Saturday 19 February 2011

Building Your Quiver - Rigs

Before reading this remember the sport is about having fun, the right choices at the start will help you have more of it! Good choices for me have come from experience, but the experience came from bad choices. Here I will try to help you skip the bad choices.

Like with a game of snooker or chess thinking one move ahead can win the game, so bear this in mind when you make your first few purchases. Armed with a little knowledge it will help you plan a good quiver for plenty of time on the water.
The rig includes the Mast, Boom and Sail. Extensions and mast feet are personal preference, you can buy cheap ones to start with, often if you buy a full rig as a novice you will get these thrown in for free. If I was to start again I would spend an extra £20-£40 to get these two bits of kit upgraded away from the cheap end of the market. They are the bits that connect the board to the rig so could be considered as important as any other bit of kit, if not more so.

Your first sail
When you make your first sail purchase keep in mind what will come next. A good decision here will last you a few years and make other future choices easier. This part really depends on your weight, and the conditions you will sail in. If you live in a place graced with good winds every day then go smaller, if you rarely get a force 5 then you need to go bigger. You sail will become part of a quiver of sails in the future should you get bitten by the bug. 

Your first sail should be rotational, which means the mast fits in the luff tube like a leg in a trouser leg. Cammed sails should be avoided at this stage as they have additional mechanical components  (cams) within the luff tube that clip onto the mast to keep the shape of the sail for slalom and speed sailing when you hit gusts and lulls. 

The chart below can be used as a guide to help you build your quiver of rotational sails. For the wind strengths in knots or mph use this wiki article for a good description of the Beaufort Scale.

Your first sail choice should be in the green to amber range in the chart above, dependant upon the conditions you intend to go out in. This is where your local shop will be invaluable for their advice. Notice how the gaps between the sizes get closer as the sail gets smaller, keeping this in mind is one of the key points I want to put across here. The chart would give you an ideal sail for each of the conditions in a freeride  spot, it does not mean you need 6 sails!  This chart has some 'cross over' between each sail, meaning that a larger sail could be used with more downhaul or the next size down with less. Downhaul will be explained in another article.

Plenty of people get away with 2 or 3, some choosing to go 7m²-5.8m²-5.0m² for a wide range of freeride conditions, some will go much smaller 5.7m²-5m²-4.5m² which is a 'light-medium wind' wave riders type of quiver. I could easily use a 7m² and have my next size down as a 5.3/5.5m² with no other sails and get just as much time on the water, but have taken a while to build a range of sails for different disciplines. If I understood more at the start I think I would have saved £500-£1000 in purchases!

This is only to be used as a guide, no sailor is the same and all have different styles. Personally I prefer a slightly bigger sail to others I see that are a similar weight to me, which is probably why I have ended up speedsailing. Some sailors may choose smaller than this range, especially if doing freestyle or wave sailing. It does take a more refined technique to use a smaller sail in the same wind strength. 

Unless you are wealthy and have money to spare then a good choice here will allow you to extend your quiver sooner rather than later. If you sail at a windy spot and plan on getting a smaller sail next then I would go for a mast of the size 430 (4.3m). For example, you buy a 6.2m² sail and a 430 mast, then get a 5.5m² to allow for sailing in a higher wind strength.

If you sail at a less windy spot then a 460 may be the best choice, again it will probably fit the 6.2m² (mast stiffness will be discussed in another post) and you will want a bigger sail next, perhaps a 7.0m² to allow for more time on the water.

There are a lot of choices of mast. The best thing you can do here is get the recommended mast for the sail and keep with the same brand. Each brand has a different philosophy in their design, some liking to design sails with a vast wind range, others searching for perfection in a smaller wind range for a given size. This is reflected in their mast design, some are more flexible at the top, some are stiffer. It is not very often that a mast and sail are completely incompatible but you will get benefits from getting the mast designed for the sail, especially in the long run.

Modern masts go from 40% carbon content up to 100%. At this stage the lower carbon content is perfectly fine, although with a bigger mast (460) you may feel some benefit with 60-75% due to the 'swing weight' while learning to gybe, tack and waterstart.

SDM, RDM, Skinny, Standard??? Which is which, what is better for me?
  • SDM - Standard diameter
  • RDM - Reduced diameter or 'Skinny'.
At this stage it does not really matter. With 5.5m² or less when wavesailing or freestyle then a RDM will give you benefits, both being slightly stronger for crashes in the shore break and easier to grip in transitions. Some sails are designed for RDM masts so a standard will not fit up the luff tube. Some sails are designed with SDM and do not work well with skinny masts. Your shop will advise you, but keep in mind what  sail size you are likely to buy next - as there are not so many 460RDM masts around, and most bigger sails are designed for SDM.

These sizes are a rough guide, different manufacturers again have different styles for their design. Some have tall/thin sails, others short/wide, even though the area is the same the boom length can be vastly different.
  • 150-200cm Fit sails from 4m² to 6.5m²
  • 175-225cm Fit sails from 5m² to 8m²
  • 200-250cm Fit sails from 6m² to 9.5m² 
It is preferred to use a boom with minimum extension, as the greater the extension the weaker it becomes. The best size here for a beginner is the middle one (often now 180-230cm). But again dependent on the conditions and the future planned quiver, if you are unlikely to sail bigger than 6m² then a smaller boom will be fine. It is unlikely you will require the bigger boom as your first purchase, as this will not fit smaller sails and it will not allow you to truly appreciate the sport in conditions above a force 5.

Carbon or Alloy/aluminium?
Every sailor loves their carbon boom. They are works of art, often hand crafted. and should be cared for lovingly like all of your kit. They are also an unnecessary cost for a beginner. The newer alloy/aluminium booms are very stiff and more than good enough for someone in the first few years of sailing. The way to test a boom for stiffness is to put on half extension, place the middle of one arm between your foot and the floor and pull the other arm upwards. This simulates the the effect a gust will have on the boom when you eventually get hooked into the harness. Try this with full extension and it will flex a lot more.

To reiterate the point at the start. The sport is about having fun, it seems the more experienced people get the more bogged down they often get in terms of their kit choices. Most windsurfers will help a beginner make the right choices, a lot will let you have a go on their kit to see if it will be right for you before you make expensive decisions. Many manufacturers do demo days, and here at Portland Harbour we have the OTC (Official Test Centre) that stocks most brands that you can try for a small fee. Most shops will have sails you can demo. 

Good luck and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.


  1. Thanks for this, it makes a lot more sense to me now. I started last year and only have an old sail and board, hoping to get new this summer.

    No one has explained it this way to me so it is really useful.

  2. Cheers Windy, best thing you can do is get to a demo day before you buy. Tushingham Sails definitely do them, where do you sail?

  3. Is ebay better for second hand kit?

  4. If you are experienced and know what kit you are looking at on ebay they it can be very good, and occasionally you can get a bargain. I have though seen a lot of kit go for considerably more than I would pay in my local shop. Probably because I have built a good relationship with the them and spend most of my disposable income in there.

    Bits like sail bags and fins often are the cheaper things off ebay.

  5. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. See more Popular Hashtags on Tik Tok Video, please search tiktok viewer


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...