Thursday, January 16, 2014

Experiments In Kayak Sailing

After our incident filled Bramston Beach to Cairns sea kayak trip, we came home and made a list of all the things we had to check, repair, refit, and/or modify on our kayaks. One of the things we wanted to modify was the size of our kayak sails. At a square metre, they are fine in winds up to about 20 knots. Beyond 20 knots things get interesting, and, up near 30 knots kayak sailing is downright thrilling. 

After doing some more research, we decided that a sail somewhere between 0.60 and 0.70 square metres would be a good size for windier days. I managed to borrow a sewing machine off a friend, sourced some fabric from a local store, and made a test sail roughly 0.70 square metres. Then, we just had to wait for some wind.

We got an up tick in the wind yesterday and raced out with the kayaks and sails before the wind had a chance to drop. A good test would be a 20 knot wind but those days seem fairly rare now summer has arrived, so we had to make do with a 13 to 15 knot wind. I gave Doug the new sail as he was the designer, while I, the common labourer, took our usual metre square sail. 

Kayak sailing to Lizard Island

With the bigger sail, I was definitely going faster than Doug if neither of us paddled, but, as the wind dropped a bit, the spread between us became less evident. My kayak felt a bit tippy in the wind gusts and I had to brace a few times and even throw in some stern rudders to stay on course when the wind was stronger. Doug, with the smaller sail, felt stable, and did not need to brace or stern rudder. We both thought that if the wind had been stronger, the benefit of having a bigger sail would be overcome by the increased difficulty encountered tracking the kayak, and the need to brace to stay upright. 

The design needs a little tweaking as the reduced length of the sail area makes it impossible to reach from the cockpit to fold away completely when on the water. We are even thinking of having a three stage sail with a full metre for light winds, 0.70 square metres for moderate winds, and 0.35 square metres for strong winds. We just need a series of windy days to complete all the tests. 

Doug kindly did the car shuttle while I stayed in the water and worked on my eskimo roll. I was stoked to get four in a row using the paddle in an extended pawlatta position. If past behavior is a predictor of future behavior, I'm due for a step backwards in the process, but, maybe this time I can beat history.

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