Friday, October 16, 2009

RAD Sails

Thanks to the support of my Athletic Director and the town Recreation Director, my sailing team has a great new toy to play with - Intensity’s new RAD (reduced area design) 420 mainsails. In combination with a standard jib, these are a cross between storm sails and full size sails, with most of the virtues of both.

These sails are a solution to a host of problems from both the coach’s and the sailors’ perspectives.

For the sailors, there is always a upper wind limit beyond which their performance diminishes rapidly. For newer and lighter weight sailors, this limit is reached pretty quickly. For experienced sailors, the limit is higher, but there are still several days each season that excessive wind causes us to sail badly or not at all.

From the coach’s perspective, repeated capsizes by the less experienced sailors undermine or prevent other organized group activities. Leaving some sailors on the shore makes running a practice or a meet manageable, but denies opportunities for the land-bound to expand their skills in the very conditions where they can move up to the next level.

RAD sails give us an opportunity to deal with all of this. We have now used them on several occasions, and I love them! They give us just the opportunities I was hoping for. The freshman can use RAD sails while the other sailors use full sails, making many of those questionable days very productive. We had one day with a weather forecast of gusts to 40 (they were actually never above the high 20’s) in which everyone used RAD sails. We only had one capsize, and the team got some much needed time in heavy and very gusty conditions. We now choose our sails to match the wind conditions and don’t miss any sailing time.

Intensity spent some time developing these sails and seems to have gotten it just right. They are small enough to keep more boats upright but don’t just function as a survival sail. The main is still large enough to use with a standard jib without throwing the boat out of balance. They are naturally a little slower than full sails, especially downwind, but they are not dogs. All of the same sail trim techniques used for the full sails apply when using RAD sails, but they are simply easier to handle and more forgiving. I think they will be very useful in the teaching process. Kids can develop skills of ease-hike-trim, feathering, and heavy air gybing with a little more margin for error, but they are also rewarded for successful sail handling. We have found that the sails are plenty powerful enough to get the boat on a plane.

The whole team is excited that we now have so few limitations on when we can sail, and the kids love that they can have the fun of sailing in the big breeze with fewer negative consequences. The coaches love that we have the flexibility to maximize sailing opportunities for everyone, while maintaining safety and managing the potential chaos. I think Intensity did a great job of developing a product that opens up sailing opportunities to newer, lighter sailors and to all sailors in heavy conditions. RAD sails are a terrific asset to our sailing program!RAD Sails

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