Peter Harken and his crew of clever engineers introduced five new creations at the 2016 U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis. Among Harken’s new innovations were a ceramic-coated Air Winch with interchangeable gears (intended for those who trim wing sails on 72-foot America’s Cup catamarans), a couple of higher-tech block designs with molded carbon cheeks and titanium races and bearings, and the FlatWinder Powered Block for easier mainsail traveler trimming on cruising yachts up to 60 feet. But the product that hit me as the most innovative and practical is Harken’s new Reflex Furling System.
The challenge for a practical downwind sailor looking to set, retrieve and manage a gennaker is in getting the damn thing up, down and stowed. Since the luff of the sail is free flying, a normal roller furling system does you no good. Sure, you can rig it up a rope to a head swivel, but the results are not pretty as the sail twists unevenly from the bottom up.
The Reflex system presents a new solution with a torsion cable made of braided stainless steel over a braided polyester rope covered in a protective casing. The cable connects a Harken roller drive unit at the tack to a swivel at the head of the sail. While the cable is supple enough to roll up and stow, it is amazingly resistant to torque. The result is an evenly furled gennaker, contained and ready to set for that cruise down the Bay, or for that fetch to the turning mark ahead of your rivals. When it’s time to douse the nylon, it’s a simple matter to pull the drive control line, which immediately spins the top swivel to evenly and easily roll up the sail. Harken has a nice YouTube video showing how it works.
Reflex Furling systems are available through Harken authorized riggers, a list of which is available at www.harken.com