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I thought I'd share some experience of setting up my Hitia 17 “Lilla My” with a roller reefing jib in case it is useful to others. I have certainly found it worked well for me over a summer of camp cruising and some more leisurely day sailing since.

I used a roller system made by Rob Helyar at Flexible Reefing Spars (you can find them online) - this has a flexible tubular spar in a thin luff pocket in the jib, with the forestay running through the tube. The swivels and drum are standard parts from Allen. The challenge on a cat is what to mount the bottom swivel and drum on. Rob and, via him, Allen were extremely helpful here, designing and fabricating a bespoke part – a drum mounting plate to link the forestay bridle and forestay / swivel to. This allows the drum to be held in place without spinning and includes a fairlead for the furling line.

I did have to adapt the standard Hitia 17 rigging set up a little:

- shorter wires for the forestay bridle, to compensate for the width of the drum mounting plate
- setting the rake of the mast by adjusting the length of a line which ties the top of the forestay to the mast, rather than by a lashing at the foot of the forestay as the design would have it. This is a bit of a pain to set up – involving raising and lowering the mast to adjust it until you have it right, but I've only had to do it once, so not too much of an issue. I leave the loop of line at the top tied to the correct length and when I raise the mast, I pull the tension into the rig with a few turns of line temporarily around the bottom end of one side of the forestay bridle and the u-bolt in the bow it attaches to, and then fit the shackle that fixes it permanently in place.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with how the whole system operated. It was incredibly useful having a reliable roller system for sailing single-handed and meant I really did feel fully in control of things, even sailing in quite confined spaces on my own - being able to roll most of the jib away just leaving a scrap up to help ease you into a quay or beach is great. Being able to reef the jib really helps keep the balance of the boat with a heavily reefed main.

When I de-rig the boat, the jib can be left rolled onto the spar, which coils up tightly enough to fit in the back of my car.

The one significant problem I did have with it, was that the base of the cam cleat supplied for the furling line cracked only a few days into the trip. I think this probably happened because of the angle at which the furling line runs - I don't think the cleat is designed to have any significant tension on the wire fairlead at the front, but the line tended to pull upward on this when I was reefing. I found a simple clam cleat with a fairlead worked fine and was much more robust option - they are good bit cheaper too. Incidentally, I have also ended up changing the Barton clam cleats I fitted for my jib sheets for big open clam cleats, which I found much easier to use - maybe a case of keep it simple stupid, for this scale and style of boat at least.

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Thanks for sharing your experience. I am very happy with the standard jib on our TIKI 21 in all 2-crew-situations. But a roller jib would be very nice when singlehanded. Especially since the boat is on a lake now and these damn shores come closer much faster than on the sea.

What do you say about the shape of the sail when heavily reefed? I assume it should not be too bad with such a small sail.

The shape isn't perfect very heavily reefed - eventually becoming a bit loose / baggy. I tended to use it this state mostly just for slowing things down coming to shore, with the main already down, and she doesn't sail well to windward with only the jib up anyway, so not much lost there.  I found I could reef the jib in enough to balance with a double reefed main (mine has an extra reef point over the standard Hitia 17 design) and it held its shape pretty well.

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