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Drop Your Sail With Ease

Friction between the slugs on the luff of the sail and the mast sail track makes it hard to lower the mainsail. Here's a possible solution.

Using Tides Marine Track and Slide system

Many sailors, as they age, transition to trawlers, typically citing that advancing years have made hoisting and lowering sails too much like hard work. Often the larger the sail, the greater the required effort, and the more time the sail will tend to stay secured in the sail cover while the owner motors from place to place rather than enjoying a sail.

What if putting the mainsail up and down could be made a lot easier? Chances are that the sails would be used more, and those tired muscles wouldn't take such a beating. One option is to use an electric winch, but while it makes hoisting easier, it does little when the sail has to come down.


Sail Track closeup

The Tides Marine Track and Slide System.

The culprit in all this is friction between the slugs on the luff of the sail and the mast sail track. A little lubrication often helps, but a better option may be an upgrade to the existing system. Tides Marine manufactures an ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) track, a type of super slick polyethylene, that simply slides into the existing sail groove in the mast. When paired with its stainless steel slugs, this provides for an almost friction-free sail hoist — and drop.

Fitting one of the tracks is an easy DIY project that doesn't require removing the mast or swinging from the masthead in a bosun's chair. As a rough guide, the track and slugs for 30- to 34-foot sailboat will cost about $1,150, but the actual cost will vary depending on the length of the luff groove.


Mark Corke

A marine surveyor, and holder of RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certification, Mark has built five boats himself — power and sail. He was senior editor of Sail magazine's hands-on "Boatworks" publication, worked for the BBC, written four DIY books, skippered two round-the-world yachts, and holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest there-and-back crossing of the English Channel, in a kayak! He and his wife have a Grand Banks 32.