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After 20 years as a leading supplier of A-sail and code sail furlers, Karver have finally designed a headsail furler… with some fresh ideas

When Karver announces a new product line, many racing sailors pay close attention. However, the latest launch from this innovative French company (which earned its reputation supplying hardware for Vendée Globe, Mini 6.50, Class40, Ocean 50 and America’s Cup campaigns) is primarily aimed at cruising.

‘We’ve known for a while that we needed to work on a headsail reefing furler,’ says Karver’s COO, Tanguy de Larminat. ‘When our founder Marin Clausin wanted to go cruising with his family, that was a good opportunity to do it.’

Developing a headsail furler is an obvious next step, given that A-sail and code sail furlers have been the mainstay of Karver’s product portfolio for the last two decades. And for Clausin, the principal design engineer as well as owner and founder, the KRS range of furlers brings his career around full circle.

‘Marin’s father created Profurl and he could have taken over that company 20 years ago when his father retired,’ de Larminat explains. ‘But for him it just wasn’t focused enough on racing or maybe it was too old-fashioned so he preferred to go and create Karver.’

Coming back to cruising at the age of 50, Clausin’s main goal when designing the KRS was not to make it lighter than other furlers on the market; in fact it weighs about the same. Rather, his focus was to make it as robust and reliable as possible. For a piece of hardware that plays such a pivotal role in a boat’s ability to sail efficiently in heavy weather, reliability is the most important aspect of performance.

Above and below: the KRS headsail furler from Karver has a double-width drum that gives more mechanical advantage when you haul on the furling line and brings the tack of the sail closer to the deck. The drum can be open or enclosed, and either fully or partially finished in wood veneer

Ease of operation was important. Designing it with his own family in mind, Clausin was keen to ensure his wife and kids could furl a big genoa from the cockpit. Double bearings in both the swivel and drum reduce friction. ‘We’ve also designed a specific block for the furler because often you have a sharp angle on the furling line,’ de Larminat says. ‘On many boats you have to go up near the bow and haul on the line very close to the furler.’

The drum is a lot wider than their competitors, to give more mechanical advantage. A useful side effect of the extra width is that it’s half as tall, and a new way of attaching the bottom end brings it closer to the deck by 5-10cm. ‘You can use a longer link if you need it,’ he says, ‘to provide more clearance for the anchor for example.’ The tack of the sail can be attached with either a lashing, a fabric link or a shackle.

The KRS is an eco-conscious design, using a reduced amount of raw materials and all plastic parts are bio-plastics. ‘I know it won’t save the world,’ de Larminat says, ‘but it’s important to us to do what we can.’

The prototype was fitted to Clausin’s own Beneteau Océanis 473. After a season of intensive use, a further 20 units have been tested on a wide range of boats. At one end of the scale is the Orma 60 trimaran Flo (ex Pierre 1er) which Philippe Poupon raced in last year’s Route du Rhum. The others are regular cruisers like Beneteaus and Dufours, two of which are now cruising the Pacific. It’s too soon to make claims about reliability, de Larminat says, but the feedback received thus far is all good. Although it’s designed with ease of retrofitting foremost in mind, builders like JPK, Outremer, Pogo, Moody and Catana will be fitting KRS furlers on new or old boats too.

Another key factor is cost. ‘People assume Karver is more expensive,’ de Larminat says. ‘That was true ten years ago but for a long time we’ve been the same price as others, sometimes lower.’ The price for the KRS is thus on a par with its rivals and features like an elliptical headfoil section, a double luff groove and a black anodised finish – usually optional extras – are included. ‘It’s an all-options furler for the price of a standard one,’ he says. ‘Most brands have racing and cruising versions but it makes no sense for us to do that. What is good for racers is good for cruisers as long as the product stays easy to use. ’ There are a few options for the drum, however. It can be open or enclosed and fully or partially finished in wood veneer.

The full range of manual furlers is now available, for 6m to 25m boats. Electric and hydraulic versions are also in the pipeline: ‘We will try to keep the same size range and we’ll have something to show next year,’ de Larminat says. ‘These will have two aspects, one traditional and one very innovative – it’s not the way electrics and hydraulics are normally used for furling.’

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