TopKayaker.Net: Guide To Kayak Sailing

Andy LyneKayak Sail Configurations
by Andy Lyne author of Making A Slip-on Mast Step & Amas For Kayak Sailing

Since making a slip on mast step for my Scupper Pro, I have experimented with a number of different sail configurations including several sails, double amas, single amas and various lee boards.

I have currently settled on a very flexible arrangement using a PA sail forward, and two different sized mizzen sails aft with the option to fit a single ama if required.

with kickerPicture 1 - right

Here is my setup with the smallest mizzen sail that is 16 square feet, along with the PA sail this gives a total of about 32 square feet of reaching and down wind sail area.

This is currently my favourite configuration as it gives so many options.

Sailing into wind I just use the aft mizzen sail and with the leeboard down can point fairly high. On a reach or downwind I deploy the PA sail, enough sail to move along nicely.

This is the setup I used on a recent 4 day coastal trip. I can get away with carrying so much sail without an outrigger because of the low center of effort afforded by using two sails , and of course the forgiving nature of the front V sail. Note that I have not attached the kicker in this pic, hence too much sail twist.

aft sailPicture 2 - left

My larger 26 square foot aft sprit sail, pictured left. As this gives me about 42 square foot of sail. I invariably use the single ama when using this sail!

Advantages of such a setup:

Even with the largest mizzen sail and ama attached I still have a completely free paddle stroke. Also, if the ama is not required, I can easily remove it on the water and store it under a bungee on the front deck. Visibility is also not an issue with only the V sail up front.

As any sailor knows there is more heeling moment when pointing high into wind. To compensate for this, the PA sail is no good above 80ish degrees anyway, so by lowering this sail, I am down to either 16 or 26 square feet depending on the sail I am using.

With regards to balance of the whole rig, it is pretty good. When sailing close hauled with the PA sail down, the helm is neutral. On a reach with the PA sail deployed there is a little lee helm, but by adjusting the mizzen this can be compensated for. Inevitably with the ama in use, there is a little drag on the port tack, but as the ama is only used in strong winds I can live with this.

Without moving from my seat I can setup or take down both sails and also raise and lower the lee board by pivoting it up or down accordingly.

Build details:

Picture 3 - right

This shows the general setup on my Scupper Pro TW. This setup enables me to attach a leeboard, mizzen sail and aka for an outrigger.

set upMaterials I used to make this setup are:

  • Some Epoxy resin, fibreglass tape, micro fibre balloons for thickening epoxy into a paste
  • 4mm Plywood
  • Aluminium L brackets – DIY store
  • For all aluminium tubes to make the leeboard bracket, aka tube, mast and boom, I have used aluminium paint brush extensions found in DIY stores – fantastic for the job!!
  • Some quality rivets
  • Some thin aluminium strip – DIY store

Aluminium tube (A) is used to hold the leeboard on one side and to slide in the aka tube on the other side. This tube is attached at points (B) by laying several strips of fibreglass tape over the end of each tube. I then riveted this fibreglass overlay to the kayak, four rivets at each attachment point. This has proved to be easily strong enough.

Tube (A) sticks out by about 3 inches on the leeboard side. I cut a piece of 4mm plywood and drilled a hole in the centre the same size as the tube (A). Fibreglass and epoxy was used to attach the plywood to the end of the tube (C). This is the leeboard mounting bracket.

The mast step is made by shaping a piece of 4mm plywood (D). It is attached with aluminium L brackets that are screwed into the wood, and riveted into the kayak. It is also reinforced by an aluminium strip (F) also riveted to the side of the kayak. Ignore tube (G) as that is an attachment for my Bruce hydrofoil that I have not yet tested!


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Most of the time I do not bother with using the outrigger as I use the smaller mizzen sail. This is the setup I used on a recent South Devon trip with a friend of mine in his sea kayak. We spent 4 days paddling along the coast, camping on the way. On one day we managed 40km along some fairly rugged coast line and I felt pretty fresh at the end due to the sail assist.

On one afternoon we encountered 6 foot swells and force 4 conditions. I felt quite comfortable with the small mizzen deployed. This sail, although about the same size of the PA sail is far more flexible as I can use it anything from close hauled to a dead run. It is also much more powerful than the V sail.

Another time during this same trip there was a lovely force 3 blowing, so I deployed both the mizzen and PA sails, rafted up to my friend in his sea kayak and towed him along for a few kilometres!

I have been out in fairly lumpy seas and this setup handles these conditions a treat, anything over a force 3 and it really flies along! A flexible sail setup with a low centre of effort is the key!

There is a bit more information on my web site – www.rxmarine.co.uk

Happy Kayak Sailing!

Andy RxSailor

Related articles: See also Tom's TopKayaker Shop-Sailing for related kayak sailing rigs and hardware.

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