Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Bugged about Bagginess

One of the things that became apparent during our short fathers day Solent sail, was that the main sail is way too baggy to work properly in anything other than light winds. A number of times the boat rolled over excessively as the sail caught the wind but generated little drive.

After extensive (Okay, about 30 minutes) research, it looks as though the fix is a relatively easy one. Of course all things are relative, but it looks as though its something I can fix myself with a bit of gumption (good Northern Word that).

Basically what looks to have happened is that the sail has stretched slightly, but the bolt rope down the luff has shortened. It seems a bit of a design flaw to use a rope that shrinks under stress as a bolt rope, but that's what happens.

The tell tale is lots of creases along the length of the sail. And guess what, here's a picture of my main sail:

A very wrinkly and baggy sail
No matter how much tension I put on the main halyard I can't remove the creases along the luff, thanks to the bolt rope. The final evidence is once the main is hauled up and fully tensioned, the boom drops towards the stern. Again a tell-tale sign that not enough tension is being put into the luff. So at some point the main is coming off Sprite and is going to be worked on at home.

While I'm messing with the main I might see if I can improve on things at the clew. There's a annoyingly long bit of string attached to one of the clew reef points and it dangles in your face at the most inappropriate times. I might have a stab at making something a bit more elegant with a small jammer pulley and a snap shackle.

I must admit that there's more to sails than just hauling up a bit of rag. Its interesting getting into the science of it all and seeing why one sail performs poorly against a different sail. One of my previous interests was aeroplanes and there is a fair bit of crossover between aviation and sailing. All you have to do is think of a sail as a wing stuck upright.

So a baggy sail will make a good slow speed aerofoil, but will generate lots of drag at higher speeds, hence why when the wind picks up, it just knocks the boat over, despite letting the sail out lots. A tighter sail will be a poorer slow speed aerofoil, but will be more efficient and generate less drag at higher wind speeds. If you have a sail that is able to be tightened for higher wind speeds, then you always have the option to let the tension out of it and make it baggy for low wind speeds. A baggy sail will always be baggy, you never have the option to trim it for higher wind speeds.

So, the next big job is sail tuning...

P.S. Notice I used sailing terminology like luff and clew. I'm getting good, I only looked clew up, I remembered luff, leech and foot from memory! I can also remember head and tack, but clew seemed to have fallen out of my brain. :-)

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