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Mainsail Furling/Reefing Systems
I will try to respond to the question about reefing vs furling my "nearly in-mast" system. I have reefed by partially rolling up the main in moderate air and it works well. However, on my previous boat and previous offshore trips in heavy air, I am used to deep jiffy reefing the main to balance the rig. When you deep reef the mast roller rig, there is a lot of pressure at the top of the sail, which is a fair ways down from the top of the mast. The furling system is supported at the top and bottom of the mast--not in the middle. So there are extra stresses when doing a deep reef in very heavy air with these systems. I am certain the furling systems are designed to handle it, but my engineering background does not like the inherent lack of support.
All that said, I admit that much of my experience is in racing and offshore, and I have been in some heavy weather. I will take NO chances on overstressing gear on my cruising boat. So, I have a largish trysail to rig in these conditions and the wind speed for the trysail to be deployed is much lower than normal for a trysail.
I want to repeat that this is only me. I am very much a belt and suspenders guy. But, I''ve been sailing for 35 years (gosh has it been that long?), and I am very cautious.
Also, to put it in perspective, even with the furling genoa, I have an oversized inner forestay and largish "storm" jib hanked on, and use the same philosophy on that. I think the storm sails set better in heavy air, better distribute the loads, and generally reduce stress on the furling systems.
I am a little sheepish about this extra caution on my part. I expect a bunch of follow-up from others deriding my overly cautious nature. But such is life. At least I come by it honestly, from personal experience.
All that said, I still love the furling main as much as the furling genoa. If I somehow got another boat (won''t happen--my current boat is my last one) that didn''t have a furling main, I would certainly add it. No doubt. As to whether in-mast or in-boom, I don''t know, since that decision is already made in my case.