Ask SAIL: are Two Full Length Battens Enough?

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Conventional battens are lighter and create less friction than full-length batterns

Conventional battens are lighter and create less friction than full-length batterns


Q: Can you resolve a debate I have been having with a fellow sailor? He insists that I should have full-length battens in my mainsail. But I read somewhere that just two full-length battens at the top is a better way to go. Which is the proper number and type of battens?

Tracy Carson, Chicago, IL



Like much in sailing it’s a matter of opinion, and while I’m sure your friend feels that he is right, it’s my opinion that he is wrong. I prefer a mainsail with two full-length battens up high and standard length battens through the reef area. The full-length battens up high stabilize the fabric and make the sail more manageable if you are using some kind of lazyjack system. Leaving them out down low, however, gives you much better control over sail shape. Fewer battens also means a lighter sail. If you are concerned that a sail with only two full-length battens will not work well with lazy jacks, don’t be. In fact, the sail will probably work better, because there will be less friction from having fewer full-length battens.

Brian Hancock is a sailmaker, whitbread race veteran and creator of

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September 2015


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