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The other day I read an account of a crew that had their boat’s genoa furling line chafe through twice during a long and windy passage. My assumption is that they had been running with the genoa reefed (partially furled) for a period of time, as there would be little stress on the line when the sail is either all the way in, or all the way out. To tell the truth, we had this exact same thing happen to us one night. On a related note, why do problems always occur in the dark???

I’ve considered this situation because the furling line on Frost is one of the few on the boat that we don’t yet have a spare for. Our genoa furling line also a bit special. It is largely made up of 6mm Dyneema, but has a length of normal double braid spliced onto it to make the line easier to work with by hand, and control via a winch. The small diameter Dyneema fits onto the furling drum nicely, and it’s super strong. Anything can chafe though if it is subjected to a sharp edge.

If you look closely you can see both the double braid on the winch, and the small diameter Dyneema in the background. The spliced area is hidden by the winch.

The small diameter line fits on the furling drum nicely.

So, aside from carrying a spare, which by the law of the sea pretty much guarantees that we’d never have a problem with it, what else could we do to prevent an issue when operating with the genoa reefed? Having the line chafe through in a blow, letting the furled portion of the sail unravel, is not something that I’d prefer to have happen (again).

Well, for starters, we could inspect the entire furling system, and make sure that every spot that the line touches is smooth. I wonder if there’s anything else that could be done though. For example, if you knew that you were going to be running with a reef for a long time, what if the load on the furling line was taken up by another small line, attached by a rolling hitch close to the drum? It could be rigged so that there are no points to chafe on, and it would be sacrificial in a sense that, if it did chafe through, it would be no big drama to replace it, and the load would automatically be taken up by the furling line which is still cleated, and in tact. Of course, rigging something like this would require going to the bow to set and remove it, and given that you’re running with the headsail reefed, we’d have to assume that it’s blowing. That may not be the time when you want to be messing around up on the bow. Your thoughts and experiences?

I’ve never actually done this. Just brainstorming this morning.


  1. Your idea seems sound so long as the chafe point is not somewhere forward of the rolling hitch attachment point. I wonder if there is a common chafe point location that is the problem such as where the line leads out of the furling drum?

  2. If you take the small line closer to the cockpit i.e. within reach so you don’t have to go on deck, you could furl the sail further if the wind increased or furl it further to remove/relocate the small line provided there were no staunchion or other blocks in the way. As it is shown, you would have to get to the pointy end before you could shorten the headsail.

  3. With such a small diameter line, wouldn’t it be possible for you to have a a length of line on the fuller that would be long enough to re-furl the sail if the like were to chafe though? So basically you’d have 2x the amount of line required to fully furl the head sail on the furler when the sail is completely let out?

    You’d have to go on deck to retrieve it but I’d think it would be a lot easier to grab the free end and run with it?

  4. I think the very first thing I would start with is rotating the opening of the furling drum so that the dyneema doesn’t touch it.

    Beyond that, your rolling hitch idea looks okay, but not ideal for all the reasons you already thought of.

    • I’ll have to look to see if that’s even possible. As it stands though, I’m not too concerned with the way the line is lead. That surface is quite smooth, and Dyneema is relatively slippery.

    • I’ve had chafe. Because of the way I use my 130% genoa with inside tracks, I have to use it reefed to 100% nearly all the time, under high load. I’ve never had it chafe anywhere but the drum.

      a. Like Mike R said, rotate the drum. That is what I had to do. Also adjust the vertical lead. No contact.

      b. Will a rolling hitch hold on Dyneema? I doubt it. Maybe an icicle hitch.

      For those of you that use polyester, perhaps with the core removed, Yale Maxijacket is a great help, reducing chafe ~ 5x.

  5. I’ve had the same problems, and the same thoughts. Our jib furling line has indeed chafed through, 4 times so far, and all while under a furled load for 6 hours or so. This never happened when we sailed during the summer time on Lake Ontario, only once we got to the ocean. I finally found what I believe to be the chafing or rough edge that was so hard on the line. I believe that changing your point of sail from a close haul to a broad reach, with the same wind and wave conditions may lesson the force on the sail. I like your idea of splicing a Dyneema line to a double braided line – and will give it further consideration. An alternative is to cut away some of the outer layer and spice over top a Dyneema sleeve, over the length that you expect to reef. As you said, the small diameter Dyneema line is tough to handle both with your hands and on the winch. I had a conversation with someone about this last year, a professional crew on a mega-yacht. I think the yacht was M3. He told me that some of these yachts with slab-reefing main and mizzen sails actually used sail cringles and SS pins (electrically operated) that were in place to take the load off the halyards. Personally, I’d like to see a simple SS pin on the halyard drum, something that the crew at deck level could easily insert to take the load off the furling line. I’m told that this whole issue disappears when you have hydraulic or electric furling.

    • I’m definitely open to suggestions beyond what I’ve proposed. Someone on Facebook mentioned locking the furling drum but I have no idea how that would be done. I don’t think it’s possible on our boat.

  6. What about running two furling lines parallel to each other of different color and using only one
    as your load with the other as a backup tying the main line under load and the other on a separate that will take the load if the main breaks. No need to be on deck and can be fixed when conditions get better. Just a thought.

    • The simple solution is always the best. That doesn’t sound very simple.

      • The very last line in this post (COLREGS) seems a bit confusing to me. Assuming that a ship in the TSS was not restricted in its ability to maneuver, or constrained by draft (unlikely, I’d guess, in a TSS), it would seem that a sailboat would still be higher in the pecking order. I’m guessing that’s not true though.

        • I have always held the rule in my mind that the larger vehicle always has the right of way. That and barring any other indications, it is my job to avoid an accident. I will stand on, giving him an opportunity to change course, but if I don’t see him taking action in a reasonable amount of time I assume he doesn’t know the rules and protect myself from collision.

          • It is our responsibility to do exactly that, get out of the way, in all situations where collision is imminent. There is no real “right of way.”

            It’s also just plain stupid to play chicken with a monstrous vessel traveling in excess of 20 knots! 🙂

  7. Interesting post Mike. I was keeping a close eye on the furling line of our Lagoon 420 this winter because it had 2 chafed spots and there’s a lot of tension on that line when the genoa is reefed.

    We had an overnighter from Deshais to St. Pierre in 35 knots with the genny reefed to 40%. I would not have wanted it to fail in that! I changed the line out as soon as we got to St. Lucia.

    The old line was regular double braid and I put on super braid which has about about a 3 times higher breaking strength. I felt a lot better when that job was done! 🙂

    Btw, you mentioned you had your furling line part on you. How did you handle that situation to get the genny under control/furled? Thanks.

    • I think it’s described in the post I linked but basically the wind had abated enough that the reef was unnecessary by the time I noticed the problem (it occurred at night when I was off watch). I removed the cockpit portion of the line from the guides that it ran through (so that a bend would not get hung up), and then tied it to the part remaining on the furling drum. Although not ideal, by doing this we were still able to furl the sail when it was time to stop.

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