August 9, 2016

Never mind the creases

IT SEEMS TO BE very fashionable these days for cruising yachts to have loose-footed mainsails. That fashion arises from the fact that racing boats invariably have loose-footed mainsails.
Some people say a loose-footed main is easier to trim to the desired belly, and tightness of leech, but I am not one of them. I have sailed on racing boats with mainsails firmly attached to their booms in slotted tracks, and mainsails with zippered folds in the foot to give more belly downwind, and those boats gave nothing away to other boats with loose feet.

The mainsails of all my cruising boats have had their feet attached to the boom, usually with slides running in the internal boom track, for one very good reason: An attached mainsail is easier to control when you’re singlehanding and need to furl the sail in a hurry.

If you’re up on the cabintop dropping the main in any decent kind of breeze, a loose-footed sail falls all over the deck. The slippery folds of Dacron create a treacherous foothold. But if your main is attached to the boom, it’s the work of a moment to grab the leech a little way up from the boom and pull it tight, away from the mast, to form a temporary pocket. You then stuff the mainsail into the pocket, twisting as you go, until you end up with a slim sausage of sailcloth inside a nice tidy, waterproof sheath of Dacron. Slip two or three gaskets around the bundle on top of the boom and Bob’s your uncle. You can be finishing your first beer while the man with the loose-footed mainsail is still sliding around the deck trying to gather and contain his wayward folds.

My naysayers and detractors will point out that a mainsail thus used will be crushed and creased and therefore less efficient next time it’s raised. To which I say “Tough titties!” There is altogether too much racing boat influence in mollycoddling the main. It’s the racing influence that seduces people into buying loose-footed mains in the first place. Let the mainsail crease, for goodness’ sake. It’s a working sail not a work of art. What’s more, the wind and rain will smooth out those creases quite nicely next time you’re out. Your good old cruising boat will never notice the difference.

Today’s Thought
Fashion is gentility running away from vulgarity and afraid of being overtaken.
— William Hazlitt, Conversations of James Northcote

“O’Flaherty, what are you doing here? Your brother called and said you were sick and wouldn’t be coming to work today.”
“Ah begorrah, the joke’s on him. He’s not supposed to phone until tomorrow.”

1 comment:

Alden Smith said...

Donald Trumps nickname is 'Loose Footed Mains'l' - not a lot of people know that, and as you have so eruditely pointed out, Loose Footed Mains'ls are more trouble than they're worth.