Gear Test: Tides Marine Sailtrack

Author:
Publish date:
tides2

Gravity is an important force at work on a sailboat. It keeps the boat upright, it makes the anchor drop to the bottom, and it makes the mainsail slide neatly down the mast to be flaked and put away at the end of the day… until it doesn’t.

In the case of dropping the mainsail, the enemy of gravity is friction. Full-length battens and modern, stiff sail materials place forces on traditional mast grooves and luff slides that were not anticipated when these systems were developed in the 1960s. The result is excessive friction when hoisting and lowering the mainsail, as was the case with Misirlou, my 1963 Cal 40.

There are many friction-reducing mainsail track options on the market, some with recirculating ball bearings and near-zero friction, but I always fancied the Tides Marine Sail Track and Slide System for its simplicity and value. The extruded UHMW Polyethylene track is tough, UV resistant and extremely slippery. The cast and polished stainless steel slides have a large surface area to spread out and handle large batten and sail loads.

The Tides track is secured to the mast by your existing luff groove or external track. Tides will send you a set of plastic gauges you fit into your mast groove to identify which of the over 100 combinations of groove width, lip thickness and internal flat or round slug shape works with your particular mast. The website also walks you through how to measure your luff length.

Several styles of slides are available, including normal luff slides, headboard slides and two sizes of batten-end slides with swivels. If you are adapting your existing mainsail to the Tides system, it is possible for the do-it-yourselfer to swap your old slides for new Tides slides, as the latter has a removable pin for connection to your existing webbing luff loops. (If you have to cut your old slides off, be sure to preserve the webbing loop.) Alternatively, your sailmaker can make short work of the job. Our sailmaker (Doyle) even had the Tides hardware in stock.

The well-organized Tides Marine website (tidesmarine.com) made it easy to research and order my new track. Shortly after ordering, a giant 4ft pizza box arrived containing my rolled-up track and all necessary hardware. Also included was a short section of track with a lifting ring attached for you to run up the mast with the halyard to make sure your existing luff groove is free of obstructions, debris or dents that could impede installation. Once a clear path was confirmed, I removed the boom at the gooseneck and fed the Tides track into the luff groove. Installation was a breeze, easily accomplished by two people in less than an hour.

Our experience with the system has been very positive. In fact, it has even changed the way we handle the mainsail. I was raised to believe that unlike spitting, raising and lowering the main must always be done while pointing directly into the wind with the sail flogging, lest the slides bind in the luff track. However, with the Tides track, we now find we can lower the sail while motoring back to the mooring at just about any angle where the wind is ahead of the beam, allowing us to luff (but not flog) the sail.

Another advantage is responsive luff tension control. Before installing the Tides track, if we eased the halyard or cunningham for a little more sail shape in light air, track friction would get us little puckers along the luff on only about one third of the sail unless we luffed up a bit. With the Tides track, a little halyard ease in light air produces a uniform spread of “speed wrinkles” along the luff’s entire length.

Perhaps the best demonstration of the benefits of the smooth and slippery sail track comes when reefing. Before the new mast track, reefing meant heading up and flogging the main, usually with heavy seas breaking on the bow, soaking the crew while wrestling the main down getting the new tack hook in. With the Tides track we find we can luff (but again, not flog) the main at almost any wind angle, so long as we are not up against the spreaders, meaning we can now lower the main to the reef point with minimal drama. 

April 2018

Related

210115-AC36

Prada Cup: Brits Take First Two Races

Who saw that coming? After getting skunked in December, INEOS Team UK has swept the first two races in the Prada Cup elimination series of the 36th America’s Cup  Racing took place on racecourse “C,” sheltered between Auckland’s North Head and Bastion Point to take advantage of ...read more

ac-2048x

Hutchinson: 36th America’s Cup will be a Close On

On the eve of the Prada Cup challenger series, the official start of the 36th America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson says it’s anyone’s game. "As we've seen in the last week, everyone's gotten faster," said Hutchinson said at the event’s ...read more

Episode1_Thumbnail4_00000_00000_00000_00000

Sailing Docuseries Released Online

Endless Media's Reaching Reality is the story of three friends, a 24-foot sailboat and 1,200 miles. With candor and humor, this series proves that you don't need to be an expert or a millionaire to cast off on the journey of a lifetime. Produced by Emmy-award winner Barry ...read more

01-LEAD-nder-sail-3

Prepping for a Transatlantic

Growing up on the coast of northern England, I dreamed about crossing oceans on my own boat. Like most of us, though, education, a family and a career took precedence, and before I knew it, we had mortgages, young children and endless work obligations. We also became landlocked, ...read more

210111-Vendee

Vendée Update: Josche Forced to Abandon

A week ago, the canting keel on Isabelle Jocshe's IMOCA 60, MACSF, failed. She managed a jury rig with a replacement ram, which held the keel centerline and allowed her to keep sailing, but with a major hit to her speed potential. Jocshe had been in 8th at the time and remained ...read more

rudder

Vendee Update: Emergency Rudder Replacement

A devastated Hare talks about the breakage Pip Hare (Medallia) is back in the game after an emergency rudder repair deep in the Southern Ocean. “Every part of my body aches. I have bloody knuckles on every finger, bruises all down my legs and muscles I didn't know I had that ...read more

Oracle-RBYACFEVD3_2870

PRADA Cup Pairings Announced

The schedule for the PRADA Cup has been revealed as a multitiered extravaganza featuring over a month of racing, stretching from January 15 through February 22. First, the three teams—American Magic, INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli—will face off in a 12-race, six-day ...read more

01-LEAD-Opener-ETNZ1_-106_silo

The 36th America's Cup

A Superbowl is a Superbowl, and a World Series is a World Series. Sure, the names of the players and the teams change from year-to-year, but otherwise, the game pretty much remains the same. Not so the America’s Cup. Still, in many ways a hot mess left over from the days of Queen ...read more