Pros and Cons of Loose Footed Sails - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 31 Old 11-07-2006 Thread Starter
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Pros and Cons of Loose Footed Sails

Hi everyone,

Just received a quote from North Sails, and noticed that they recommend the loose foot sails for their cruising customers. Been sailing a while now and have never owned or considered owning one...but my reasons for prejudice toward the standard cut may be unfounded as I know very little about the aspects or advantages of the loose foot. Any info you might offer on this subject will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!
Chris
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post #2 of 31 Old 11-07-2006
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Having used both over the years, we have no problem with the idea of loose-footed mains. They make for easier outhaul adjustment because there is less friction in stretching the foot. Some make much of the "shelf" and its "endplate" effect on the efficiency of a sail with a boltrope foot. We have found that when the outhaul is stretched for beating the gap tends to close up on the boom anyhow.

Off the wind you get a more uniform shape right down to the bottom of the sail.

If your sailing involves removing the mainsail between outings, a loose-footed sail is easier to bend on and unbend at the end of the day.
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post #3 of 31 Old 11-08-2006
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Another advantage of the loose-footed main, if you use sail ties, you can run them around just the sail at some points to help keep the sail bundled neatly. This is hard to do with a bolt-rope foot main. Same thing with the reefing points. This might actually save the sail if you try raising it and forget to undo the reef point ties, as the reef points are anchored to the boom but to the loose foot of the sail, which has far more give.

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loose foot main

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Originally Posted by sailingdog
This might actually save the sail if you try raising it and forget to undo the reef point ties, as the reef points are anchored to the boom but to the loose foot of the sail, which has far more give.
I hadn't thought of this actually, good point! I Can definitely see how she would keep her shape better than the bolt-rope foot main...right down to the boom. I figure North Sails knows what they are talking about...they make a nice product. Perhaps this is worth a try.

Thanks for the info!
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post #5 of 31 Old 11-08-2006
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For many years I used a mainsail with a deep shelf foot and flattening reef for racing as well as cruising, and, after loose footed mainsails became popular, that mainsail was just as competitive against them as it had been before. The deep shelf foot of that sail enabled me to adjust the draft of the mainsail drastically, to optimize the boat's performance at different windspeeds. The flattening reef enabled me to take the belly out of that sail when I wanted the boat to point to windward. So, I'm not convinced that a loose footed mainsail is inherently superior to a footed mainsail with a racing shelf foot, but that's not the only reason why you should get a loose footed mainsail when you replace your present mainsail.

When you ease the outhaul of a footed mainsail, the boltrope, which attaches the foot to the boom, prevents the sail from taking on a really deep draft. When you ease the outhaul of a loose footed mainsail, it can take on a much deeper draft, similar to what was possible with the old style racing shelf foot. That means your loose footed mainsail will be capable of a wider range of adjustment than the ordinary, footed mainsail, and that's a huge benefit. The loose footed mainsail is capable of about the same range of adjustment as the old racing shelf foot.

A lot of people set the tension on their outhaul and never adjust it again for the rest of the season. If you get a loose footed mainsail, you should definitely install a couple of blocks and a cleat on the boom to enable you to quickly and easily adjust the outhaul tension while under way, because that easy adjustability is what enables you to take advantage of the loose footed sail's benefits. Then try adjusting it with more draft at lower boat speeds and windspeeds and when sailing off the wind, and with less draft at higher speeds, and when sailing to windward.

I just ordered a new mainsail and genoa for my boat, and had no reservations about going with the loose footed mainsail (but I did specify that I wanted the performance cut). ;>)

Last edited by Sailormon6; 11-08-2006 at 12:45 PM.
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post #6 of 31 Old 11-08-2006
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At one time loosed footed mains were big with racers because the sail area below the boom wasn't measured so didn't result in a penalty. PHRF et al could've caught up with that by now -- I'm a cruiser.

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post #7 of 31 Old 11-09-2006 Thread Starter
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Thank you to all who contributed their knowledge and suggestions to this post. I have a lot to think about and decisions to make, but I feel more confident in doing so now. Any more info...keep it coming!
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post #8 of 31 Old 11-09-2006
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How does the loose footed main compair to a sail that attaches to the boom w/sail slugs instead of a bolt rope? (I'm in the process of ordering a new main also.)
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A sail that attaches with sail slugs instead of a bolt rope has none of the advantages of a loose-footed main, and is weaker than a full bolt rope, at least in terms of supporting the foot of the sail. I don't see any point in getting one of them. A loose footed sail is better in my opinion. The load on a loose-footed sail is taken up by the clew and tack, which are heavily reinforced.

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I am 98% sure that I will move on a loose footed sail next season. Did a list of the pros and cons and the pros for the loose footed sail far outweigh the cons...particularly when it comes to sail trim and control...seems almost a "no brianer" to me.
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