“You’re doing what??” Yes, we’re switching to hank-ons.

Installing new rigging meant that it was finally time to pull the trigger on something we had been thinking about for a while – removing the furler and switching to a hank-on jib.

Currently our headsail is on a furler which is what you see on the vast majority of sailboats nowadays. A furler allows you to simply pull on a line when you’re finished using the jib, rolling it around a foil. Basically the jib is always hoisted, but it rolls up when you’re not using it. When you need to reduce the sail because of high winds, you roll it up part way which reduces the sail but also reduces how closely you can point into the wind.  Since we have a sloop (which means there is only one headstay), having a furler meant that to change to a different headsail (a storm sail for example) would involve unfurling the sail entirely (while it flogs in the wind), dropping the sail, putting the new one on by inserting it into the slot (which means raising it higher as you go, while it’s unfurled and flogging in the wind), then furling it after it’s fully raised.  We had changed our headsail once when we had Little Bristol, and we had also installed and removed the sails each year at the beginning and end of each season (and once last season in anticipation of the hurricane that didn’t arrive).  It’s a royal pain.

Before furlers were invented, headsails were hanked on. Hanked on jibs have small pistons along the luff of the sail which are clipped around the forestay before raising the sail.  The sail can stay on the deck while it’s hanked on, so it’s not flogging like a furling sail.  Hanked on jibs can have a reef point put in so that you can roll up the bottom of the sail to a certain point rather than changing to a smaller sail. This doesn’t impact your pointing ability. Changing the sail involves dropping it, unhanking it and removing the jib sheets, hanking on a new one and installing the jib sheets, and raising the new sail.

We decided awhile ago that when we replaced the standing rigging we’d also remove the furler and switch to hank on headsails. This definitely goes against popular convention, but we have several reasons for doing this: we don’t like how poorly the boat points when the jib is partially furled; we don’t want to spend the money on adding a solent stay, so if we kept the furler but needed to switch to a storm jib, we’d have to completely unfurl the sail before dropping it – a task that’s not appealing in high winds; and we like how hank on jibs are bullet proof – no furler to break down or maintain. So, consistent with our desire to keep things simple, we’re going hank on.

I’ll admit that when it came time to confirm to Chuck from Sound Rigging Services that we wanted him to remove the furler, there was a little voice in my head that said, “Are you 100% SURE you want to do this?”  Not surprising given that almost everyone we’ve met has looked at us with disbelief when we’ve told them that we’re switching to hank ons.  We even met one very nice couple at Shenny who had the typical reaction when the subject came up.  When I saw the wife again the next day and said hello, the very first thing she said was “Are you sure you want to switch to hanks ons?”  Clearly it had been on her mind.

But we’re sure.  While most people are surprised, there are also a handful of people who nod with understanding and say it’s a good idea (including Chuck, our rigger).  If we had a bigger boat it would be an entirely different situation, but on our 29.9 the sail sizes will be easily managed.  We know this will work for us, and it also appeals to me aesthetically.  Undoubtedly there will be a time where one of us will be up front on a pitching boat getting wet and wondering why the hell we decided to do this.  But to us the benefits are worth the tradeoffs: less windage, better sailing, and much less complexity.

To continue the cascade of spending that began when we discovered there was a dent in our mast, switching to hank on sails means we need to buy a hank on headsail.  Even though we’d love a new set of sails (our mainsail is a bag), new standing rigging and the mast repair is already costing quite a bit so new sails will need to wait.  Instead, we decided to buy a used jib from Bacon Sails in Annapolis to get us through next season. Then we’ll consign the jib with Bacon Sails and order all new sails (likely from Mack Sails) in the fall.

As for our existing furler and furling sail, there are always people who are looking to switch TO roller furling from hank ons, so we’re going to sell them and put the money towards defraying the cost of the new rigging.  Step by step, we continue moving closer to our dream.   Only three years, four months, and eight days to go!

10 thoughts on ““You’re doing what??” Yes, we’re switching to hank-ons.

  1. Thanks for sharing Kim. Contemplating the same thing our 29.9. Getting increasingly frustrated at the fact that I can’t seem to find a windless day to again remove our oversized genoe furled sail safely since we rolled it up improperly last time (newbies haha). Dang hurricane! There always seems to be some wind on our mooring field. Waiting for that magical windless day.

    Was thinking maybe trying a removal while going downwind and blocking the headsail with the main? It’s so oversized and heavy that it makes me a bit nervouse to see it luffing around so hard on previous removal attempts. What a hassel!

    Probably not as much of an issue with a lighter and smaller hank on. Not to mention the other great merits……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean about trying to remove the genoa from the furler. That’s one of the things that made us decide to make the switch. Just about everybody looked at us in disbelief when we said we were going to use hank-ons, but we’ve gone through a season with it now and we love it. Easy to raise and douse, and the boat points into the wind SO. MUCH. HIGHER. No regrets at all.

      Let me know if you decide to make the switch!



      1. When you encounter a freshening breeze, and you have on, say, a #1, how do you raise, say, a #3? Do you have to take the #1 totally off? Would the previous sail not be in the way? Trying to wrap my mind around this.

        I’m looking at buying a boat with hank-on headsails.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Mitchell – yes, you would need to take the #1 off and put the #3 on.

        We actually ended up switching back to a furler several months after we left to go cruising. We would have kept the hank on if we were day sailing, but it just didn’t prove to be practical for us under the circumstances.

        Happy to answer any other questions you might have. Kimberly


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