Introduction.I was in Glasgow getting a steroid injection into my right shoulder in clinic F then having a pint of blood drained from my left arm in clinic P when I heard the news that a parcel from Australia was waiting for me at my summer home on the Solway. Despite living 50m from the shore for 7 months of the year I have not been very active recently. I last managed a kayak camping trip in May 2017 and have had to give up windsurfing. Since January 2017 I have lost 27kg not to mention over 40 pints of blood and 1.5" in height, so I needed a bit of a boost to get me back on the water!
Well the parcel was, as expected, from Mark Sundin of Expedition Kayaks in Australia. They have taken over Flat Earth Kayak Sails following the sad and untimely death of Mick MacRobb who created Flat Earth. I was privileged to have tested prototypes of each of Mick's previous sails: the original all dacron, the dacron with mylar edges, the Code Zero and finally the Trade Wind.
Each of these designs allowed a lot of twist in the leach which meant the sails would automatically spill winds in the gusts. This made them extremely user friendly, especially for newcomers to paddle sailing. I have no doubt that the international success of Flat Earth Kayak Sails was built on the sails' degree of inbuilt twist.
I suggested that perhaps the time had come for Flat Earth to create an additional new sail for for more advanced users, which would be sold alongside the current Trade Wind sail. It could have a tighter leech, perhaps with an extra batten. I got a reply, almost immediately. In it Mick said he had been feeling a bit tired of late but he had already had talks about this with his mate Rob Mercer (a renowned Australian sea kayaker). They were already developing a design based on a sail Rob had had made for him some years before, by by another sailmaker, for some big expeditions and would I mind keeping it quiet until he (Mick) had some decent prototypes made? Unfortunately (and only a few weeks later) Mick circulated his friends with the news that his "bit tired" was actually a serious illness (from which he died only a few months later).
This new Footloose sail is undoubtedly the sail Mick was referring to and you can read what Rob Mercer says about its history and development here. Rob's expedition sail was a two batten, three panel sail that had been made for him by another Australian, Andrew Eddy, who sent Mick drawings of the original. Mick and Rob worked together tweaking the details. After Mick's death, Flat Earth's new sail maker, Neil Tasker, has done further work to put Mick's prototype into production. Rob has already used it with great success on a 2018 crossing of the Bass Straight. Well after that test, my few words will be pretty insignificant... but here goes!
Design and Construction.
Mast and fittings.
( I was also experimenting by tinkering with the boom height, lowering it to loosen the foot of the sail and raising it to tighten the foot of the sail, both actions achieved with a sharp knock of the paddle!)
My only very, very minor criticism about the fittings is that the plastic boom fitting for the sheet is perhaps a little over engineered.