New sails - battens, tracks, latest thinking?

Hi all,

I’m in the market for a new mail sail. After reading all the archived posts on this topic I see that opinions are divided on some aspects. The sail maker I’m talking to is very widely respected, has done many BCCs, is knowledgeable and has been very helpful and taken a lot of time to discuss the options with me, but frankly the sail is about 3 times the cost I expected. I’m curious for peoples opinions to make sure I’m doing the best I can - quality is important to me, and I don’t want a “deal,” just looking for a great sail, willing to pay for that (but not willing to pay for something i don’t need).

What I want is a high quality, long lasting, simple setup for long term voyaging.

  1. Battens or no?
    I currently have full battens and they definitely stress the sail when handling it roughly, but they don’t bug me much. The sail maker is encouraging me to get full battens, at a cost of $700.

  2. Plus a tides strong track to handle the battens, for about $1,000. My sail handles fine now with normal internal slides though. Opinions?

  3. Tanbark cloth. Sail maker says it’s great on these boats. Sure, it looks pretty, but reputation for lower quality, and +$400

  4. It looks like maybe one forum member has made their sails with a sailrite kit before. I have a sewing machine and basic sewing skills. This is probably a waste of time and money if my priority is to have a good sail, right?

If you were getting a new mainsail today, what would you do?

Thanks for the opinions, all.

When I sold my boat, the sails were about 27 years old and were the originals, with a few more years left to go. the vessel, the sails and I had travelled 101,000 Nautical Miles together.

I only made 2 modifications to the main.

  1. I trimmed the foot to raise the boom, it laid me out twice.
  2. I removed the semi battens and replaced with pultruded round full battens.

Going to full battens saved me having to repair batten pockets after the batten had just gone flying past my left ear, and created a much smoother main.

I wouldn’t go for tanbark cloth. In tropical sunshine the cloth will be some 5 times warmer than white sails, which is why tanbark has a faint reputation for lower quality. (I will have all the “traditionalists” jumping all over me for that!)

I added a new main , loose footed and fully battened along with the Tides strong track replacing an external track. Very pleased with set up. If your current track causes you no undue difficulty, then leave well enough alone. My track replacement has been an immense improvement.


I had Elliot-Pattison make a new mainsail for me. I went with full battens and white sailcloth. I have been very happy with the new full batten sail compared to the hollow leach no batten sail. I kept the same sail track which has been fine. Reefing the sail downwind is a little tricky but not too hard.

Ron Thompson

Ho’okahiko 97

In 1992 we opted to buy working sails made by the premier traditional local sailmaker, the Schatthauer brothers. These 27 year old sails are still in good shape after over 60k miles, mostly in the South Pacific. They weren’t cheap but we don’t regret the extra cost. They have excellent hand-work at the corners, which is where the extra cost comes in.

Our main is roach-less, with no battens. Our experience is that offshore, there is often enough wind that we were frequently reefed. The extra area that a roach would provide wasn’t useful very often. So we didn’t miss battens and roach, but admit we haven’t sailed with them. A BCC isn’t usually used for racing, so getting a little extra speed in light air isn’t that important for most of us.

We have 2 rows of reef points, and reefed probably hundreds of times over the years. Oh, I also am a fan of reefing at the mast, not with lines led aft to the cockpit. Then again, I haven’t tried that either! Be sure to have a small self-tailing winch mounted at the forward end of the boom if you reef at the mast.

Thanks for the knowledgeable opinions so far.

Dan @ Shaula - I agree about the self railing winch. I’ve owned Merry about 5 years and reef at the mast by sweating in the clew lines, but it is very hard to get enough tension when off the wind and things are gusty. have been daydreaming of an easier way to haul down the clew. I think mounting an Andersen 12ST on both port and stbd side of the boom with a rope clutch for each reef also port and stbd would be nice - then a reef could be taken from either side, maybe extravagant and the halyard is still to stbd anyway, though.

John Cole
Thank you for your knowledge. I have never seen a full-round batten. That is interesting.

Tom Turner,
Nice to hear that you appreciate the track and find it worth it. It hasn’t given you any troubles re: wearing out, etc?

Ron Thompson:
I have also considered Elliott Pattinson. About what was the cost? I am currently being quoted $6,500 for full the main sail with battens and white cloth and no strong track. To be honest I expected the sail to cost about 1/3rd as much. But the last time I bought a sail it was from North for s 26’ boat with a smaller boom, double (not triple) stitching, lighter weight cloth, partial battens and no reef points, so I understand this heavy cruising sail is much different…

The price appears to me to be steep, but I have not really looked at the cost of sails for many years. I do know, from my work, that then Hunter went out of production, a full set, Main, 160 genoa and spinnaker cost ~ $9k. However, a Hunter was a different animal.

My sails were 8oz cloth, fully round battened. I kept them in good shape by having them cleaned, retextured and inspected and repaired for wear/chafe every couple of years.

As sails are used, the dacron weave stretches open, allowing air through the cloth.
The cleaning tightens up the dacron, and the retexturing is a liquid sprayed on the dacron which fills the tiny holes to make the sail “As new”.

Many years ago, for a client, I did extensive research into sailmakers internationally. The most striking result of this research was that total satisfaction was only provided by independent sailmakers, who would work to perfect their product.

I paid a little over $1000 for the mainsail but that was with a 50% discount. The sail had originally been ordered in Tanbark but they mistakenly made it in white. I bought it partially completed which they then finished. So I would guess the regular price would have been a little over $2000 about 10 years ago.

Ron Thompson

Hi all,

I bought a new main and staysail before I left for Tasmania. I went with fully battened, loose footed main that’s cut very flat. I also shortened the foot to raise the boom to avoid being sconed.
I tried to get away using my old batten slides on the new sail. This was a spectacular failure. I considered a Strong track but it was all complicated whilst travelling so on the advice of my sailmaker I replaced them with Rutgerson batt cars. The main comes down so fast it’s almost scary and I have been able to reef in most conditions without too much trouble. I may still consider the Strong track in the future but it’s no longer a priority.
I paid Aus$6200 for the main, staysail, lazyjack boom bag and staysail bag. I think the main was $2k from memory.
The improvement in windward performance is huge and there’s a significant reduction in weatherhelm. I’m pretty happy.

Thanks for all the input so far, guys. This is a great resource.

I’m considering the battenless more strongly - the simplicity is appealing compared to all the hard bits and fancy sail track. I’ll report back with a comparison to the original fill batten sail with normal slides afterward( I hope.

Again I have no experience with a full battened main. I recently talked to. One of the a shipwrights that worked on the 2 BCC at Port Townsend. They had FB mains and seemed to have too much weather helm. They moved the mast step of #2 boat 4” forward. I don’t know if the problem was due to mismatched foresail to main? Sam told us to use no rake in the mast. How about it, those of you with FB mains? Is wx helm a problem?

No one has come forward to have them build # 3 so far.

I do have the full batten mainsail which I really like. I do not think there is too much weather helm. In fact I think it’s just about right. I have a moderate amount of mast rake. I have been racing my boat for many years so I can compare my race results before and after getting new sails including the full batten main. There is no doubt the performance improved dramatically but that is reflected in the new jib and staysail as well. I really admire the shape of the full batten main. It looks so much more powerful and efficient. It eliminates the leach curling and flutter problem. It also doesn’t flog at all when raising, lowering or reefing. And there has been zero maintenance with it.
If I was replacing it I would go with the full batten mainsail again.

Ron Thompson
Ho’okahiko 97

Any pictures of these rutgerson batt cars and costs and how best fitted. I assume they clip into the existing track in the mast. I am envious of the guys who sail up to the anchorage and then main falls down. I have to talk to mine sometimes and occasionally the mood can be a question. Anyway she comes down but a quicker descent would be nice.

Stewart on stravaigin after another three months in the windwards. My bcc behaved perfectly all season with some challenging winds she exhibited perfect manners throughout as usual.

Hasse made a new main for Amica a few years ago: battenless, loose footed, no roach, we had the foot cut slightly higher, and two reef points at 30% and 60%. We opted to skip the strong track. Couldn’t be happier with the fit, finish, and performance.

Amica #94

S/V Amica - how did you like the quality of the Hasse sail? Were you local or did you have it shipped? I’m currently considering the strong track w/ battenless. Not sure. Too many choices.

Stewart: Can you tell us about your sail - Full battens and internal slides? We’re curious!

thanks for all the input, guys.

Attached will hopefully be a couple of pics of the Rutgerson batt cars. I paid Au$77 each. There are 5 of them on the sail. They screwed straight into the batten pocket thingo.
I’m sure the Strong track would be better but these are working very well for me

Quality is exceptional, as I mentioned above I couldn’t be happier. We are close enough to PT that we didn’t have to deal with shipping.
We ran strong track on our previous boat, IMO where it really makes a huge difference is with a full battened main. The the benefit to cost ratio goes down considerably if your going battenless but again that’s just my opinion.

Amica 94

My sail is very simple, no battens and internal slides. Can be a bit sluggish coming Down. It would be nice if it just “fell down “ saving any would look better sailing up to an anchorage rather than a wrestling match.


thanks for the verification, very much appreciated. It seems like lots of folks in the fleet have had good experience with Hasse.

I have had amazing service from Carol Hasse. My BCC is near Vancouver, BC (actually at one of the nearby islands). Carol came up from Port Townsend to take measurements, returned to PT to build the sails, then hand delivered them and installed them. They are a work of art. Can’t recommend Carol Hasse enough!

Dioscouri (hull #064)