Keven talks sails: The Ups and Downs of Mainsails

Tides Slide

Nov 19, 2020

Tides slide installed on the luff of a main

Many of my customers show up at the loft complaining that their main doesn’t hoist or douse very well. Here is my checklist for an easy hoisting mainsail:

1. Is the track clean? Dish soap is a great sail slide lubricant, and it cleans out any grit or sticky film.

2. Sheave bushings worn out? By some new ones, or have a machinist make some. I’m sure Klacko Spars will have some.

3. Stiff or oversized halyards? Old rope doesn’t run freely and double braid eye splices can jam in the sheave box.

4. I know this is a silly one that you would never miss, but…. Let your vang off when hoisting, and support the weight of the boom with some tension on the topping lift or Boomkicker.

5. Slugs or Slides worn or don’t fit correctly? This is where your sailmaker can help!

Many of our cruising/racing boats were also often rigged to have a boltrope luff main. Perfect solution during the 1979 IOR ¾ tonne cup with your 12 crew members, but not so handy for going for a shorthanded sail. These masts take round shaped “Slugs” that feed up the mast groove. The other option are flat “T” shaped “Slides”. The Slides are the more free running of the two options, and will work quite well on boats up to 32’ or so. Slugs on the other hand…

Sail hardware makers are always busy making stronger and more slippery slugs and slides, but the solution for large boats (50’ plus) has been linear rail bearing track systems, like Harken Battcars that use large cars like your mainsheet traveller with plastic ball bearings inside.

Tides Tracks and SlidesSlugs, slides, linear bearing track, and assorted Tides tracks and slides.

In the last 15 years, another option for mainsails up to 600 sq.ft. has been available at about half the cost of a ball bearing system. This Tides Marine Strong track is a favorite of our loft both in Hamilton, and in Sodus Point New York. Cost is around $1600 including hardware for a 35’ boat and it absolutely transforms mainsail handling. It gives lower stack height, the Stainless Steel slides are nearly indestructible and the one piece UHMWPE track is easy to install with the mast up.

Measuring Disks
It does require some experience to measure up the mast groove and correctly specify the dimensioning and hardware required, but that is what your sailmaker can help with.

Next column we will discuss the advantages of headsail furling for cruising, and even racing.

Keven Piper

 Tides Marine Strong Track measuring disks.







(right) Keven Piper – Sailmaker, Bay Sails, Hamilton, Ontario

Keven Piper, two-time Shark 24 World Champion, founded Hamilton, ON-based Bay Sails in 1998.

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