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How do you choose the right sail without getting into all of a quiver?

Choosing the right sail for your session is crucial for enjoyment, progression and control. If you are new to the sport of windsurfing or progressing your skills, deciphering between all the different styles, shapes and sizes of sails can be overwhelming. In this blog we help you make the right choices and answer all your questions, how do you choose the right sail without getting into all of a quiver?

There are several factors that you should consider when deciding on what size windsurf sail to go with.

  • Skill Level.

  • Windsurfing Location and Conditions.

  • Your Stature

  • Not Too Big and Not Too Small.

By Amanda Buggy & Emma Nicholson.

The Olympic Test Event in Paris
A flutter of sails!

The right time to start considering buying your own windsurfing sail quiver is having taken some initial tuition and when your skills are at the point where you are able to venture out on a board 170litres or smaller, have mastered using the harness and perhaps even the footstraps too, primarily at flat water locations; coastal or inland.

As skill progress many choose to venture out into waves, putting foot to throttle with slalom racing or perhaps take flight with foiling. With these more specific types of windsurfing sail choices are very carefully made with different focus and factors considered.

Let us understand the basics! What are sails made from? Windsurfing sails are made of:

  • Mono-film, is a single layer of plastic, a light, strong material which doesn't deform it's shape, helping make the sail stable

  • X-ply®, is the mono film equivalent of 'rip-stop nylon', two layers of mono film bonded together (glued), with a criss-cross weave of kevlar thread in between layers.

  • Dacron® is durable material with UV resistance, often used for the luff, many beginners sails are also made from Dacron to increase durability

  • Mylar® sails are very stable and not prone to stretching, the material can crease, so care taking care of your sails and rolling them correctly is crucial for longevity.

  • Battens, are literally the ribs of the sail and they support the aerodynamic profile.

So what are the factors we need to consider?

Your Skill Level!

When buying windsurfing sails you must make sure you get a sail which is designed to suit your ability, style of windsurfing and which needs. The main types of windsurfing sail include; beginner, freeride, slalom/race, wave, freestyle and foiling.

Usually your first sail will be an all rounder sail, with no cambers, often referred to as 'freeride'. A sail which is not specific to a particular type of windsurfing discipline (Wave, Freestyle, Slalom or foiling) more designed for recreational and generally flat water windsurfing. A sensible number of sails to start with in a quiver is 2-3, likely to range between 4m and 6.5m.

A few top tips:

  • Tip 1: Ask a Friend ask those sailing at the same venue, who are a similar ability and stature, what sails they are using and how often they use certain sizes, this will help you decide which sizes might be best to invest in initially

  • Tip 2: Try before you buy remember here at The OTC and Surf Doctor you can 'Try before you buy', providing the perfect opportunity to seek our advice and ensure you choose the sails which are right for you.

Beginner windsurfing sail

When learning to windsurf, a beginner is likely to start on a nice stable board with a 3-4 metre squared sail which is largely made of Dacron® and monofilm to ensure it is light, robust and not too powerful. Too large and the sail becomes difficult to control, hampering progress. However, this is not the type of sail we are likely to be buying as we use them for only a very short time before progressing on to a more high performance, and what can be referred to as a 'rotational' sail.

Your Stature!

Sail size is dependant on factors such as sailors weight, ability level, wind strength, conditions, and chosen discipline. Using too small or larger sail will hamper control and enjoyment.

When considering weight, windsurfers of the same ability but of differing weights are likely to require different sail sizes. For example; A sailor weighing 65kg and another weighing 85kg, the heavier sailor is likely to need a bigger sail and board to get going in the same wind conditions.

An improver/intermediate windsurfer looking to buy their first quiver of sails and make the most of a variety of conditions would ideally look to have a quiver of 2-3 sails. As a suggested guide, a 65kg improver looking to buy there first quiver may look for sails between 4- 6m, whereas someone a little heavier, around 85kg or more will need slightly larger sails ranging from 5-7.5m.

A heart around The OTC
The OTC is a perfect location for windsurfing and a perfect place to try sails before you buy!

Windsurfing Location and Conditions!

Every windsurfing session requires attention to the weather conditions, especially the wind strength, gust/lulls, water sate and whether sailing inland or at a tidal location. Depending on these considerations, the size of the sail you use for your session is crucial for maximising your session, comfort and enjoyment.

In most circumstances, the stronger the wind, the smaller the sail. Gusts can be too much for a bigger sail and cause problems for the sailor, it is a balancing act literally as you try and balance power and size to wind strength. Focus on the most common wind speed at the spot where you would be sailing, ask a few people who have already been our sailing, and go for a sail that closes matches.

Not Too Big and Not Too Small!

If you are buying a second sail to increase your wind range you need to make sure the gap between your sails is not too big and not too small. See the guide above, a rough consideration with a quiver of 2-3 sails would be; sails under 6m a sail size gap of 0.5m to 1.0m; and over 6m, a slightly larger gap can be considered, around 1.0m to 1.5m difference between sails.

To conclude, choosing the right sail very much depends on what type of windsurfing you are planning on doing. Aside from the different types of sails, there are the different brands to navigate, here at Surf Doctor we have a team of experts waiting to help you and remember you can also try before you buy with us at The Official Test Centre.


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