Annie's headsail was made with a wire sewn in the luff that formed the head stay, an eye swaged at each end. The stay was pinned into a Harken roller-furling swivel at the head and its partner reel at the tack. In light airs this configuration is very effective and welcomed by a single-hander with a cabin between the bow and the helm.
I found out quickly that when the wind freshened the ability of an unassisted wire luff was of little use in reefing. The tack furled positively, but the head swivel could not hold under the pressure. The set was less than desirable to say the least.
A couple of years ago my friend Terry and I set out to stiffen the luff. I bought a length of Schedule 40 aluminum pipe and with a jig on the table saw we cut a slot that the sail-covered luff wire could fit in. Before cutting the pipe we stretched the luff using the trailer hitch on my truck. The pipe length was cut to just cover the wire eyes at each end and holes were drilled in the pipe ends corresponding to the eyes.
Since the luff was originally cut short and required additional wire pendants, it was necessary to add rigid, dinghy-sized chain plates to each end. The tack included a stainless snap shackle. When all set up, including additional spaced grommets seized to the pipe along the luff, the whole run became rigid.
The modification has worked. On occasion, in a force 5, the reefed sail sets well. The $50 cost has been well worth the investment.
|The seizing (at the horizon level) keeps the wire in the pipe|
|Snap shackle makes for quick connection when raising mast|