I just wrote to a guy in Australia who is about to build a ROMILLY, who asked me what my thoughts were about whether to sail the boat boomless or with a boom (which runs past the mast and rests against it).
I’m copying you with my reply in case you think it will be helpful to other people who visit your website (at least provoke some debate on the subject !) Nigel
I know Ed Burnett prefers the boomed version, but I think I still come down in favour of the loose footed sail. The sail set on a boom is great when the boom and sail are to leeward of the mast, but when they are to windward the luff is horribly flat – even negative, which pretty much negates any hope of decent flow round the low-pressure side of the sail.
We have that set-up on the 38 ft ROANNA – which is a three-masted boat with a fairly extreme amount of boom running out forward of the main mast. I remember sailing her next to another boat and noticing how the luff of the sail on the ‘wrong’ gybe was running off the mast as the sail draped over it. We tried hauling on a pair of lines rove through the two luff reef cringles, so that we hauled put some shape into the sail. The difference was very surprising and we simply sailed away from the other boat.
The moral of the story is that if you decide to go with a boom you might think about making provision for doing the same thing. The result looks a bit strange because the tack of the sail cannot be hauled aft (as it’s attached to the end of the boom), but it does work well.
To set against all that it’s true that you can get much more out of a ROMILLY or ROXANE with a loose-footed sail when sailing off the wind by setting a bearing out spar. This should run diagonally so that the spar is both bearing out the sail and also stopping the clew from rising – which of course puts too much twist in it. Without this bearing–out spar you’ll find that the luff is fluttering and yet the leach is over sheeted – not at all efficient as it sets up some mighty weather helm.
The situation is made worse by the fact that the shoal draft on these boats means that the rudder is a rather unpromising ‘barn door’ shape. This was improved when we fitted an end-plate to the bottom of the rudder, but if you find you have the tiller up under your chin when there’s a bit of breeze on the quarter, then you should be able to solve this by using the bearing-out spar to un-twist the sail and get the luff to power up. Doing so puts the centre of effort forward again (where it belongs) and lightens up the helm. Big rudder angles are, of course, very draggy, so it is really important to work on ways of reducing the work the rudder has to do.