Reckmann is best known these days as a market leader in sail-furling solutions for superyachts but they also produce headsail, code sail and mainsail furling systems in standard sizes for 15m to 25m yachts. What these standard furlers and the much larger custom units have in common is the same impeccable engineering – and thus the same rock-solid reliability for which Reckmann has always been renowned.
‘In the old days we made furling gear for boats from 30ft upwards,’ Reckmann CEO Marcus Schuldt recalls. ‘And when a couple went off cruising they had a 35-footer or a 40-footer. Now they tend to start with at least a 50-footer, quite often a 60-footer and sometimes even a 70-footer as their first cruising yacht. The efficiency of modern sail-handling systems allows them to manage a much bigger boat, provided they know how to operate the systems. Two people can sail a 70-footer no problem these days, just pushing buttons, but you still need to know what you’re doing.’
The larger the boat and the smaller the crew, the more crucial the quality of the sail-handling hardware. Reckmann has supplied leading builders such as Nautor, Baltic, Oyster, Contest, Solaris, Grand Soleil and Y Yachts with furling and reefing gears for their blue water-oriented boats.
Furling and reefing functionality is arguably even more important on a large cruising catamaran, which can’t safely spill wind by heeling over and is thus at risk of rig breakage or worse, capsize, when a sail-handling system malfunctions in strong winds. ‘We have already supplied furling gear for some big Lagoons, as well as custom catamarans like the new 46m Art Explorer for example and the demand from large cats is increasing,’ Schuldt says. ‘We don’t make special systems for multihulls; the only difference is that for sure you have higher loads.’
Reckmann’s core products have evolved with the changing size and type of boats that its customers sail. One upcoming product launch is a new design within the CZ range of code sail furlers, with an angled drive. It’s designed to be mounted either on the bow or inside almost any type of bowsprit. Electric and hydraulic versions are available in four standard sizes with working loads from four tons up to 16 tons.
‘These compact units can be equipped with our new TST (tack swivel toggle) for top-down furling,’ Schuldt says. ‘Nautor will be using them and some others as well. The great advantage is that the forestay is on the same axis as the rotation axis of the system. The stainless steel design of the system prevents any corrosion at this exposed installation point.’
Another recent development is a chainplate attachment for Reckmann’s under-deck headsail furling gears. ‘We have two sizes, UD2-CDF and UD3-CDF in hydraulic and electric versions,’ he says. ‘The advantage is that we can use the deck fitting of our manual furler and have a chainplate attachment below deck. This means that the forestay load is not taken by the deck fitting but by the chainplate. It occupies the same space and you don’t need to make any changes in the boat.’
The chainplate attachment is a big benefit for boatbuilders, he explains, because it avoids the usual need to strongly reinforce the foredeck around the furling unit, which adds a considerable amount of weight – and pitching moment – as well as the extra cost of materials and labour. Another advantage, especially for performance-oriented boats with narrow bows, is that units have no exterior moving parts under the deck so can be fitted more snugly into the bow. They are already being fitted on Swan 55s and 58s, and the Solaris 60s.
Load-sharing code sails and headsails are now putting much higher loads on some rigging and deck hardware components. Reckmann’s chainplate attachment solution has come at exactly the right time to enable boatbuilders to strengthen their foresail tack attachments without making major structural modifications.
‘For sure, cunningham function is becoming more important,’ Schuldt says. ‘If you have the sail on a halyard lock, you need a device to adjust the luff tension.’ Hence the tack swivel slider, originally designed for Reckmann’s custom superyacht furlers, is now available for the standard furling gears.
‘In my personal opinion these new sails are good for the sailmakers but they increase the loads on our hardware, which has to be bigger and stronger – and that is counterproductive in terms of weight and price,’ he says. ‘I would argue that for a cruising boat you don’t need that, but we have adjusted our designs to accommodate the higher loads.’
An under-deck furler is integrated into the boat, unlike an above-deck furler which is simply connected to it and therefore much more easily replaced. The longevity of an underdeck unit is thus an important consideration, so there’s a strong argument for a furling gear that is designed to be serviced and can be expected to last 30 years or more, rather than one that is built to last for a decade and must then be replaced. ‘We have many units that come back here every 8-10 years or so to be serviced,’ Schuldt says. ‘If we’re talking about the environment, our products are the ones you can use for the longest time. You can buy two or three cheaper ones or you buy a Reckmann in the first place.’
Quite a lot of Reckmann’s customers in the 15-25m segment are experienced blue water cruising sailors who are upgrading a yacht to sail shorthanded around the world. ‘We do a lot of refits,’ he says. ‘These are people who really use their boats far offshore in tough conditions. And we have many clients who have swapped to our gears because there was a lack of reliability, things broke and they really need the most reliable systems. We are not the cheapest but I’d argue that we’re the best value for money; as my father always used to say, “I’m not rich enough to buy cheap”.’
Reckmann’s in-boom mainsail furling systems, meanwhile, have been gradually evolving at an incremental pace. Supplied in hydraulic and electric versions to spar makers like Mainfurl, Furlerboom and Axxon, these systems are now found on an increasingly wide range of yachts. Their defining features include a compact, fully integrated drive unit that fits directly inside the mandrel at the front end of the boom, and a high-load clutch with a toothed disc that cannot slip and is designed to withstand an overload.
To boost reliability, the hydraulic BFH version has two cylinders to operate the clutch rather than one, while the electric BFE version is driven by an accumulator. ‘Our electric motors have a system built in that prevents them from overheating and burning out, they will just run slower,’ Schuldt explains. ‘The separate PLC box for the BFE drives allows us to control the torque, speed and current. Therefore we can avoid a tripping fuse due to overload. The furl speed can be easily adjusted to match the speed of the halyard winch exactly, and if necessary we can control captive halyard winches to end up with one-button systems.’
Putting the drive at the front minimises the boom’s kinetic energy during a crash gybe – which is inevitably going to happen at some point in the yacht’s life – and reduces the resulting torsion loads on the gooseneck. It also keeps the power supply as short as possible. For servicing, the drive slides out of the mandrel and there is no need to take the boom off, provided that it has an open front shelf with adequate width.
Like all Reckmann systems, manual operation in an emergency is part of the design. If there’s no oil pressure going to the BFH drive, its clutch can be operated with a hand pump and a bypass valve. The BFE drive has a screw to disengage the clutch manually in an electrical failure. With either system, a line can then be wound around the crown of the unit and the sail furled down.
One final innovation makes these sophisticated systems much easier for amateur sailors to use. With any in-boom furling setup the angle between mast and boom must be precisely correct before the sail is furled, otherwise it’s likely to jam. ‘Our FurlFind system allows a shorthanded crew to find the right angle, even at night,’ Schuldt explains. ‘You find the right position once and the computer knows the position to furl. Then you just push a button and the Reckmann boom vang finds that position and gives a signal, ready to furl. Then you can furl the sail in or out.’ For a novice crew trying to reef in a rising gale, the reassurance of a foolproof system is priceless.