Skip to main content

Ask SAIL: Do Without a Bolt Rope?


Note the white outhaul strap near the end of the boom with this loose-footed main

Note the white outhaul strap near the end of the boom with this loose-footed main

Q: In one of your recent Ask Sail responses, you wrote about loose-footed mainsails. I have an S2 7.9 that has a rope-footed main. Since I’m just cruising and not racing, could I just leave the rope out of the track and sail it as though it were loose-footed, or am I asking for trouble?

— Marc Marschark, via


You have a boltrope on the foot of your main that threads into a groove on your boom. There are a couple of things to think about. You can definitely fly it loose-footed, and as you probably read in the other article, there are quite a few advantages to doing so, including more control over sail shape. However, there needs to be a fairly substantial outhaul car to attach the outhaul to in order for this to work. I say fairly substantial because the load on the foot of the sail when it’s in the groove is much less than when it goes directly onto the car alone. I suspect in your case the car might not be up to the task, but don’t worry. You can ask your sailmaker to make you an outhaul strap, basically a length of webbing with Velcro sewn onto it that you loop around the boom and through the clew of the main. The Velcro binds to itself, and you will be surprised at how strong Velcro is in sheer: plenty strong, in fact, to take the load off the outhaul car. You even can remove the outhaul car entirely if you like, and attach the outhaul directly to the clew of the sail. Beyond that, the issue is one of aesthetics. Having the boltrope still running along the foot of the main may make the sail look a bit clunky. It shouldn’t cost much, though, to have your sailmaker trim it off and add a foot tape.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to



Just Launched Mid-sized Cruisers

With so many manufacturers dreaming up bigger production boats, more and more mid-sized cruisers fall on the smaller end of their lines. However, “smaller” does not mean less, and the tricks for optimizing larger models have helped with squeezing more enjoyment into less LOA. As more


Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the more


Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and more


A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed more


Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built more


Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, more


A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen more


Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of more