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Wide Luff vs Free-Race Sails

In case you did not know ... The luff is often referred as the height of the sail i.e. from mast base to the tip of the sail.. The sleeve for the mast when wide is termed wide luff as compared to a free-race sail which has less cambers and a narrower sleeve. This is not so obvious in the photo.


I am a MauiSails fan and have been ever since I started shortboarding with these sails in 2008. At that time I purchased RAF {Rotating Asymmetric Foil} sail, a 2007 MS Pursuit 8.5 with no cambers. As a heavyweight, not long after that I purchased a barely used TR-4 10-oh - wide luff with 4 cambers. When I replaced the RAF, I purchased a used MS-2 8-oh, which is a free-race narrow luff sail with 2 cambers. I also have an older Gaastra Flow 3X 7-oh which has three(3) cambers... As you can see, and may know already, wide luff and free-race sails have cambers, which lock the shape in. So, no need to discuss the pros n cons of cambers cuz they all have 'em.

The only thing I will say is: I see NO reason to have cambers in sails under 7.x unless you are a racer.

Let's start with a discussion on wide luff race sails ...


TR-5 and TR-5xt rigging guide from on Vimeo.

- very stable
- weight - dry and wet
- handles BIG wind range 
- wide luff can fill with water and become heavy
- NO crinkles                                                 - 100% carbon mast usually recommended = $$$
- easier to rig and de-rig - personal opinion as compared to free-race sails - cambers do not always rotate and pop into place when flipping the sail - especially with less outhaul and if you forgot to use wet lubricants like McLube or SailKote
- no need to tape mast pieces together


MauiSails Titan rigging guide from on Vimeo.


-lighter and thus less physically demanding + easier to pump
- rigging causes crinkles
- very easy camber rotation
- slightly less wind range              
- easier to beach and water start                                                                              
- no need for more than 75% carbon mast       

What about other comparisons on the water ?? This is more difficult for me to compare since my sails are used in different ranges and on different boards ..

This is where Paul's analysis comes in :-) Paul from Connecticut sold me my TR-4 10-oh with matching MS mast 520/100. He is a MauiSails fan as well and has used many more sails than I have.

Paul has sailed over the years (wide and narrow sleeves) the TR-4 10.0, TR-5xt 11.0, TR-5xt 8.4, TR-4xt 9.2, TR-7 9.2, MS-2 10.0, Blaze 9.0, and Retros (including 10.0 and 10.5’s) all on formula boards and freeformula boards (90-100cm wide) with their correct recommended masts.

Paul’s weight has varied from 169 to 182 pounds over the years on these kits.  His first conclusion is that there ARE trade offs from one kit to another.  Trade off’s in low wind planing, wind range, comfort and fun when choosing an 8.4 or a 11.0.  PauI doesn’t race and all his sailing is recreational.  Racing is against buddies as they head out and back (so speed is important but not at the expense of comfort/fun).

His current weight is 170 pounds = about 77 kilos.  Weight has a lot to do with what kit you choose and early planing.  Sailing skills and pumping skills help a lot with early planing.  The blaze 9.0 is much easier to pump onto plane for Paul than the TR-x sails (including 8.4 through 11.0) at his skill level.  The larger the sail, the heavier the sail, the physically harder it is for anyone to pump onto a plane.  The Blaze 9.0 and TR-7 9.2 seem to have similar low end power.  However, he can pump the Blaze with a lot less effort than the TR.  Unless it is super windy, Paul has more fun with the Blaze (less physical).  Once planing, both sails carry through the lulls pretty evenly.

Paul says, “I like not having the weight and wide luff sleeves of the racing sails.  However, I love the range and feel of the racing sails when fully powered up the best.  I prefer the 9.2 TR over the 10.0 TR for my weight.  The range of the 9.2 TR get’s me to where I could drop to a 6.5 with some simple tuning.  The 10.0 planes me easier than the 9.2 but gets more physical for my weight as the wind comes up.  I would prefer to lose very little on the low side (I pump the 9.2 better than the 10.0) for a more comfortable sailing experience as the wind increases.  However, when I was 185 pounds, I preferred the 10.0 to the 9.2 for the lighter days (unless it was super gusty.  Then I choose the 9.2 over the 10.0).”

The 11.0 and 10.0 sails on the formula boards plane up more quickly for Paul than the 9.0 Blaze on the JP SLW {SuperLightWind}.  Not that much however.  If there are steady winds from 8-14 (steady 8, gusting to 14), Paul can plane any of these kits.  Has to pump the Blaze up while the 11.0/10.0 would plane with less pumping but all would hold a plane in these winds.  The 11.0 would carry through lulls that the 9.0 would fall off plane.  However, sailing the 11.0 is more tiring than sailing the 9.0.  The days when the 11.0 would plane and the 9.0 will not are pretty light wind days.

There are many variables for the individual sailor - namely skill, weight and typical conditions that make the comparisons from one person to another invalid or difficult.
People talk about 12 knots of wind to get planing.  What does 12 knots mean without some explanation?  Is 12 knots the average?  Is it gusting from 2-18 with a 12 knot average?  Is it 10-14?  Is it 8-16?  Makes a big difference in what you choose to sail with.
The above discussion shows that Paul has had the opportunity to test many sails with many boards in varying conditions. For me it is much simpler:

Anything under 10 mph is just too light and inconsistent.
Over 10 mph and stay under 16 – BIC Techno Formula with TR-4 10-oh and 58 cm True Ames SB weed
Over 16 mph or 14 knots and stay under 20 – AHD 160 with MS-2 8-oh and 48 cm slalom or weed fin
Over 20 + stay under 25 – Gaastra Flow 3X 7-oh with AHD 160 or Fanatic BEE LTD 124 - 40 cm slalom or weed fin
Over 25 – Fanatic BEE LTD 124 with HSM 6.3 – 40 cm slalom fin – my skills are NOT ready for this ...

The whole reason I started this discussion is:
The MS-2 8-oh develops crinkles and looks like it may not last long.
This is misleading since there is an extra layer of material in the impacted area..

What about other options like no monofilm to reduce crinkles, etc, etc …

As a matter of fact, a fellow I sail with at OKA, Georges, swears by his Severne Gator 9-oh. He uses this on his StarBoard Carve 122 in light winds. This sail has NO cambers, NO monofilm and is labelled as very manoeuverable. So, it all comes down to personal choice – based on MANY factors !! {body weight, strength, skills, typical conditions, personal preference, etc.}

As John Ingebritsen on iwindsurf forums suggests: trial as much stuff as you can !!

Yet mpora/boardseeker says:
Ability: It’s not actually a question of being ‘good enough’ to sail a race sail, it’s more about being good enough to get the benefit from it. And, being brutally honest, most people aren’t. You need to sail 1-2m bigger than you would choose in another style of sail, a dedicated board and fin designed to cope with the sail, and the skills to pin it down and hold the power at the limit of control. If you aren’t confident about this, then you will almost certainly get more performance from a twin-cam.


For me in the end it all comes down to dollars and sense. A MauiSails TR-x 8.4 race sail with wide luff requires a 460 cm mast that I donut have and many people strongly suggest a 100% carbon mast for this combo. An MS Blaze 8.0 will fit on my current 490 mast.

So, I will use my current MS-2 8-oh free-race sail until it dies. Then it will be an older year/model MS-2, Titan or Blaze to replace it.

2014 update: the MS-2 died for a number of reasons -  the monofilm was punctured during sailboarding on snow and the battens kept breaking. Ironically I found a TR-6 8.4 at a reasonable price in 2013. I have used this on the Mistral Equipe I , the snow sailboard and the AHD FF 160. As with the 10-oh , if winds are steady and not too light, the sail works great. I still preferred the MS-2 with NO cambers on the longboard, but CANNOT be used in the winter on ice n snow. And so, I may end up with a longboard sail. Geoff, who is an avid fan of HSM/Hot Sails Maui has convinced me to look at those sails. They are dacron, and VERY durable, but all designed to go on RDM masts - even the larger sizes. With over 100 kilos, I prefer SDM in the larger sails. We will see - time will tell ...

Update: I DID purchase an HSM SPF/SpeedFreak 8.5 sail from Geoff aka GEM with a NP 490 mast. It became my go-to sail in MANY instances and I owe Geoff a loonie or toonie :-) He had said it would become my most used sail and it is ....
so much for wide luff versus free-race !!!
still have the MS TR-6 8.4, but use it when wind n water are steady - hate dropping it !!!
also have an older Gaastra 7.0 sail with 3 cambers, but narrow luff ...

1 comment :

  1. Hi Joe,

    I got out for almost 4 hours on the Blaze9.0 / JPSLW and Switch 7.5/ Tabou Rocket combo over the weekend. Both of these sail sizes match up pretty well (optimum) with the boards I use with them.

    My blaze/switch comments are:
    Blaze sail cams rotate so easily that the sail DOES feel like a RAF sail. Really nice!

    Blaze can handle some pretty decent wind. Some gusts were close to 20. Lulls were 8 or so. Average wind was 10-14. No problems planing all the time. Cruised right through the lulls. My buddy came out with a North 7.3 / Tabou Rocket 115 combo (2 cam sail, he weighs 176 pounds or so. Very good sailor). He needed to wait for the gusts to get going. He fell off plane sometimes in the lulls where I cruised right through.

    Blaze 9.0 is not as stable as the TR-7 9.2 when the wind is pushing 20. Not a problem, but the TR was more locked down where the Blaze moved a little bit. I had no problem dropping to the Rocket 125/7.5 combo when the winds filled in a bit (average 14 or so).

    Rocket/Switch 7.5 combo felt great. Gybing, tacking, planing, etc.. great fun. This combo could handle a good 5 more in wind without a problem. Once I got the lines adjusted properly it was easy fast blasting :-)



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