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Old 02-06-2011, 05:36   #1
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Loose Footed Main vs. Attached Mainsail

I've listed some questions that I have about replacing my 25 year old North sail which is attached to the boom with a new loose footed main.

1. Most everything that I've read seems to prefer loose footed over the attached mainsail for better sailing performance on all points of sail. Does anyone here have a different opinion?

2. I assume the dimensions of both sails would be the same(luff, leech and foot)?

3. The new sail will be made with "over the top" leech line so that the line can be controlled at the tack rather than the clew. I assume that provisions can be made for controlling that line when reefed.# Is there a need for a foot line? (Loose footed staysail does not have one.)

4. The attached old sail has a small "shelf foot". Does a loose footed sail have one and if so how do you specify the size?

5. Is a cunningham cringle needed for a loose footed sail?

6. Someone suggested putting a slug near the clew and attaching to the boom. Not sure if this is needed and may defeat the advantages of a loose footed sail. Again the loose footed staysail does not have this.

7. Not going with full length battens due to increase friction in hoisting and dousing sail, however, maybe the top batten can be full length. Any comments pro or con about batten lenght? Charlie, what's your experience with performance with the 2+2 battens?

8. The Challenge marblehead weave seems to be specified for low aspect sails. (less than 2.5) Is the aspect ratio calculated by luff devided by foot? If so, then something other than marblehead is needed and there is a whole list of Challenge sailcloth available. Comments on what is best? I went with High Aspect 8.62 on the new staysail that is on order.

9. The slugs in the mast are for the most part made of plastic while the reef points and head use metal slugs. Are there any differences in the type of plastics available (pro and con)?

Thanks for any and all comments!

The boat is a Tayana 37 with a yatch spar mast(New Zealand)

# (Rich supplied the following info) The leech line runs up normally to the headboard but instead of being attached/sewn near the headboard it continues to a 'cheekblock' mounted ON the headboard then continues in a small sleeve down along the luff tape .... For evey 'cleat' (each reef position) at the leech there is also a cleat at the luff, and the leech cord is exposed (not in the luff sleeve at each luff reef cringle. ....

Not sure how the cam cleats work on reefing. Seems like you have to set the line on the leech at each reef point....and once the line is set it seems like when you shake the reef out the line has to be removed from that particular cam cleat on the leech??

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Old 05-06-2011, 12:24   #2
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Re: Loose Footed Main vs. Attached Mainsail

Regarding question #6, I found that a slug at the clew is impractical. I prefer a strap around the boom (3-4 turns, closed with hook-and-loop) but I have no experience of this setup on boats more than 30' in length.


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Old 05-06-2011, 13:58   #3
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Re: Loose Footed Main vs. Attached Mainsail

G'Day Lancelot,

I'll try to address the queries that I have some info on:

1. My last five or six mains have been loose footed. 'Nuff said.

2. Some sailmakers like to add some roach on the foot in a loose footed sail. Never saw the advantage of this practice and don't recommend it. Otherwise, no differences in dim's.

3.The over the top leech line is good in that it allows adjustment when the boom end is out of reach. Has a bit more friction, but has worked will for me (62 M^2 sail). There will be a gap in the luff area sleeve at each reef point, with an attendant tiny clam cleat. One tensions the line whilst reefing. The cleat is oriented so that when you shake out the reef it releases the leech line automatically... pretty cool!

4. A loose footed sail does not have a shelf.

5. The need for a cunningham is not changed by being loose footed. Most cruising setups don't bother, since no one cares how long your luff is or how high you hoist it, thus obviating the need for the cunningham.

6. A slug at the clew would tend to hang up and make adjustment of the outhaul more difficult. Many sailmakers use a strop of heavy webbing around the boom at the clew which is usually at the attachment between outhaul and cringle. The strop slides back and forth with the clew as you adjust the outhaul. Cheap and effective.

7. Lots of different opinions on full vs short battens. The full ones are heavier, add loads to the luff cars at their ends and cost more. They (in most folks opinions) help maintain sail shape and add significantly to sail life in the cruising environment. They do a better job of supporting roach area in the leech, especially near the head of the sail, and this can add to the performance on all points of sail. They markedly reduce flogging when reefing.

On our main we have the top three full length and the lower two about 1/2 the width of the sail. This has worked well for about 35,000 miles, and I think that when we replace the sail I'll do it again.

8. I can't give knowledgeable advice on these materials.

9. All of the plastic slugs/slides that I have seen are Nylon. They work ok, but at the headboard I use metal ones... the Nylon just isn't strong enough for the loads imparted there. If you have your reef tack points set up right there is little or no load on the slug there... the loads are taken out by the reefing hook, or whatever you use to secure the tack.

So, that is one cruiser's opinion set. Others may disagree. Hope that it helps the difficult decisions ya gotta make in getting a good mains'l.


Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II , lying Twofold Bay, Eden,NSW after our 32d crossing of Bass Strait!
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Old 05-06-2011, 14:21   #4
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Re: Loose Footed Main vs. Attached Mainsail

#1 - go loose footed

#2 - yes

#3 - no foot-line for loose footed but outhaul is

#4 - ??

#5 - yes, I always use the Cunningham

#6 - I have a car with a length of track which is overkill. Go for a strap of webbing or even better: hollow braid spectra which is very easy to splice into a loop and slippery (Samson Amsteel)

#7 - I love full battens but it requires extra hardware. Just a top full batten? If your sailmaker is experienced making that, sure.

#8 - I have high aspect sails build from HydraNet material so can't help you with this point.

#9 - Stop using the metal slides.. they will damage your track. Bainbridge sells special slides that prevent jamming and are stronger. They are black plastic with sliding surfaces both inside the mast and outside the mast. For extra strength you can use 2 slides coupled with a lashing.

The leech line with block at the masthead and cleats at the reefing points works flawless, don't worry.

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Old 05-06-2011, 15:37   #5
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Re: Loose Footed Main vs. Attached Mainsail

Oddly, I agree with the two above Saving me typing answers to the long list of questions.

As Jim hints, the foot roach and cunningham are not needed by cruisers. They are features desired by racers to obtain 'unmeasured' sail area when racing under certain rules. If you have a foot roach you must have a foot line in it or you will be driven nuts by the slapping as the sail ages. The strop at the clew/outhaul is way better than the old way with a car or slug unless there is something goofy about the underside of the boom in that area, e.g. many sheet block eyes.

I'd go with whatever sailcloth the sailmaker recommends. Call them. It's complicated.
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