I was in Kari-tek, the European distributor and mast/fitting kit supplier, about two weeks ago. Geoff told me that he had just taken a delivery of 50 Code Zero sails but had sold them all already! Apparently P&H had taken delivery of a further 40 sails and Geoff had to supply masts for them very quickly, so he reckons they have all sold too.
When Mick MacRobb of Flat Earth Kayak Sails announced the Trade Wind Series he said "They are being released properly mid May in Scotland." How honoured are we in Scotland? I guess this just goes to show how popular kayak paddle sailing has become in the northern hemisphere, especially with the Flat Earth Kayak Sail. The other thing is that the sails look great against a Scottish mountain backdrop as...
As you can see the boom sits higher on the standard mast. You could cut the mast top down and lower the sail but I am not going to do that. I like the sail up higher as the wind gets slower and more turbulent the closer down it is to the surface of the sea. I want the sail to catch the clear stronger air higher up.
I was on my own so it was not possible to do a side by side comparison with the previous Code Zero sail. However, I did like what Mick has called the "slightly more aggressive" nature of the sail. I felt more of the gust was being transformed into forward drive rather than spilling out off the roach as the sail twisted. This is steady evolution, it certainly won't make your Code Zero sail redundant. However, if you have one of the original all dacron (or dacron with mylar reinforcement on the leech) Flat Earth sails you will notice a difference.
Now the fun started. It was a blast going downwind. Note that the well powered up sail has not a hint of a wrinkle (you might see a wrinkle or two in lighter winds).
I cannot think of a better expedition sail for paddle sailing in all weathers, summer and winter. If you are new to paddle sailing do not be put off by its high tech appearance, it is actually very easy to handle. If you enjoy paddle sailing with one of the earlier dacron FEKS then this would make a significant and noticeable upgrade. You could always sell your old dacron sail to a newcomer to paddle sailing who might not yet be ready to invest in a new sail. If you have a Code Zero or P&H FEKS, the incremental improvement is probably not worth an upgrade at this time, unless you just MUST have all the latest kit!
In Europe, the FEKS should be available from Kari-Tek by Mid May. Price in the first batch will be the same as the outgoing Code Zero £198 (exc. mast and fittings) then subsequent deliveries will be £218. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere keep an eye on the Expedition Kayaks web site as they are one of the main distributors in the sails' native Australia.
Disclaimer, this is a free loan sail that remains the property of Flat Earth Sails, the only cost was the postage from Australia. I have however, bought three other FEKS sails at full price. I have no financial interest in FEKS. Although I have never met Mick in person, I consider him a friend.
In this blog's comments section, Mike suggested that I post some of the comments made in Facebook groups here. So here they are:
- Going upwind, I find the lee cocking with the rudder down gets worse as the wind increases. In this photo we are close reaching in a F4/5. I am in a Taran 16 with rudder down and Phil is in a Quest with a skeg a little way down. I just could not keep up because of strong lee cocking (the Taran 16 is generally much faster than the Quest especially downwind). The only way I could stop the leecocking was to lift the rudder and correct my course with paddle strokes and edging which was more tiring than Phil who was paddling straight with just a touch of skeg. A friend who bought and paddle sails a Taran 16 has retrofitted a skeg and he uses the rudder downwind and the skeg from broad/beam reaching round to beating.
- The Cetus with a rudder lee cocked more badly than the Taran, so it is not just an issue with the Taran.
- On the Solway (on a mixed sheltered/exposed route round the Islands of Fleet which required all points of sailing) we sailed two Cetuses back to back for a week, one with a rudder only, one with a skeg only. Each sail was mounted in the same position. Regardless who paddle sailed it, the skeg boat always pulled ahead upwind and was first round the islands, whenever the wind was F3/4 or above.
- Whatever, paddle sailing is a whole heap of fun whether you have a skeg or a rudder. My friend Tony learned (and mastered) paddle sailing in an Alaw Bach without a skeg or a rudder!
- This also happened recently while crossing from Wee Cumbrai to the mainland and last year when kayaking / sailing round Walney. Steering the kayak was so much easier on each occasion with a rudder.
- I guess I have paddled sailed a bit more than you and regularly so in much stronger winds. I have never bent a mast or even come anywhere near it. You cannot paddle when rafted up so you slow down and the wind is exerting more force on the mast. Rafted up you cannot use the paddle or edging to steer (I guess the rudder does work when rafted up but of course you are only going downwind and as I said above the rudder's main limitation when paddle sailing is going upwind).
- Steering with the paddle and edging are both essential kayak skills and it would be worth learning to control your kayaks with no rudder, what if the thing breaks in mid channel? The trick in strong wind down wind sailing is to paddle fast, use every wave to get on the plane. Increase your speed as much as possible and that reduces the apparent wind and force on the rig.
- Eddyline are great kayaks, I have enjoyed paddling a Fathom very much, I hope you enjoy them on many adventures.
- With more experience you will become less dependent on the rudder and curse the damn things as much as I do (I used to paddle several ruddered kayaks and still do! Some kayaks with little rocker like the Tarans suit a rudder but the Fathom is a highly rockered boat that turns easily on edge, a rudder is not really necessary for general paddling, never mind paddle sailing.)
- Please excuse the long answers but I think it is important for those thinking of taking up paddle sailing to realise that paddle skills and not rudders are essential to learning to paddle sail (as my example of my friend Tony (above) clearly illustrates). Best wishes, Douglas.