The third alternative is one that has been around for quite a while, but never really caught on. That solution is inflatable battens. It makes perfect sense since we all know you can get a very rigid batten just by adding air pressure, and of course when the pressure is removed the batten is as flexible as the sail itself. The reason, I feel, that inflatable battens have not caught on (yet) is that they add a whole new level of complication to a sail. Cruisers are looking for simplicity, and adding an air cylinder to a boat with the attachment lines that run up the luff of a mainsail and across the sail is more than many sailors are willing to contend with. There is also the problem of deciding when you have enough pressure and what to do if the whole thing stops working. Still, I am sure that in the not-too-distant future this option will be simplified and will become a part of everyday sail technology. It's too intriguing to leave out.
Undoubtedly these batten technologies will be refined in the future and new ones will emerge. For example, some sailmakers have tried making battens similar to the steel tape measurers carpenters use that are fairly rigid when extend
The in-boom furling unit on this yacht is a neat and unobtrusive system.
ed, but are easily rolled away into the tape when not. Currently there are problems with these battens remaining rigid when in use. But down the road they may well find a foothold. In any event cruising sailors will always be looking to improve performance without sacrificing simplicity.
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