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Post: "Battened V. Unbattened"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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- Archived Message from Inactive Forum -

Aaron Norlund


A full-batten main with a corresponding full roach will indeed have a more "ideal" shape for a mainsail, especially initially. It will have a much more uniform draft and will thus be a more efficient sail. As the sail cloth stretches and wears, the battens will help to keep this ideal shape longer, and thus for the life of the sail, it will have a better shape. However, being as the battens are constantly forcing the cloth to hold its shape, the material tends to break down more quickly, specially at key points such as the ends of the batten pockets. In a perfect world, this reduces the life expectancy of the sail. Stiff things holding soft things open tend to wear the soft things out - it's fact.

This is changing though, with better track car designs, knowledge of stress areas, and batten materials popping up all the time. An interesting point as well, is that full-batten sails require more "care" in their use. Head-to-wind hoisting is nearly a must so the battens don't catch on shrouds/spreaders. They have to be flaked evenly otherwise they don't like to sit on a boom. Overall, they just take more time. This extra care, however, I believe "equals" the playing field with battenless sails. I'll expound in a minute.

I partial-batten systems seem to be falling out of favor now the full-batten systems are on parr. For a while, full-batten sails didn't last worth a darn as people didn't know how to cope with the additional stresses. Now they're better than partial-batten systems as the full battens spread the loads over more material. I don't like partial-batten mains. Too many tradeoffs for not enough performance gain.

Battenless sails, the "cruising" sails if you will, have some serious perks. There are no sticks in your sail causing abnormal stress points. It's traditional head/tack tension with a big belly full of draft, albeit inconsistent. The lack of sticks enables you to set the sail on any point of sail (as long as you don't have protruding things on your shrouds/spreaders), they can be dropped and tied without too much attention, a boom vang can wrestle pretty decent shape for a long time, and if they tear they're easier to patch up by hand. Without the battens, the material passes stress through the entire sail and thus extending the life of the material by not overburdening particular sections.

However, the tendency to say "ehh, we don't have to head up to set this...it's just a broad reach" I believe, tends to have a negative long term effect on the sail. By not HAVING to "baby" the sail, you tend to do things that can wring the life out of it. Letting a leach flutter, gasketing without a furl, setting on a run, not vanging to keep the sail in shape. All of this can tend to make your sail's life weep away. That said, a battenless approached with the care of a full-batten main, will indeed last longer. If it's treated like it's "just a cruising sail", I bet the full batten sail would outlive it.

I believe I read that Dave King has a full-batten main that is 8+ years old. "Impossible!!!" - So is a Westsail winning a race. Just takes a bit of diligence.

I have a partial-batten main on our new W32. When we replace it (which will be soonish), I'll go with a battenless mains'l, likely from Hasse or Kern. With care, it should last for a long time.

Fair leads,
Aaron N.
SV Asia Marie

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