With conventional roller furling, the sail is fed into a track that rotates – causing the entire length of the sail to furl at once.  But with top-down furling, the bottom of the sail is connected to a free-floating swivel attached to the furling drum, which allows the foot of the sail to remain unfurled as the top of the sail begins to furl around the torsion cable – basically the only way to effectively furl sails with a full midsection such as spinnakers and gennakers.  The torsion cable runs from the swivel at the top down to the furling drum and it’s the most critical part of the system as it’s highly engineered to not twist as the sail is furled around it, while still allowing the assembly to turn in unison to get a nice, tightly furled sail.

Harken Ingenuity

Harken has always been at the forefront of sailboat hardware tech, and its new line of Reflex top-down furlers is no exception. Harken has designed into its Reflex furlers the following unique and innovative features:

The Drive Unit – what makes this different from most furling drums is the unique quick-release modular T-fitting that allows a single drive unit to handle multiple sails (most furling systems require a separate drive unit for each flying sail). The rolled sail easily disconnects with the pull of one spring-loaded pin, allowing a different furled sail to slide and lock into place. Offset holes grip rope securely when furling, with the stripper and feeder working together to prevent line from jamming. Pull the furling line and the drive unit reacts reflexively to rotate the torsion cable, immediately transferring torque to the head swivel without unwanted corkscrewing delaying the response.

The Torsion Cable – the key is in the cable, and this is clearly the heart of the Reflex system.  To provide a torsion cable stiff enough to deliver torque to the top of the sail, where it’s needed to begin furling, Harken developed its own brand of cable that consists of a braided polyester core covered with a stainless-steel mesh. The cable is then coated with Santoprene, a thermoplastic covering. The stiffness this creates means you don’t have to over tension the halyard – which equals less load and stress on everything else.  While stiff, the cable remains flexible enough to be easily coiled and stowed.     

The Head Swivel – the low-profile head swivel is one of the lightest and most responsive on the market. An integral thimble terminal for the torsion cable saves weight by eliminating eye and pin connections. The compact bearing system reduces weight aloft, while the low profile maximizes luff length. When the furling line is pulled, the head swivel reacts instantly, spinning the sail smoothly and completely from top to bottom for an even roll-up and super-tight wrap.

Start sailing in light winds…

As you can see, there’s a lot of reasons to adopt these new systems and you don’t need to be a racer to reap the rewards.  Top-down furling makes hoisting spinnakers a breeze and helps keep the dousing drama-free when the wind unexpectedly pipes up.  

We highly recommend you consider installing a Reflex furler from Harken – and the next time you hear that whisper in the back of your mind, you won’t hesitate to fly your kite.  Trust us, you’ll love it!

For more information on Reflex furler specifications and sizing, click here – or to talk to one of the Fisheries Supply sailboat experts, call us at (800) 426-6930.

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