Rigging Right When Sail Specs Seem Wrong

What to do when you rig a windsurfing sail to its specs, and it still looks wrong? Here’s help.

Find more rigging and tuning help here.


2020 Duotone Super Hero Sails

2020 Fanatic Grip Board TE

2020 Goya Custom 3 Pro Thruster

Chinook Pro 1 Boom


Hi everyone. I’m Eddy here at Big Winds. It’s week number three of no foot traffic at our store and I first must thank you for your phone and online orders. But I also have to disclose that things here are getting a little batty. We’ve got TJ, our kite manager, today trying something he’s never done before: He’s rigging a windsurf sail because … why not. I myself got my hair cut by my ten-year-old son. And our e-bike manager of our sister store, frankly … Yeah things are getting a little nutty for sure.

TJ: Man, Eddy. I just don’t get these numbers. It makes no sense to me. I’m trying to give this windsurfing thing a go. I’m a kiter. Maybe I’m just not good at math. I don’t know.

Eddy: No the truth about this is that actually a lot of people have problems with the printed specs on the sail. You do the math with your extension. You pull the strings TJ, and guess what? Did it rig right? NO! So we’re gonna go through some real quick tips for how you can get around this and, admittedly, TJ this isn’t related to you being a kiter. OK. This is not that.

But what we are dealing with is how extension makers, and mast makers and how even boom makers measure their products differently from one brand to the next. And what you end up with is a pretty murky proposition for looking at sail specs and rigging a sail. TJ – you’ve got a sail whose luff length – “luff” is a really cryptic term that tells you how tall the sail is when rigged, is 377 cm. You’ve got a mast that is 370 centimeters. So in theory you should only need 7 centimeters to pull it taut and make the sail rig right.

Well to your credit, TJ, you added 7 centimeters of extension. But when we pull this taut, however, what we’re looking for is the sail’s upper trailing edge to become like a floppy elephant ear. Is it doing that? No it’s stiff, and this is not going to help you out on the water.

Here’s an easy rule: Generally speaking with windsurfing sails, when you put them on the mast, and pull the sail down as far as you can by hand, you want to get the sail’s pulley 6 to 8 inches from the extension’s cleat. Right now we’re a lot less than that so what I’m gonna do is raise it. When I go to pull on this I want you to watch what happens to leech – the sail’s trailing edge – now.

If you hold that up – there we go. So I know you want to go by these sail spec numbers, but the main thing you should be aiming for is getting the sail’s upper leech floppy.

Generally speaking, six to eight inches when you pull the sail down with your hand, that’s the magic amount. The bigger the sail, the closer to 8″. If it’s a free-ride sail, for example, it’s generally about eight inches from the pulleys to the cleat. The smaller the sail – the gap generally gets closer to six inches.

But anyways, that’s a quick and fast way to do it. Of course you can mark your extension afterward and you’re good to go from there on. The only thing I’ve found is that I tend to own extensions a long time and I end up with a million marks on them.

So if you want a simple and easy visual example, pull the sail onto the mast, get the pulleys six inches from the extension’s cleat. Somewhere between six and eight inches. Give it a pull and my bet is you will be ready to sail. Thanks so much for joining us from batty Big Winds. More strange things to come!

Eddy PetricelliEddy Patricelli is a co-owner of Big Winds. From 2001-2007 he was the editor of WindSurfing magazine. He has been windsurfing (and teaching windsurfing) for decades. See his best video tip for getting your kids onboard here.

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