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Old 31-12-2008, 04:57   #1
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Adding foam to mainsail for buoyancy?

Has anyone any actual experience with adding thin (1/4, 3/8. 1/2") flexible closed cell foam to their mainsail in order to achieve buoyancy when the boat is knocked down with the mast in the water?

I'm thinking perhaps something like adding double sail panels with the foam sandwiched in between - so if anyone has actually done something like this, I'd appreciate hearing the details of the good and bad things they learned.

I'm thinking about this for a small (20') unballasted planing sportboat. I want to prevent turtling if possible.

Overturning moments indicate that this would only be needed in the topmost 1/3 of the mainsail to be equivalent to 100# of lead at the bottom of a 4' keel fin.

Thanks for any guidance you can give,

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Old 31-12-2008, 05:45   #2
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Why Reinvent the Wheel?

Add an inflatable float to the masthead. E.G. Crewsaver Mast Head Float/Anti inversion float 40 litres |

s/v HyLyte

"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
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Old 31-12-2008, 05:50   #3
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What I've seen used is a buoyant bulb attached to the top of the mast (or near). However, when I used to sail widgeons in PH, we would deliberately capsize the boat to cool off in the water. Sometimes the boat would completely turtle. It isn't that big a deal to right the boat.
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Old 31-12-2008, 06:53   #4
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I sailed many small boats when I was younger and capsized almost all of them - mainly for the fun on it. I never had any trouble not turtling as long as you stand on the centerboard as soon as you go over. When you do capsize, it takes a little time for the mast to start sinking so you have time for correctiive action. I would never go to the extend of changing the main sail to prevent a turtle. A simple move once you capsize and you prevent it in the first place. Of course if you are sailing a catamaran - that's a different story! I flipped a hobie 18 once and that took some time to get her upright again.
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Old 31-12-2008, 07:36   #5
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Presision sells such a thing for there smaller boats.

I have seen them on P-185s and they looked interesting. We went out on a breezy day and it did not seem to effect the sailing much. Try asking someone on their forum (Precision Sailboats Forum - Message Index).

Good luck!
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Old 31-12-2008, 10:23   #6
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flotation panels

When I used to race E-scows on Barnegat Bay in NJ, they all had zip in foam panels at the head of the sail. Basically the other side of the zipper was permanently sewn to the mainsail, so you could zip the panels in if it was going to be windy (this was typically class mandated). They only extended down about 2-3 feet on the luff and leech. They pretty much prevented turtling of these 27ish foot long rocket ships.

I'm sure you could find out through the E-Scow class association and save reinventing the wheel, but also save a permanent eyesore at your masthead.
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Old 31-12-2008, 11:08   #7
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Sailing FJ's in college we had them. Can't say that they worked very well. Not enough flotation to overcome the turtle effect.
Fair Winds,


Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 31-12-2008, 19:13   #8
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Not needed. Capsizing and turning turtle is the fun of sailing dinghies and you learn the "step over method" and never get wet. Learn to right a boat in a hurry and you don't have a problem.
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Old 31-12-2008, 20:57   #9
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thinwater / malbert73
Thanks for the P185 and E-Scow references - they did lead to helpful sources of useful info for in-sail buoyancy panels.
Great to find forum members with experience that can actually can speak to the issues.
Thanks for helping me find a solution,

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