Fulllength Battens

Figure 7.2

Full-length batten mainsails have all the battens running from luff to leech.

Full Batten Sail

when it comes to battens: they will extend the life of your sail since battens add support to the fabric and dampen the flogging that is one of the principal causes of fabric degradation. Full-length battens also assist in keeping the shape of the sail looking good after years of service, whereas with conventional battens wrinkles start to appear at the inboard end of the batten pockets after heavy use. Mainsails that have a large roach like those found on Open Class race boats or cruising catamarans almost always have full-length battens to support the roach, especially near the head. On the down side, full-length battens add weight and cost to a sail, so the number and spacing should be judiciously considered. One possible solution is a 2-plus-2 arrangement with two full-length battens up high and two longer-than-normal battens down low. This gives you the support and sailhandling benefits provided by full-length battens, i.e., support for the roach up high, while avoiding weight and expense in other areas. Full-length battens also present a problem when sailing downwind, especially if the boat has swept-back spreaders, since when the sail lays up against the shrouds and spreader ends the hard spot created by the battens rubs up against an equally hard spot on the rig, which leads to chafe.

Another drawback of full-length battens that you should be aware of is the fact that they can dictate sail shape in light air since they are not very responsive to standard sail shape controls like mast bend and adjusting the cunningham. This can especially be a problem if the battens are not properly tapered or are more rigid than they need to be. Let's say, for example, that you are sailing through a moderate chop and want to add depth to the lower third of the sail. Normally you would do this by easing off the foot, but if you have rigid full-length battens throughout the sail, they might end up dictating the sail shape down low regardless of what you do with your outhaul.

Another problem with full-length battens is that on mainsails with a larger-than-normal roach there is a lot of compression in the inboard ends of the battens, especially the upper battens where the bulk of the roach is located. When you sheet the mainsail on tight the load on the leech of the sail forces the batten in toward the mast loading up the slide. A good mechanical batten car system alleviates most problems, but just using "regular" slides may result in them jamming.

In the end it may come down to the size of your sail and type of sailing you are doing. Much of my own sailing has been done singlehanded and my last boat had an enormous mainsail with a huge roach. I relied on lazy jacks to manage the sail and lazy jacks work best with full-length battens since the battens help keep the sail material lined up with the boom. The added weight and expense was a worthwhile trade-off. If the sail had been smaller and more manageable, there would have been less need for full-length battens down low.

Full-length battens are necessary to support a large roach like the one seen on this sporty 30 footer.

Full-length battens are necessary to support a large roach like the one seen on this sporty 30 footer.

Detail work on the outboard end of a batten pocket showing tensioning device (left photo) and cover (right photo) that prevents the sail from hanging up on the backstay.

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