Join Date: Jun 2003
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You really need to check previous posts. Lots of people weighed in with very educated and reasonable (and wildly differing) opinions.
FWIW, I have an extrusion riveted to the back of my normal mast, containing a vertically-furled mainsail. It came on the boat when I bought it, and really didn''t want it. Reasons are the same as everyone mentions--it might break. Secondary reasons are that the sail must be loosefooted, with less area in the roach (either no battens or vertical battens). And reefing (as opposed to furling) can put undue strain on the middle of the reefing system--so you might go to a trysail earlier and lower wind speeds than you otherwise might.
To me, the sail sets very well loose-footed, and that is becoming fairly common lore by now--a loose-footed main can set well. I don''t miss any area in the roach of the sail--personally I am a cruiser (used to be a racer) and I don''t see any significant degradation in speed. And no battens simplifies maintenance of the sail a lot--most of the problems I used to have with mains revolved around the battens, batten pockets, etc.
On the breakage issue--some folks have taken my model of furler around the world and done fine. Mine has never broken or shown any signs of wear or hanging up, or anything else. Since it is mechanical, I expect it to wear and possibly someday break, and I''ll deal with it as I deal with all my boat systems, which also wear and break and need to be replaced from time to time. You do have to accept the risk that it will break in an inconvenient fashion--like fully out--at an inconvenient time--like in a storm.
The overall convenience is much greater than I expected. It makes short handling a larger sailboat (e.g. 40+ feet) much more convenient and, I believe, safer, since we can do everything from the cockpit. My wife typically furls and deploys the main--easily. We often fly the main when we would not bother with it if not furling.
This is my take on it. And a summary of the objections, from someone who has been won over (me). For more--previous posts have much more detail.