Ask Sail: Full Battens or Not

I’m in the process of ordering sails for a 40-foot cruising boat. I’m looking for good performance, but I’m not racing. I’ve heard conflicting views on short vs. full battens in a mainsail.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Philip Donegan, Ballina, Ireland
Q: I’m in the process of ordering sails for a 40-foot cruising boat. I’m looking for good performance, but I’m not racing. I’ve heard conflicting views on short vs. full battens in a mainsail. I gather full battens make it easier to drop the main with less flogging generally, but that short battens allow for more sail-shape adjustment and in particular make it easier to flatten the sail and delay reefing. One sailmaker told me a mainsail’s roach could be increased with short battens, as the roach won’t catch on the backstay, as happens with full battens. Another advises I can have more sail area with full battens.

Win Fowler Replies

A: Full battens allow a sail to have a longer working lifespan, with better shape retention during that lifespan. And yes, they are much quieter. They also allow for better light-air shape. One disadvantage is increased friction on the mast track, though this can be greatly reduced with low-friction luff cars. Using the proper hardware will, however, make full-batten sails more expensive. They also weigh more and are harder to trim well, as their shape always looks good. As for the ability to flatten the sail, the difference is negligible. It shouldn’t be a problem if the sail is cut properly.

If a mainsail projects well beyond the backstay, full battens can hang up, but if you don’t plan on racing, this usually is not an issue. Most modern boats can carry maximum non-penalty girths with full battens without a problem. The key is to make sure the upper battens are not too stiff. I personally find the advantages of full battens more compelling, and that’s why I have them on my boat.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

Related

09-Map-Route-VG2020

Vendee Globe Village Closing, Race Still On

Following the latest national lockdown measures announced by French President Emmanuel Macron as part of the fight against Covid-19, the 2020-21 Vendée Globe Race Village will be closed to the public beginning Friday, October 30th. The Vendée Globe will still take place as ...read more

Register-2048

Register of Circumnavigators Launched

Just in time for a fresh class of Vendée Globe sailors to attempt their circumnavigations, The International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) has taken on the responsibility of maintaining an official register of sailors who have completed solo circumnavigations by the Three ...read more

FPO skys0tlm8jlrpynehcpe_NEW

A Half-century of Cruising with SAIL

I cannot say I have been reading SAIL magazine since the very beginning, but I come pretty darned close. Sometime around 1974, when I was in high school, I began buying it every month at our local newsstand and saving every issue until I had great stacks of them, as carefully ...read more

B&G-Halo20+-side-facing

Gear: B&G HALO radar

B&G’s HALO series of radars now includes the HALO20+ and the HALO20, a pair of compact radomes expressly designed for use aboard smaller sailboats. The units measure 20in in diameter and weigh a mere 11lb. The HALO20+, in particular, delivers a full 360-degree sweep every ...read more

PICTON CASTLE under sail with stunsls WV7 compressed

Picton Castle Seeks Crew

The Picton Castle is set to begin its eighth circumnavigation this spring under the command of Captain Daniel Moreland. A professional crew of 12 will guide up to 40 trainees at a time as they learn about all aspects of sailing the bark, from steering to lookout, ...read more

DSC_0013

Ask Sail: Keel Attachments

Q: I have an early ‘70s Catalina 27. The keel bolts look pretty good. My question is, why not glass over the keel to bond to the hull rather than changing the bolts if, or when the bolts are too far gone? I haven’t seen anything on this, so could you discuss? Full-keels are ...read more

04-GOPR0511

Book Review: Sailing Into Oblivion

Sailing Into Oblivion by Jerome Rand $15.99, available through Amazon As refreshing and inspiring as Jerome Rand’s 2017-18 solo-circumnavigation may have been, his account of the voyage in the book Sailing Into Oblivion: The Solo Non-Stop Voyage of the Mighty Sparrow may be even ...read more

01-1970-Dec

50 Years of SAIL

Back in early 1970, Bernie Goldhirsh and the recently founded “Institute for the Advancement of Sailing,” publisher of an annual sailboat and gear guide, launched something called SAIL. A half-century later, a look back at the magazine’s first few years provides a glimpse into a ...read more