We have in-mast furling on a couple of our charter boats (coastal N.C.), and they work very well for that purpose. The charterers do not report having trouble with the systems, and they've worked great for me when I've used the boats, as well.
If you're racing, a full-battened main does offer better sail shape. And I do understand the concern among some serious bluewater cruisers about having something go wrong in extreme conditions; on the other hand I have been in pretty nasty conditions in the Gulf Stream on our Catalina 36 with in-mast and didn't have any problem using the furler to reduce sail, all from the cockpit.
So there are pros and cons, as with everything, and there are some valid concerns, but in my experience they can be a good choice, particularly for coastal cruising and occasional offshore trips. I would also think that the systems have improved quite a bit now that they've been in use for some time. I think the manufacturers are using them more and more because they are a good choice for the casual sailors who make up the majority.
Carolina Wind Yachting Center, Washington, NC
Charters * Brokerage * Pacific Seacraft * Zodiac
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Who is staring at the sea is already sailing a little.