Introduction To Windsurfing Sails

Just as there are a variety of windsurfing boards, there are different types of sails. Some sails are constructed differently than others. While there are fundamental principles that dictate the design of all windsurfing sails, some are designed with specific purposes in mind. For example, some sails are well-suited for reaching top speeds in moderate winds. Others focus on extreme maneuverability. In this article, you'll learn about a few types of sails and some of the essential parts that are used in their construction. Finally, we'll describe what makes a good windsurfing sail for beginners and veterans.

Different Elements Of Windsurfing Sails

The 2 primary design types for windsurfing sails are cambered and rotational (discussed in the next section). Within these 2 design classes, many sails have slight differences in their construction. Some, like the Revolution model from Sailworks are designed to help the rider get airborne and perform intense maneuvers and tricks. Others, like the Malibu model from Mistral are built with an eye on consistent performance without sacrificing handling ease.

Most modern sails (those built after 2000) are made from monofilm, dacron and mylar. The parts of the sail that are most vulnerable to the wind are fortified with a kevlar mesh. Other parts of a windsurfing sail include a luff, leech, tack and clew.

Cambered Versus Rotational Sails

Again, windsurfing sails are either cambered or rotational in design. Both work a little differently and are used to provide specific benefits. For example, cambered sails use a system that incorporates plastic components - called camber inducers - to help maintain the sail's aerofoil shape. While these camber inducers provide an extra level of speed, they do so while sacrificing maneuverability. On the other hand, rotational sails use battens that extend from the back of the sail's mast. Rotational sails are easier to control when maneuvering. But, they offer less power and speed than cambered sails.

What Makes A Good Windsurfing Sail?

There are several factors that combine to produce a good windsurfing sail. First, the sail's construction must be durable. Some sails use a polyester fiber as a foundation. Then, a Spectra fiber material is wrapped around the polyester, essentially encasing it for additional support. In high-winds environments, kevlar mesh should be used to support vulnerable portions of the sail. The kevlar is critical to helping the sail to withstand the force of the wind while resisting tears.

A windsurfing sail should also provide 2 flexible points of tension at the tack and the clew. This allows quick extending of the outhaul and downhaul in response to wind conditions and need for maneuverability and stability.

Different Sails For Different Goals

Windsurfing sails are designed with specific purposes (similar to windsurfing boards). Some are built for speed. Others are designed to help perform tricks and other advanced moves. Typically, sails that are created to help windsurfers reach top speeds are taller and wider. This is to capture and leverage as much wind as possible without sacrificing maneuverability.

If you're a beginning windsurfer, ask an instructor what kind of sail you should purchase. After you get some experience on the water in varying wind and surf intensities, you'll likely want to invest in a few different types of sails. As you progress from a beginner to an intermediate or advanced windsurfer, the new skills and maneuvers you'll master will require sails with different designs.