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I sailed several sailboats (mostly chartered, range from 33 to 47 feet) with furling and full batten mainsail and a few with partial battens. My conclusion is:
1)Furling: easy to "hoist" (unfurl) and "reef" (furl) until you have a problem. A problem always happens at the wrong time (strong wind with big waves, night, ...). usual problem is that the sail can not be furled as the sailcloth is jammed.
On many boats you have to furl/unfurl the sail at the mast and often the winch is mounted so close to the boom that you hurt yourself hitting the boom, if you are not carefull (also with the shorter winch handle). Sailing performance is not the best, sail shape is not the best, sail size is not the best. You end up motoring more. Benefit: you can unfurl and reef even if you are not heading into the wind.
2) Full batten: best sailing performance, more canvas on the given mast/boom but more work to hoist it (specially if you have all lines lead to the cockpit it is a lot of friction if you have old lines. Reefing: not really a problem, all can be usually done from the safety of the cockpit. Lowering the full batten mainsail is a piece of cake (if you have a lazy jack with the cover bag, which you normally do): you just drop it and in falls into the bag. No work at all. Hoisting: If you are not facing the wind the battens may get into lazy jack lines, so you have to face the wind (more or less) to hoist the sail
Partial battens: It is a compromise between the two systems. One can have enough canvas (if you have a big roach the shape is terible after the sail gets older), but one have the same problems with getting battens into lazy jack lines and in addition it can not be lowered so quickly as someone have to go up and flake the sail onto the boom.
Booom furling: no experience, but I see it as something good (usually it is seen on expencive boats). I heard that the material have to be replaced more often (rubbing in the boom beteween sail cloth and battens, ...) but this may as well be the envy talking from us not having that system.
My preference: full battens. Not only for better sailing performance, but also because the clasic hoising and reefing is so much more "the right way to do it" than furling. And taking in a reef feels more "salty" than fuling a few turns. I am not sure that "added weight high in the mast in the furling systems makes any noticable difference. But again - who am I to judge. Partial battens: only advantage I see is the price (you really want to have good cars on a mast track for full batten mainsail).
Last edited by tomaz_423; 02-08-2007 at 06:58 PM.