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delmarrey 25-04-2003 15:51

Loose footed main sails
I'm going to be replacing the main sail on my 40'er soon and I've heard in the wind about loose footed main sails. Has anyone heard the pros and cons of these new ideas. What I've heard so far has been positive saying they can be trimmed for better performance.

Any good info out there???????


GordMay 26-04-2003 22:48

Loose-Footed Mainsails
Your sailmaker should be able to offer the best advice,; but for what it's worth.
Loose-Footed mainsails offer a few advantages:
1) They are easier to rig & de-rig.
2) The outhaul is easier to Trim - less friction.
3) You can get a fuller roach shape (more draft) for light airs & downwind work.
4) They MAY impose less side loading on the boom? Comments anyone???
5) They MAY suffer less chaffe?
The main disadvantage would seem to be in upwind work. You might get some "foot flutter" when trimmed hard.
All in all, I think a loose-footed main could be a good choice for the cruiser.
Look forward to other (more expert & perhaps contrary) comments.

delmarrey 30-04-2003 02:49

Loose footed main sails
Well, the sailmaker tells me that they are great for racing when they get replaced often , but for crusing and off shore they lose their shape too quickly and become ineffective and troublesome .
So, that answers that.



Jeff H 11-05-2003 01:03

You need a new sailmaker. There is no relationship between the lifespan or length of time that a sail retains its shape and whether the sail has a loose foot or not. In a properly made sail with a bolt rope or boom slugs, there is a shelf on the bottom of sail that allows the sail to retain a proper shape when the outhaul is eased. In most cases, when a sail is properly made, that shelf exerts no support or pressure on the sail itself. What that means that even when you have a sail that is not a loose-footed sail, in highest stressed cases such as power reaching or going up wind, even a non-loose footed sail is acting as a loose footed sail with all of the leech and foot loads concentrated at the clew. In other words the stress mapping within the sails are identical at the highest stressed times.

Gordon covered most of the advantages of a loose footed sail to a cruiser. One advantage of a loose footed sail over a shelf foot sail that Gordon did not mention is that you can often do away with a flattening reef on a loose footed sail because you do not have the shelf limiting outhaul travel.


Jeff H 11-05-2003 01:06

oops! That last sentence should have read,"You can often get away WITHOUT a flattening reef on a loose footed mainsail"


delmarrey 12-05-2003 16:40

Loose footed sails
The Sailmaker I'm dealing with is a third generation craftsman. He mostly deals with the racing agenda. And he was saying his customers replace their loose footed sails around every two years. I think what he was trying to relate to me is that the light air situations is what does the most damage. The constant downward pull on the clew, rather than the whole footrope, stretches the leech deforming the roach causing loss of performance. I would imagine that a sail of 9 or 10 oz. material would last a lot longer. But loose footed sails are lighter weight.
Over here in the Puget Sound area we seem to have fairly light air (10 knots -) or strong gusts (25 knots+). A favorable wind of 15 knots just doesn't last but a couple of hours. But for now, I guess I'll just stick with the foot rope.
I do appreciate all the input, Thanks............DelmarRey

Jeff H 12-05-2003 21:47

With all due respect to you and your sailmaker, if you understood what your sailmaker was actually telling you then you really need to talk to a more knowledgeable sailmaker.

In a properly made mainsail, the foot provides absolutely no support to the mainsail on any point of sail. Properly made the foot of the sail is a wing shaped shelf. That shelf should be configured so that it places no load on the sail (if it did it would distort the shape of the lower panels of the sail). The shelf is onlt there for aerodynamic reasons to act as an endplate. Properly set in all conditions, the tack and clew cringles take all of the foot loads in the sail. The shelf should never be under a cross load. Go sail on a bunch of well sailed boats with shelf foot mainsails and look at the shelf on a variety of points of sail and I assure you that you will not see the shelf ever providing support the mainsail in any conditions.

Even on shelf-less mainsails, the foot provides minimal support for the mainsail and in fact increases the bias loads on a mainsail therefore theoretically shortening its lifespan.

It sounds like the Chesapeake where I live and sail, has very similar summer winds as you do. I race and sail on a lot of different boats in any given summer. Around here the crack race boats change their mainsails every year or two but that has absolutely nothing to do with whether they have a loose or shelf foot mainsail. It has to do with the need for the absolute best sail shape, the light weight sail cloths that are typically used, and with the sheer amount of use these sails get in a year of being campaigned. Both the J-22 and the Farr designed 40 footer that I have been crewing on for the past few years replaces their mainsails each year. Both have shelf foot mainsails. I am a mainsail trimmer on both. I spend a lot of time looking at those mainsails. At no point in the wind range or on any point of sail is the out haul eased enough that the foot exerts pressure support on the sail. On my previous boat (a Laser 28)I used a loose footed mainsail for over 11 years. It was still competitive in its last year that I used it (6 firsts, two second and a third and the third was because someone misread the race circular and so we rounded the wrong mark close to 600 feet upwind of the right mark).

There are a lot of reasons why you might want a loose footed or shelf footed mainsail. Durability isn't one of them. The load distributions in either type will be virtually the same if both sails are made properly. On both types of sails, the full foot loads on the sail are carried by the clew and tack. If the sail is properly engineered to properly distribut the loads, this has no impact on durability and so both types of sails have equal lifespans. If your sailmaker says otherwise you really need to talk to more knowledgeable sailmakers.

(Two minor points here:
-One reason that some racers have gone to loose footed sails is that it has become increasingly popular to carefully roll the mainsail and remove it from the boat to increase its lifespan. (Heat shortens the life of the higher teck laminates) -When I first saw your post, I happened to run into two sailmaker friends (one from North and the other feom Doyle)and mentioned that your sailmaker said that loose footed sails have a shorter lifespan. They laughed and said that you must have misunderstood what your sailmaker told you because obviously your sailmaker would know better than that.)


delmarrey 13-05-2003 13:47

Maybe, the life span they were talking about was for the dedicated racers, I don't know. Or maybe they didn't think my existing sail was eligible to be converted (46.5' luff X 13.8' foot). I'll ask the next time I'm in. I guess the reason for all this questioning is I just want to make sure of something before I make a spendy investment. And I want to be able to handle the sail single handed with more ease than a footed sail. They did say a loose footed sail was less expensive.
It would be nice to just do away with the boom, but I guess you would need a stick out there before the wind. Although I have seen drawings of a Catamaran with a forward tilted mast at about 15 degrees that runs a large roller furling as the fore sail and a tri-sail as the so called main. It would be nice to see that in action.
Thanks for all the input and I'll probably go for a loose footed sail when I seriously get out there crossing the Pacific.
Education in process...............DelmarRey

Jeff H 13-05-2003 20:55

Having a loose footed mainsail really has no affect on ease of single-handing except that you don't need to have a flattening reef on a loose footed mainsail which in some ways makes life easier and you can flake the mainsail and tie it off before your remove the sail from the boom which makes removal single-handed much easier. My boat a 45' luff by 18' foot mainsail. I have both a loose footed and a shelf footed main for the boat and I single-hand the boat routinely. I don't see any difference in convenience between single-handing the two sails.

BTW is the sail in question for 'Trix' and are you considering singlehanding her across the Pacific?

Don't even think of getting rid of your boom. The boom is your friend when single-handing. It sure makes reefing a lot easier.


delmarrey 14-05-2003 03:49

Main Boom
Yes, this sail is for the TRIX. I really had no intention of elimitating my boom. I was just suggesting, wouldn't it be nice to not have that massive hunk of metal swing back and forth just over your head.
I had intended to replace the sail but the Sailmaker was able to make repairs and upgrades. So that'll do for now. I had them remove the shelf and bring the foot up to where it should be. You can see the boom below with the shelf exposed. There is another clew eyelet 10" above the one shown for a second outhaul in the boom for flattening the foot.
I would like to sail her around the South Pacific and Oz. But we'll see after I get her in shape. She is a 1979 and in need of some minor restoration. The last DPO installed a new mast and wires then let her sit for three years before donating her to charity. Then they put a new head and heat exchanger on the motor so it would sell. Then it still sat for another 6 months. I put in a bid on her and got it. Structurely she's in good shape, just needs a lot of upgrades.
I seen a new Swan 40 out of the water last week and the hull was identical which is what caught my eye. It gave me a lot of ideas for upgrades to the deck arrangement.
This vessel came with 7 sails but only two of them are usable right now. She use to have a Hood roller furling but it went with the old mast, which I have no idea what the story is on that. The previous owner will not reply.
I would like a Catamaran but it may not be in the budget.

CaptJason 21-05-2003 02:36

Loose footed
I know I am showing all of you how dumb I really am, but there is only one way to learn.. What is a looses footed main?:confused:

delmarrey 21-05-2003 03:15

loose footed main sail

We're all here to LEARN or share our knowledge and experiences.
Here is an artical that explains it much better than I can. Click on link below.


CaptJason 21-05-2003 15:12

Loose women... I mean sails
Thanks for the posting I read what was written up on Sailnet and looking at your picture I think I have it figured out. Sound like a good idea too. Now can a snug footed sail be refit to loose?

Jeff H 21-05-2003 21:03

Shelf foot mainsails can be refit to be a loose footed mainsail but unless the sail is pretty new, it would not be worth the money. To change over to a shelf foot the sailmaker would probably replace the bottom panel of the sail and add an adjustable foot rope. This means replacing the clew and tack reinforcings which is a big job and would cost more than a several year old mainsail for a 29 footer would be worth. Given the types of alterations that you have made to your boat, any minor performance gains would be lost in the hum.


GordMay 17-01-2005 15:32

From “Sailnet”
Sail Selection and Use ~ Sponsored by Bill Colombo of Doyle Sailmakers

Loose Footed Mains - by Bill Colombo (Doyle Sails)

I tend to recommend loose footed mainsails in most cases. There are a couple of reasons for this. Since the loose foot is a simpler setup it is easier to trim. By tensioning the outhaul the foot of the sail is able to be pulled absolutely flat. On mains with an attached foot, there is usually some 3D curvature designed into the foot of the sail so that it can have a reasonable shape just above the boom but still return to the straight line of the boom groove or track. Pulling the foot tight will minimize, but not totally eliminate this 3D curvature. This is the reason that in the old days racing mains used a flattening reef, which tensioned the sail on a line just above the foot curvature(these days amost 100% of racing mains are looe footed). Conversely, when you want to make the main fuller and more powerful there is no limitation as to how full the loose footed main can get, since there is no cloth holding it to the boom centerline. As you mentioned a loose foot mainsail is easier to bend on to the boom. It also affords much more flexibility when rigging such thing as, reef lines, jibe preventers, vangs and other things that require tying a line around the middle section of the boom. I would suggest you try one of these mainsails. Most people never go back.

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