To sail or not to sail? [65]

This may be the answer!

By Andre Janecki

The purists already have their answer. But for everyone else who already uses “technology”, such as a rudder or skeg, with or without the mighty propeller blade paddle (not to mention a cockpit size a fist bigger than their waist) adding a sail was never a question – only its size.

From this point, they may as well call themselves “hybrids”. The sailing idea was always going to appeal to them for many reasons. Usually they would experiment on a friend first and then quickly adopt the “unfair advantage” for themselves, in a format at least double the standard size.

Now the only problem is that this much larger sized sail is clearly visible and (unlike the rudder or the skeg) right in front of them! Knuckles are bruised and the hip flip roll isn’t the same. But more bad news is lurking near the surf zone. This is where the purists like to wait. Weeks later they can auction their collection of salvaged goods from the hybrids’ misadventures on e-Bay for a tidy financial reward.

For the past ten years I have remained pure. But recently things have started to change. Perhaps it was the week-long celebration of my 50th birthday or the two years spent constructing our new home/office that took its toll on my body, particularly my elbow. The bottom line was, that I had promised my partner

Catherine, a two-week kayaking experience of the Whitsunday Islands. And judging by her reaction after reading some of the horror stories endured by others up there, she in no polite way let me know what she expected of me. So I had to perform. The possibility of having to tow made me seriously think of staying at home at one point…have I mentioned my heart problem yet? That was when I knew I had to use the sail.

The more I thought about using the rig, the more attractive the whole idea became.

It would not only extend our cruising range but would leave me with more calories to burn later.

As the new premises and most importantly the workshop was now complete, I had all the time required to improve upon my previous commercially available sail.

Despite the popularity of the original design (based on Norm’s idea) I started with a clean sheet of paper. (For those who are unfamiliar with kayak sail history and design aspects, a good reference point is Andrew Eddy’s article The Why & Wherefore Of A New Design, which appeared in volume 44 of this magazine.)

The Design Challenge: Make a minimalistic and multifunctional sail using only the best materials available.

My previous sail was made out of three shaped panels with a fibreglass batten to maximise its area under tension. The shape of the sail was a proven and successful design, however even the best fabric didn’t last more then three years and the batten had a tendency to pierce through the material.

Research and development is an expensive process, yet irrespective of the costs, I needed to implement some drastic measures. After an extensive search I sourced a high tech fabric. It is at least 10 times stronger and more UV stable than the previous polyester cloth. It is also much softer, thus reducing creasing. Finally, due to the new proportions of the sail including a much shorter boom section and with the assistance of four new panels, the need for the batten was completely eliminated.

The original mast measured 1.2m from the base, which was relatively short. It didn’t impede on the cockpit opening, which was an important safety aspect but at the same time, its length was also its limitation. To address this issue, the new mast is now telescopic.

A truly successful design called for a furling option without being complicated.

By rolling and sliding the top section into the main mast, the size and shape of the sail is reduced by approximately 20 per cent.

When not on the water the whole rig needed to have other function/s as well, for example catching rainwater, providing emergency shelter and doubling as a “spare” spray skirt. It is also nice to know that the whole thing fits easily into an average size aft compartment and weighs around 850g.

In an attempt to cater for different kayak models, I have made the sail in two sizes: 1.65m (1.1m when folded) and 1.90m (1.25m when folded.)

There is also a choice between the economically priced marine anodised aluminium and the more expensive, maintenance-free fibreglass. Now the limitations are on you, your pocket, your kayak strength and the wind of course.

And what happened on the Whitsunday Island trip? Neptune must have been listening to me. He may not be a “hybrid” but he is definitely a pure man! Catherine was presented with a fab time with the bonus of staying at Haslewood and Border Islands. As for me, I was presented with the best September weather imaginable with the bonus of contracting sea lice (microscopic jellyfish larvae) from the Shute Harbour launch site, with the pain and irritation lasting for the entire trip.

Some say that a picture tells a thousand words.

So here it is, the World Premiere of the Hybrid Telescopic Kayak Sail.


Andre is part of the creative team behind Hybrid Pty Ltd. which specialises in technology, design and architecture. The name Hybrid Telescopic Kayak Sail and its design is the sole property of Hybrid Pty Ltd. Hybrid Pty Ltd is a Gold Sponsor of the NSWSKC 2007 Rock’n’Roll weekend.