For the past 2+ years I've been living with my first in-mast furling mainsail. There are plusses and minuses, to be sure. That said, I think some of the more vociferous criticism seems to come from people who don't actually have the system. Here's my take on it, FWIW:
1. You definitely lose some performance, both because of size and also because of roach. It's not nearly as bad as it is being made out here. We have vertical battens, so we don't have negative roach. I wouldn't say we have too much roach at all, but it's there. The lack of sail area is something though. It's hard to "measure" because I haven't pulled our rig and replaced it with a standard mast and mainsail to figure out exactly how much more weatherly we would be, but it is my sense that we're not pointing as high or are as fast as I expect at times, and I'm attributing that to the main (because it certainly can't be my fault!).
2. You do have plenty of sail controls with an in-mast furling main. They are just different from a conventional main and you have to learn that. You certainly can have a cunningham, though granted most don't seem to be equipped that way. Likewise, you can effect draft with the outhaul and furling line. I have to say, you actually have a little bit more control and I can get my furling mainsail flatter than any other mainsail I've had. By playing the furling line, outhaul, vang and sheet, you can push, pull and stretch the sail just about any way you want it. If someone thinks there's a sail control for a main that you can't apply with a furling main, please speak up (seriously), as I'd be curious to see if I could pull it off.
3. I've taken ours offshore, and it has never given us a moment's problem. This was my BIGGEST concern about going to a furling main. I was very concerned about reliability, and what do I do if the main gets stuck halfway out (can't get it in, can't get it out to drop it). That fear still remains somewhat, but our system hasn't come close to giving us a problem on that front. Though the lines are led to winches, I have yet to be unable to furl or deploy the sail by hand. I probably just jinxed myelf, but there you have it.
4. The ease of use just can't be beat. CruisingDad one time advised me that we'll use our mainsail more because it's easier to use and put away. He was so right, and then some. Not only is it easier to use, but from a safety and performance standpoint, I am MUCH more likely to reef early, shake out a reef, adjust draft, etc., because it's so easy. The worst thing about changing gears with this thing is that it's too easy so I feel compelled to do it, yet I still have to put down my beer to make it happen, whereas with a traditional main I had the excuse of it being a hassle, so I could just keep on sippin'.
5. As I mentioned, we've had ours for about 2.5 years, and we don't see any more wear and tear than I would expect from a traditional main. And that includes some offshore trips with constant use. I'm not sure I see the point some make about the sail getting more wear because it's rolled. I sure don't seem to be experiencing that.
6. You do go through telltales. We seem to need to replace them every year, and sometimes in-season. I guess they don't tolerate getting rolled up too well.
As to the point some have made about requiring that everything on the boat be susceptible to being handled by one person alone, I'm not sure I'm buying that at all, and you would be concluding that a very large percentage of boats out there shouldn't be sailed because they require crew. FWIW (I know, "nothing"), I pretty much singlehand our boat all the time, but there in fact are some things with which I need help. I don't think that means our boat is "too big," but I guess others may disagree.
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