Mine is a relatively inexperienced point of view, but I thought I would post anyway.
I don't want furling anything on my next boat, but I am not sure I will have a choice about it because most boats I go and look at have roller furling head sails. If a boat had anything but reefing on the main I'd spend the money to remove it, or not buy the boat, and with furling on the head sail I have a feeling I would keep it until it broke and then simply not replace it.
My boat also only has a single hand, so it is to her benefit to be easy to handle so that the hand survives intact, and most would argue that rolling furling head sails help with that because you don't have to leave the cockpit. I wonder, however, about failures. I have asked before if you can remove roller furling sails easily and if you can put up a real storm jib, etc, in a blow, and I have gotten contradictory information about this. It has lead me to believe that there are simply people out there who use these convenient sails who have never actually been in a blow and really don't have any idea what they would do if the winds were blowing enough to put up storm sails, they don't even have storm sails! Most, it seems, would simply roll their head sail up to the point that only a bath towel sized piece was out and hope that it didn't get blown out.
I believe it would be very difficult to go out in a real blow with the deck pitching all around and make sail changes, I bet you'd have to have nerves of steel and a physique to match to do that - but at least you can actually change the sails, you aren't stuck with whatever is rolled up. I also believe that the shape of the sails suffer with roller furling, but that's only a theory, I really don't know. I would bet that the racing boats don't use roller furling, not because it is against the rules (is it ?) but because they would suffer a performance hit for using it. Don't your sails have to be cut very flat to use roller furling ? I really don't know, never having had it.
I find it comforting to go up and put a sail on and know that if it was torn or some of the hardware was destroyed that short of the stay coming down I could fix it given reasonable conditions. I just don't think that's true of roller furling, I think if it gets messed up I'd have to essentially take it apart and try to rig something up and scurry back to port and have it fixed ($$$).
What are you pretending not to know ?
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