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As you have seen in some discussion here already, the early sails were considered to be like a bag of wind (in polite terms) and some called em a sac of potatoes :-(

Just take a quick look at this one:

Neil Pryde website took their picture OFF = bad publicity ?? 
found a "new" one

Notice how there is almost NO curvature in the mast. There are creases in the sailcloth running in all directions. The "sticks" or battens are tiny and are NOT full sail ie they donut run from sail tip to mast. Full battens help the sail retain its shape. When it is very windy and one holds this type of sail at 90 degrees to the wind, it flaps back n forth so much it is hard to hold onto. Early booms were just awkwardly long. The sail material was cloth and later it was dacron, both of which do not stretch much, butt seem to last forever.
One thing to note is the earlier sailboards were definitely FUN oriented - people put their friends and pets on their boards as they went out. Not much safety equipment here - just playing about !!!

If my nonsense mistyping bothers you (or you enjoy it) please let me know :-)

When we speak of sails like this one, there is no need to distinguish the type of sailing one is about to do. No need to speak of wave (on shore, side shore), bump n jump, slalom, race, freeride, free-style, etc. This all came later...

I need to be careful when I use the term race. There is a specialized raceboard that is along the lines of the longboard and they have specialized sails - as do all the sail groups. One blog has gathered a list of all the specialized sails for the longboard race boards :

In the 80's there were all kinds of things happening in the windsurf world. Robby Naish became a household name in the windsurf realm. In 1984 windsurfing became an Olympic event. Fred Haywood goes over 30 knots - perhaps on a sail designed by Barry Spanier. Full battens including foot battens make their appearance. Monofilm apparently made its appearance around here as well. Monofilm is a clear stretchy material that wears out with UV rays and is more susceptible to breaks and creases than some of the newer materials, which in some cases still incorporate monofilm. As it loses its clarity, it is losing its strength. Here one can start to make the sails quite tight with a rigid constant shape - downhaul and outhaul hard !

Other names in the sail industry were and still are Niel Pryde, Gaastra, Maui Sails, David Ezzy, Simmer Sails and others. It seems even camber inducers made it onto the scene this early.

At the left is an example of an "exposed" cam inducer that illustrates how with the curvature, the batten can be locked to the mast...Some people suggest that any sail larger than about 7.5 square meters have cams. Some of these larger sails today have from none to six(6) cams. Typically when there are cams, there are two(2) to four(4) cams. A cam locks the shape of the sail right away and does not require wind to shape the sail. Thus it is said to be better in reduced wind also called lulls in the wind. When one is using the "wrong" mast, sail is new or just not rigged correctly, it may be difficult to flip the sail fully from one side to the other i.e. cams may stick. I have heard of people filing cambers, butt for me that should be a last resort.

It was not just about going fast, but people were catching air and starting to do tricks like forward loops. However, the chart at the left shows that speed was definitely a factor. In the last couple of years kites seem to have taken over in the top speeds on water world-wide. So the competition is now between really expensive sailboats, windsurfers and kiters :-)

I believe it was in the late 80's when Bruce Peterson of Sailworks now (Gaastra back then) discovered by accident the whole concept of the sail leech twisting off and opening up. This twisting allows sails to have much more range in that they do not become overpowered. The extra wind will “spill” out of the leech. This seems to allow a gradual powering up of the sail. Apparently, the leech  also lowers the CoE or centre of effort of the sail. I call this the point of power or PowerPoint. When the CoE is lower, it is more stable, like a person with a lower centre of gravity is more stable for gymnastics or martial arts.  It seems the CoE needs to align with the CLR/ centre of lateral resistance that runs off the fin. In order to do this with a lower CoE, the mast track had to move back on the board.

Older sails had more power, but less range and control. To cover this, "newer" sails became larger. Earlier the biggest sails were in the 8.x range with many cams. Now we are up to 12.x. I imagine that over 12.x it just becomes unmanageable in terms of human capabilities i.e. imagine uphauling such a sail? With the larger sails come the larger fins/foils. Larger foils require wider boards. Wider boards plane up earlier and do not need as much low end power. What I am trying to say here is: this twisting off of the leech thing had a major impact on the whole windsurf model.

It seems stronger materials like X-ply made it into sails in the early 90's. And now in the 2000's there are newer, lighter, stronger and more expensive materials like technora...

Apparently it was not until the late 90's when camless sails came back into popularity. Today it seems the race, slalom and formula sails have the cams whereas most other sails do not... There is a light movement back to cams where there are only two(2) cams on the sail to provide stability...

At the beginning of this discussion, masts had little bend. Now masts have bend, twist and flex. As such it is important to put the correct mast on the sails. This is still only part of the equation. When rigging a sail many factors come into play besides the mast. The more in detail mast discussion can be found here: masts.html

Now there are videos on sail sites, youtube and vimeo showing average joes how to rig camless and even cammed sails. Setting the mast extension correctly, putting enough downhaul for leech twist-off, tightening battens and not too much outhaul all come into play.

Then of course for each person there are the additional factors of boom height, harness line position, does one use adjustable outhaul, etc etc.

Today's sails range in size from 1.x square meters for kids to 12.x square meters. Cannot emphasize enough to get the matching mast that the sail maker has recommended. High winds call for sails in the 3.x to 5.x square meter range. Mid-winds are 6.0 to 8.5 and light winds are 8.5 to 12.x. This is a generalization because I have read about formula racers using 10.0 sails in quite high winds !!!

The good news is boards have sail ranges and sails have recommended uses. They are expensive, but at least they are repairable and my 2006 Pursuit monofilm sail is still going strong. Then again so is my 20 year old Dacron 7.0 3 cam sail. Still prefer my 10 year old Gaastra Flow 3x over the 20 year old NP sail.

Some sails have more than one clew hole. In case you forgot :-), the clew is at the "back" of the sail where the outhaul "rope" is attached. Have heard there may even be sails with three(3) clew holes. Have had discussions with fellow windsurfers where we felt the bottom hole left the leech a little more open and as such, for stronger winds. Conversely, using the top hole keeps the leech a little tighter for lighter winds. Interestingly enough, a "shorter" fellow tried the top hole in lighter winds after a discourse on the subject. He did NOT like it and went back to the lower clew hole. Today I saw a video from the Viet Nam PWA with Antoine Albourne, Bjorn Dunkerbeck and Cyril Moussllman. They all seemed to iterate that the top hole was for "taller" sailors and the lower hole is for the "shorter" sailors.

Sail makers have been reducing the sail length at the boom. This is being done with a clew cutout - as it is called. It seems it has been around a number of years and yet, Maui Sails is only starting to try this configuration in 2011 on their infamous race sails TR - version 7 in 2011. From my understanding this gives a sail a much lighter feel and is much easier to swing about - like in jibes...

As I write these notes to myself and whoever else is interested, I start to realize why starting windsurfing is difficult. There is a lot of information, expense, learning and very weather dependent. This is not to mention the equipment needs to be stored when not in use and a vehicle with which to transport it all.

Guess the lesson is, people should NOT start as I did, with a really old board and NO instruction. New gear is much more user friendly and there is a wealth of info on the web. For me the local shops are my biggest sources of information and I am more than happy to "encourage"/support them. All my new stuff is purchased locally and they answer questions via e-mail.

The latest n greatest is NOT required to have a GREAT time. I did discover though that the monofilm sail helped me get planing. Have planed with the older sails since, but after changing the fin. If one likes the great outdoors then sports like windsurfing and motorcycles are natural choices. I have yet to scream inside my helmet on my first windsurf session of the year. This was an annual routine for me on my old 750. I have made it to the smile and a whoop when I did a chop hop. Yes, windsurfing is thrilling and makes me feel closer to nature and my fellow man/woman.

One term one comes across when speaking of windsurf sails is "centre of effort" or COE. In these discussions other terms like apparent wind come up as well. As an average joe windsurfer, I read about the concept, but feel it is not necessary for me to have a great time on the water. Since I have always lived near the water, many concepts and ideas just seem to come naturally without too much thought or analysis. I prefer it that way. It reminds me of the golf swing. The more effort one puts in or thinks about it, the worse it seems to get. Just relax, keep trying stuff and try to repeat what works best FOR YOU. The same applies to me for the fins. I listen to people and read the literature, but do not need to fully understand foil functionality, etc. IF you are interested, there are plenty of articles on the web discussing COE, CLR, apparent wind theory, etc. Let me see if I can find a good "simple" one ....How great is that, found one from one of our local windsurf shops :-)
Windsurf Sail Physics 101 
On this blog I have also added this page:  jim-drakes-windsurf-physics

Here is a video of a fellow making a "custom" sail - in case u r interested: Vid of Making a Custom Sail

Where I live two (2) boards and about three (3) sails should cover the majority of conditions for me. Since I really look to sail in all conditions, I will have three (3) boards and four or five sails... Just remember I had one board and three(3) sails for about 10 years to start :-)

B4 I forget, the sail calculator is good as a point of reference: sailcalculator.xls

Here is what I use for my sail reference => Sails vs Wind Speed

If I wish to speak of windspeeds perhaps I should put up a little windspeed converter. I use kph and then divide by 2 to get approximate knots.

clique to get bigger clearer image

As discussed, I am a numbers guy. So, how can I relate sail size to wind ? My sail sizes multiplied by Beaufort scale are always around 42. If I call my 10.0 a 10.5 then 10.5x4=42, 8.5x5=42, 7x6=42 and 6x7=42. Now if only I can get used to the Beaufort scale :-)

Found some of the following numbers on the redsurfbus blog.. I just added some extra numbers and some of my own data.

clique for clearer image

 One sail I would like to give honourable mention is the "kitewing". It is referenced in the Winter Windsurfing section of this blog. It has no mast and generates plenty of lift...

Each time I sail , I learn new things about boom placement, harness line placement, etc and that is part of the fun as well..

Barry Spanier of Maui Sails uses the owl wing as a flight indicator and inspiration. Do not know why, but I prefer an insect wing - perhaps because due to its transparency one can see all the cells and re-enforcements. {notice the clew cut-out :-) }

 Sails are not cheap and they wear out and/or may require repairs. People repair their own battens and cambers, but few people actually repair their sails. A typical repair around here seems to be 100 to $200. Sails themselves can go from $300 to over $1000. The worst part of all this is: you may also require a matching mast and/or boom. A 100% carbon mast can also be close to $1000 , as can a 100% carbon boom. Used sails, masts and booms are MUCH less. Once again, people want the new stuff. Just remember, monofilm does wear out - it needs to be clear and hopefully free of crinkles/creases.Thus far, my used sails have all been under $300 and my new one under $500. AND they all work just fine :-)

In my other "posts" I try to rate the products that I currently have. I rate the BIC Dufour and the AHD FF 160 from my perspective and my experience as an average joe windsurfer. As yet, I have NOT done the same thing for the sails. So, let me try to do that now ...

Originally my first modern sail was supposed to be a Sailworks Retro 8.5 with appropriate mast et al. Bruce Peterson of Sailworks discovered the leech concept and the Retro had been around for quite some time. The problem was and still is today, these sails are quite expensive. I believe in supporting the local shop and thus i did NOT do any on-line shopping - other than checking the SW website. There are other shops in town and they have Aerotech, Gaastra, MauiSails and Niel Pryde. It turns out the MauiSail was the best return for the buck and the mast was going to come out as a really great deal as well. There was also the fact that The Team with the infamous Barry Spanier had their stamp on this sail. Both Retro and MS Pursuit are non-cambered 8.5s with similiar luffs/height and widths/boom. Both require a 490 cm mast with an IMCS of 29 {see mast "post" for more discussion on masts}. Usually I try not to let just cost influence my choice, but as an amateur, I could NOT see any significant difference for an average joe in these two(2) sails and setup. So, the purchase was made of a 2006 MauiSails Pursuit 8.5 with a 490/29 90% carbon Autima mast and an aluminum boom.

Now, that was a LOT of pre-amble and yet no discussion on rating. This is still my favourite sail and not just because it is my first sail. One thing I discovered, it takes a lot less downhaul than the SW Retro. My w/s buddy has SW Retros and is a bigger fellow. When he downhauls his Retro, he looks like he is struggling. Barry Spanier confirmed on the MS forum that the Pursuit and MS sails in general do NOT require as much downhaul force to get to correct setting. Phil McGain of MS is able to rig MS sails with NO additional tools. I tried that, but then again i am not an Iron Man like Phil {he did the iron man routine in 2010 i believe it was}. The sail size is ideal for me in lighter winds 15 to 20 knots about ie 20 to 40 kph winds. The sail has a lot of range and although these "modern" sails were NOT made to keep the leech tight, when I keep the leech tight, it still works well. I use this sail with tight leech on my BIC Dufour Wing and it goes really well. This means this sail has a HUGE range. One can adjust downhaul and outhaul !! Did my first planing with this sail and it convinced me to go out and buy a MauiSails race sail TR-4 10.0 for those really light winds. Will discuss that sail next. One thing i commented to Barry about was, the logos came off quickly - no big deal. Was also surprised that after four(4) years, Barry called my sail old. I feel it still has a ton of life left !!! If I had to do it again, I would definitely purchase this sail again, but i do really like cambered sails as well. One thing i would change is - i would purchase the appropriate MS mast rather than the better deal on the more carbon mast. I will NEVER purchase Autima again. I tried to contact them for info on their mast via e-mail and phone and forums and got nothing. All i wanted to know was some numbers on their mast. MS masts are considered hard top, while SW and others are constant curve. This works with MS, butt is NOT ideal. One day i will get to try an MS 490 mast on the 8.5. I tried the 520 MS 100% mast on my 8.5, butt it was pretty tight ie might work in high wind, but less range... Oh yeah, I did ask Barry Spanier on the MS forum why there was one less batten on the MS Pursuit than say the SW Retro. Barry asked me why i would put one more ? OK ... On another spot on the same forum KP and Barry discuss how more battens keep the shape better !!! I am NOT one to argue with Barry nor with the performance of this sail. Josh Angulo when he was with MS for a short while seemed to like the MS booms and the Pursuits ...
UPDATE: just read that the Autima mast is considered hard top (no numbers) and as such that is why it seems to work so well with this MS sail that is hard top rated. So, will NOT be purchasing an MS 490 mast to replace the Autima for a numer of reasons. Masts cost too much, the current mast is doing the job and when i replace the 8.5 i may consider either cambered or Sailworks Retro, but that brand is expensive for me. If all I have to worry about is that windsurfing is cost and yet have all that stuff in the garage, maybe i should just start being thankful and stop my whining. When i was young , people said be thankful that you are healthy - what did they know? Now i have friends and family dying around the age of forty(40), which i consider quite young compared to my age and the age of my mother , who is still living. Moral: live in the now. No Fear, No Loathing and only controlled folly. PEACE of MIND - and that is where windsurfing helps me - when i am on the water - all the bad stuff is forgotten - and no nonsense of whining about costs and not enuff stuff :-)

Okay, what about my other MauiSails sail ? I also have an MauiSails TR-4 10.0 sail. I call it a 10-oh because it is just so oh oh BIG :-) The TR sails go up in number since the first year of introduction. This year in 2011 they have the TR-7's with a clew cutout for the first time. That makes the TR-4 a 2008 MS sail. I purchased it in 2009 - used obviously, but it was like never used !!! Before we get into my personal sense of the sail, let us investigate the why-fors. I purchased this sail because I wanted to get out sooner and faster. AHD suggested I not go larger than 10.0 with my current AHD FF 160. I tried an MS-2 11.0 with the board and liked the combo, but NOT the sail. Thus I limited my search to the TR 10.0. This is a race sail and as such requires the proper mast and ideally a carbon boom. I got really lucky. The sail was sold with the appropriate MS 520 mast at 100% carbon and the boom I purchased separately was an HPL which turns out to be a carbon boom!! I probably have the only TR sail in Montreal because our local MS vendor does NOT carry them and has NO experience rigging them.

Okay, let us get to the rating - assuming the setup has the appropriate mast and carbon boom. This sail is a race sail and I am only wanting it for light wind flying. It does fly !! Also, I used it on 40 % of my windsurf outings in 2010 !! Another 40 % were on the MS Pursuit 8.5. Thus light wind is the main element on the menu here in Montreal. The sail has cams and can be rigged with cams attached before boom or after putting the boom on. In any case, it is NOT difficult to rig for a race, cammed sail. For the "de-rigging" it is important to note a couple of elements - remove the boom, manually release the bottom cam AFTER slightly loosening downhaul and then SUDDENLY release all downhaul , in essence popping the cams off. Ok, that's enuff about rigging , what about the sail ? First of all, it is HEAVY. This means it is difficult to uphaul. I considered an EZ-uphaul, butt they are like sixty bucks $%^& Could make one myself or use my standard tricks which are: beach start whenever possible and if by chance i fall in or drop the sail, get it out of the water QUICK. The issue is: when the sleeve gets full of water - time to swear. Once going, the sail is just GREAT. The other issue i had that is now resolved is the popping of the cams from one side to the other. Never had this issue on my older cammed sails, but then again, they were NOT strung tight like a drum either. On the MS forum, some people seem to never have this issue and others have it when the sails are new. After about 20 riggings , loosening the batten under the boom just slightly and putting McLube on the round portion of the cam  - all is well. When there is a little bit more wind, it helps as well - again, around the boom, the sail is rigged tight. These sails have a ton of range and are made to allow touching the boom ie protective lining there. Would I buy an MS TR again - YOU BET. Probably used or off e-bay though. People are raving about the TR-7s already and they are just out.

I am actually considering that IF i ever replace the 8.5, i would replace it with a TR 8.4. For the 7.5 I would use a Pursuit or Switch and in the 6.x I would just get a Switch - maybe RDM ?? My issue is $$$ -- I cannot afford this stuff new and the sail ranges all require a different mast. Tried to get a 460/100 off e-bay just this week and was outbid in 10 minutes. Must be all that automatic bidding, Guess I will just have to wait until i have some more funds. Find it difficult to purchase a mast and then wait to get the sail. Same if i get a sail and need to wait for the mast :-( My sails under 8.5 are older sails that work for now and are used about 20 % of my windsurf outings. I do not go out in 30+ knot winds. My skills or experience is just not there YET. So, my next newer sail would be in the 7.x arena. Fortunately or unfortunately a SW Retro 7.5 AND 7.0 would fit on my current Autima 490. Have seen these on used market for about $400, which is cheaper than mast + sail in the MS arena... So, for now I MUST STOP THE SHOP. IF i see i need a sail in 7.x, i just hope i can get MS with the mast. Otherwise it will be a combo purchase or SW Retro...

I also have two(2) older sails that I will rate briefly.  I have a 1998 Gaastra Flow 3X 7.0. As the name implies, it has three(3) cams. They are rigged by sliding the mast through them rather than applying pressure and popping them on later. This can be tricky at times. The mast cannot have a marine lubricant like McLube or the cams keep sliding off. Also found it helped to make the bottom batten bend the opposite direction of the other battens while rigging. The batten tensioners are still straps, but these ones still work fine. The reason I bought this sail and like this sail is: it rigs on my current 490 mast. That means it is a taller sail with less boom. The newer Matrix and Pilot seem to have these characteristics as well. For what I use it for, this is a great sail and well worth the $80 I paid. I hope to replace this sail with a 7.5 like a SW Retro or even a Gaastra Pilot/Matrix which all fit on a 490. The issue with Sailworks is the cost. It has to be a used sail. The Gaastra and MauiSails are a little less expensive. The MS sails in the 7.x range do not fit on a 490 and do not have an open head. I realize this is all about performance and perfection. Eventually I will get a 460 mast, but they are so damned expensive. I cannot even seem to outbid people on e-bay $%^&*(

I also have a 1994 Simmer WorldCup Race 6.0. This sail was purchased in order to have a small sail for winter sailboarding on ice. It rigs on my old epoxy 450 cm mast and the batten tension straps slip. It does what it was meant to do and on really windy days when i am overwhelmed on my 7-oh, i put this sail on and try stuff. It serves its purpose and will eventually be replaced. This older sail also has three(3) cams and i never remember having any issues rigging or cam rotating issues when going from one side to the other.

Here's another wind chart that came out of discussions from the Starboard forum:

One thing I find VERY interesting is they suggest 6.5 down from 8.5. I
go down to 7-oh from there. Also , if i extrapolate, it looks like i should use a
7.5 in winds of 16 to 20 knots with my 97 kilos. I tend to start with an 8.5 in 
those winds.  



there is also the question of how to get your rig and board to the water.
personally donut believe in carrying it on one's head.
here Tinho , the master instructor, gives us some good hints !!

Quote of a quote from Windsurfing Mag April 2010 - Frederic Suares 

"An optimist hopes for wind.
  A pessimist complains about the wind
  A realist adjusts the outhaul."

I am surprised that i did not seem to write anything here about building a sail quiver.
People suggest choosing a starting point and then percentage wise up and down from there. 
For example:You are starting and a sail you choose is 7.0. This sail is not too hard to uphaul and gives decent performance in mid to light winds. Since you like light winds, you decide to get a larger sail. Obviously , if you purchase an 7.5, it would be too close with too much overlap. How about 8.0 ? This is better, butt in today's sails one can go with larger ranges. This means one could easily go from 7.0 to 8.5 or perhaps even 9.0. For this discussion, let us say 8.5. This sail is 8.5/7.0 = 1.2 times larger. So, if we were to go to a giant sail, then we might consider 8.5 * 1.2 = 10.2 or 10-oh rounded down. Now there is already a three(3) sail quiver from 10-oh, 8.5 down to 7-oh which covers light wind to mid winds.Now, going down, 5.9*1.2 = 7.0 and thus a 7-oh sail would be the same spacing. 
If we continue this logic we go down 6.0, 5.0, 4.2 and 3.4. Now we are getting around the "atomic" zone.

This would give 3.4, 4.2, 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, 8.5, 10.0. 
A total of seven(7) sails to cover ALL conditions - requiring about 5 masts and 4 booms $%^&*()
TOO much for an average Joe like me !!!
My quiver was built around my 8.5 since I am a heavyweight, had some experience windsurfing on longboards and live in a light wind area. My good sails are still only 8.0 and up. My sails and skills still struggle with mid winds 7-oh and down.
If you are lighter and/or in a better wind area your most used sails will be further down the scale.
You may start with a 7.5 since this is a VERY popular and useful size in terms of ideal sail for some boards.
Then the full quiver might look something like this:
3.0, 3.6, 4.3, 5.2, 6.2, 7.5, 9, 11.0
The 3.0 is really small and the 11.0 is really large.
3.6, 4.3, 5.2, 6.2, 7.5, 9.0 looks better and for my area and me => 5.2, 6.2, 7.5 and 9-oh and i would be covered for the majority of the conditions locally. 
Personally I started with MauiSails and am happy with those sails. I may try Severne since they too are hard top and will work on my masts. If you do not stick to one brand, you might consider sticking to brands with similiar mast types. Some people build their quiver on the same manufacturer and sail model !!
I have been lucky to find some used sails in excellent shape for not too much money. Some of these are BETA sails from the manufacturer, butt these sails are great sails for an average Joe like me and save me $$$
My current quiver:

Maui Sails TR-4 10-oh with 4 cams - thinking of selling it
Maui Sails MS-2 8-oh with 2 cams - used on longboard too - MOST used sail
Gaastra Flow 3X 7-oh with 4 cams
Simmer WCR 6.0 with 3 cams - mainly used for ice windsurfing 

When I replace the 7-oh and down, there will be NO cams. The 7-oh works well, rigs on a 490 cm hard top mast  and so , it will be some time in the future ...

The board quiver is:

Fanatic CAT 210 liter longboard - use MS-2 8-oh - want to try 10-oh and 7-oh
AHD FF 160 liter shortboard - use 8-oh and 7-oh
Fanatic BEE LTD 124 - used 8.5 here once or twice - need more practice

Lots o luck and feel free to ask me any question - if i do not have the answer, I will find it on the many forums and/or blogs that i frequent daily !!!

Had some discussion in 2015 about adjustable downhauls. For me they are still a little "home made". They are telling me that people are definitely using them in race classes ... Here is a video about a young fellow with a Tushingham XR Race sail...


  1. Thanks Joe. My sail calculator shows a little less sail size than I use. Most people go out with 0.5m smaller than I do, yet I go out with 0.5-1m smaller than some of the top speed sailors at my spot (all about to change now I have a 7.6m Tushingham x15 4cam sail!)
    I really like the article and have been thinking about doing some like this myself. If you dont mind I will put a few links from my site to yours from now on, saves duplicating stuff.

  2. Hey Redsurfbus:

    thank YOU for your kind comments :-)
    link away :-)

    joew windsurfer

  3. Hey joe. Just wanting to comment to thank you for all the time you have obviously put into this website.

    The "Masts" section has saved me alot of pain and money as i almost bought the wrong one for my sails as it is 100% carbon and 40 euro cheaper than the 65% carbon i was going to buy.


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