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Ask Sail: Close vs Open Footed

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Jim Kesich Cleveland, Ohio 
Q: I plan to buy a new mainsail for my C&C Landfall 38 and am thinking of making some changes. The foot of my current mainsail is attached to the boom with a bolt rope that slides along a slot or groove in the boom. Getting the foot on every year is a hassle and I’d like to order my new main with a loose foot, so that only the tack and clew are fixed to the boom. Will this harm or improve the sail’s performance? Are there any other reasons not to do this?

Win Fowler

A: A loose foot should improve your mainsail’s performance, since the sail’s airfoil shape can extend all the way to foot. The primary purpose of a boom is simply to allow you to position the clew of the mainsail where you want it. There is no structural reason not to have a loose-footed main. Your genoa, for example, does just fine without having its foot attached to a boom. Moreover, should your outhaul attachment fail, you won’t tear the foot from your main as you probably would with a boltrope foot. The only two reasons I can think of to have an attached foot are if 1) you have a one-design boat with a class rule that requires it, or 2) you want to catch rain with your mainsail. Otherwise, it’s best to stay loose.

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