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Thread: The WindPaddle canoe sail review

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    Default The WindPaddle canoe sail review

    I have mentioned a few times during the last couple of weeks that I have a WindPaddle Cruiser sail to review. These have been mentioned a few times on the site and always the discussion seems to home in on one point, the cost. Like others this is what has kept me from getting one before now However, I suddenly found myself looking at this from a different angle and it made a big difference on my views.

    So I asked for one to try for review and have used it now enough to give my views and also to decide whether I want to actually buy one for keeps.

    The review will be in three parts. First the technical bits and links to the makers site etc. Then my thoughts about the sail in use with pictures etc and finally my thoughts on the price. Inevitably there is going to be some overlap in the sections but that is probably no bad thing

    Spec
    The web site is http://www.windpaddle.co.uk/ They produce three models. The Adventure, The Scout and the Cruiser. The Adventure and Scout are both the same size, smaller models, aimed more at kayaks. The Cruiser is the larger and the one most likely to be of use to canoeists. The spec for it is

    The WindPaddle Cruiser Sail Data:
    Deployed diameter - 56" (142.24 cm.) Coiled/folded diameter - 20" (50 cm.)
    Sail area - 17.1 sq. ft. (1.589 m)
    Weight - 22 oz. (0.6237 kg.)

    The review sail was provided by Nick from Advanced Elements who is the primary UK retailer http://www.advancedelementskayaks.co.../windpaddle-cr

    In Use

    Now lets get something straight right at the start. I am no sailor. My knowledge of sailing is such that I know you can sail side on to the wind and even into the wind but the practicalities of this are beyond me. Prior to the WindPaddle I had used one of the canoe pole sails a little and managed downwind and slightly across wind on occasions but with no real predictability. Given this I am going to accept the claims I see enough evidence for regarding the more advanced sailing options but will say what I have done and what I believe can be done.

    So the specs above are one thing but what does the sail look like size wise in a canoe? Well like this.


    And when you are sitting in the canoe like this (Note for later how calm the loch is but yet the sail is there just in case).


    So unobtrusive. It attaches with a couple of clips. I have clipped it to the lacing of my canoe but it would be as easy to clip it to a seat, thwart or even the carry handle.

    Deploying the sail really is as simple as they say on the web site. Just pull the tab to release and you have a sail.


    The sail has a cord attached in a loop for you to hold. I found this a little short for where I wanted to be positioned so I attached a length of cord with a prussic knot. The prussic allowed me to slide the knot to where I wanted it on the loop to trim the sail side to side to suit the wind direction. The other end of the cord I tied to the seat with a quick release knot.

    Below you can see a slightly better picture of the way the sail is clipped in. In the middle there is a method of adjusting the tension on the cord to the clips. This lets you set how much the sail can swing or twist in the wind. I suspect this is of more use to those more advanced sailors sailing across wind than the likes of myself for whom sails are more of a downwind aid.


    I was not very taken with the cord lock for adjusting the cord to the clips. It did not lock very well and was a bit of a faff to use. This is one of the few pieces of the sail I would like to see updated/improved.

    So you pop the sail up, tie off or hold the cord, now what? Well you scoot off in whatever direction the wind is taking you. This is the real joy of the WindPaddle there really is nothing to it. Yes you can rudder a bit to alter your course to not be directly downwind. I also found that altering your trim, sitting lower in the canoe or having the sail positioned differently in the canoe all effected the direction you were taken in or could go in.

    For these reasons and having watched video clips and read other reviews I have no real doubts that the WindPaddle can perform the more advanced sailing operations claimed. I do think that you would either need a bit of a sailing background or have to spend a fair bit of time to be able to realise these abilities. In my experience this is also true for the other sails.


    I also think you need to consider what you want from the sail. If you want an advanced sail to allow you to make progress into the wind and to eliminate the need for paddling when their is any sort of wind then this is not the sail for you, nor are any of the less advanced sails.

    However, if you want a sail to give you a free ride when the wind is at your back the WindPaddle is the way to go. I have had my other sailing rig for a few years at least now but am pretty sure I have used the windpaddle more in the last few weeks than the other sail has seen in the last few years. It is just so simple to deploy and install. With my other rig I had to either have installed the seat clamp before I left or have it with me all the time. I did not have it installed all the time as it was often in the way. With the WindPaddle you throw your stuff in the canoe and clip it in wherever takes your fancy.

    Even when it is flat calm I have chucked the WindPaddle in the canoe and on a few of these times enough wind has built up that it has been worth pulling the tab and getting a free ride with the wind. There is no way I would have bothered to have the other sail with me let alone the clamp I need.

    Of course if you have a sailing thwart and a mast foot installed in your canoe then the setting up of your sail will have been easier than me with the clamp. For you the only advantage of the WindPaddle would be the sheer speed of deployment and not being tied to the one position.

    Dropping the sail is either a case of letting it drop forward or pulling it back so it falls toward you (the dog is optional)


    For speed and in a panic dropping it forward is easier but it tends to go over the front and get partly into the water where it acts like a drogue. I would also be worried about the forces of the water on it damaging the sail.

    Folding the sail away takes a little getting used to but after a little practise it becomes pretty straight forward. I was worried that when in the canoe it would be way harder than it is on land but in truth it was actually easier because of it being held by the clips at the bottom.

    As I have only had the sail for a short time I cannot comment in detail about how long it will last or how much abuse it will stand up to. Certainly all the construction I can see is sturdy and well made with no flaws on my example. The worry for many will be the band round the edge. WindPaddle say this is virtually unbreakable. Certainly similar bands are used in photography reflectors and the like and these seem to last and last. For me this is one point where time will just need to tell.

    Another selling point WindPaddle make about their sails is the lower centre of gravity. This is true and in higher winds I did feel a lot safer and less at risk of the sail taking the canoe over.

    So in summary the WindPaddle is easy to use, simple to install, can be positioned anywhere and performs well. Given that, the only reason for not buying one would be price, so lets look at that.

    Cost

    I'll cut straight to the chase with this. I do not think the problem for people is the cost of the WindPaddle, I think it is the perception that they could make a sail very similar for much much less and that they are being ripped off. However, I have yet to see a home made version of this type of sail. Maybe there are some out there but I suspect in the vast majority of cases the thought that they could make one cheaper is enough to stop the purchase but not enough to try making one.

    So could you make one cheaper? Maybe. One option that is often quoted is an umbrella. While this can be used as sail I do not think this can be compared for convenience, ease of use (how do you clip it in?). Plus with regular use you are going to have the umbrella blowing inside out. There will come a point when the buying of replacement umbrellas will be more than the cost of a WindPaddle.

    As to making a clone the materials cost may be less but if you have a value on your time I do not see you getting this done under budget. Not the first time at least. I found the cut and shape of the WindPaddle was such that when it was filled by the wind it helped to hold it open. Now you might hit on the right shape on your first go or you might have numerous almost right sails before you get it sussed.

    I think the best evidence that these sails are not so easy to replicate cheaply is the lack of cheap knock offs on ebay and a dearth of home made examples showing up on the forum. It is like Einstein's reasoning that time travel is impossible. Where are the tourists from the future?

    Value for Money
    Here we have the second part of the cost argument. "170 for a sail, that's not worth it". This is either used on its own on the basis that no sail in a canoe is worth this amount of money or with the addition of "I can get XXX sail for much cheaper".

    The more I have looked at it and thought about it the more I am convinced people are getting these argument entirely the wrong way round. For my money and my use I have no doubt that the WindPaddle is the cheapest option.

    So lets take the first statement. I think people are still thinking about the cost as being for a bit of material and some string. Other sails have poles and stuff so seem worth more. Forget what it is made of. What you are buying is a wind powered engine that weighs almost nothing, packs so small that there will always be room for it, which can be used at a moments notice, both when solo or tandem and in any canoe or even kayak you own. It costs nothing to run, needs no maintenance and requires no fuel and yet only costs 170.

    Divide that 170 into the miles sailed with this and the cost suddenly becomes so much more reasonable. If you saw this two years ago and thought it was too expensive and did not make an alternative, how many miles have you missed out on sailing? For what it does I think this is clearly worth the money. I think the hang up about what it is made of is a distraction.

    So the second argument is the alternatives are cheaper. Well again this is not so straight forward. The closest sail to this for speed and ease of deployment is the Pacific Action Sail. The 1.5m2 version of this gives the same sail area as the WindPaddle Cruiser and costs 250 currently. So 80 or nearly 50% more expensive. I have not tried the Pacific Action Sail but from what I have seen it is still not as easy to use.

    The next alternative is the standard canoe sail that uses a canoe pole. You can currently get these as a kit with a sailing thwart and mast foot for 75. You will have the time and tools installing the mast foot and thwart but these are one time operations so not really an issue. You will need a canoe pole and this will cost you about 60. However you will have a canoe pole already, if you don't the buy one anyway you will not regret it.

    So since I really really think you should have a pole anyway lets just say the cost of the standard sail is 75 so how can I argue that the WindPaddle is better value for money at more than twice that cost? Easy it is the versatility and coming back to to cost per mile sailed that I mentioned earlier. The WindPaddle is 95 more so lets look at some maths and examples.

    Set up sail for solo canoeing
    WindPaddle 170; Standard Paddle 75
    Move sail to suit Tandem Paddling
    WindPaddle no extra cost: Standard Paddle another mast foot and thwart 40
    Move sail to suit trim and load for expedition
    WindPaddle no extra cost; Standard sail, no room for more thwarts so don't sail
    Use sail in my other canoe
    WindPaddle no extra cost; Standard sail, another mast foot and thwart 40
    Want to sail my other canoe tandem
    you get the idea..............

    So using the above examples that are not unusual you will have two or three extra mast foots and thwarts clogging up your canoe and still not be able to sail as often as if you had a WindPaddle. Once you have more than one canoe the maths really starts to tip in favour of the WindPaddle. Do the calculation for which would be cheaper for Tenboats

    Of course there are alternatives to the extra mast foot and sailing thwart. You can, as I used to, use a clamp. This restricts you to only sailing when solo and also makes setting up the sail a fair bit of hassle which reduces the amount of time you spend sailing. This is where I come back to the cost per mile sailed. As I have said I have already sailed further in the last couple of weeks with the WindPaddle than I have in the last couple of years with my standard sail set up. Given this the WindPaddle could be ten times the price and still offer better value as a sail.

    The only place where the maths can go against me is if the WindPaddle does not last. As I have said that is something I can only tell with time but I am convinced enough to be putting my money where my mouth is and am buying the sample I was sent for review.

    Summary
    I can remember in the early days on the forum when I had not tried sailing a canoe I was saying it seemed like cheating, as I was a canoeist out to canoe not a sailor. Someone replied that it was like being a cyclist, you had to work hard peddling up hill so it was only fair you got to free wheel down the same hill.

    This statement struck a cord with me and made sailing into the balancing half of all that time paddling into the wind, however, before the WindPaddle this has not been anything like a fair split. Putting up a sail or even having one available has just been too much hassle most of the time. Now with the WindPaddle I expect a much fairer split between battling into the wind and the joy of being blown effortlessly to my destination.
    Last edited by MagiKelly; 31st-October-2010 at 08:47 PM.
    John

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  2. #2

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    Thanks for the review! I'm still not sure whether to buy one or not though?

  3. #3
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    I do like the sail but it is not compulsory
    John

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    I like the simplicity of it which probably makes it a more useable proposition for the non specialist sailor.

    To my mind the disadvantage of having a sail is that it shortens the time on a trip, usually the only time I want to shorten a trip is when I'm paddling into the wind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quercus View Post
    To my mind the disadvantage of having a sail is that it shortens the time on a trip, usually the only time I want to shorten a trip is when I'm paddling into the wind.
    Or it means you can go further , although I only do this when I will be sailing back. On a there and back trip it can be a mistake to sail the away part as you can end up with a lot more paddling into the wind than you realised
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Now with the WindPaddle I expect a much fairer split between battling into the wind and the joy of being blown effortlessly to my destination.
    We were out on Consiton in our Jensen 18 with the Open Canoe Sailing Group last weekend and I came away with completely the opposite conclusion! I abolutely loved both sailing and paddle-sailing upwind: far more rewarding that just slogging upwind with nothing but a paddle - but I didn't care one bit for the downwind sailing bit!

    Paddling downwind has never struck me as a hardship: it's fun... and rewarding as the canoe maintains more momentum between paddle strokes, and if you can get on a wave you've always got the free ride of surfing. Progress is rapid with a paddle alone... so much so that if you've a sail up, any paddling effort tends to be self defeating as you just replace the wind power and deflate the sail!

    Paddling upwind has never struck me as anything like as much fun: time to sit and switch with a high cadence and get a good workout. Paddling-sailing upwind is hugely more rewarding as the sail maintains the momentum of the canoe between strokes and helps you punch through the waves. In addition, the upwind paddling maximises the effective wind: you're making the effective wind speed (the rate of airflow past the sail) greater with every stroke. Beyond that, in a strong wind, just sailing upwind without the paddle (sat on the gunwales with the spray flying) is fantastic

    I'd be interested to hear how well the windpaddle does across the wind and/or into the wind...

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    I have used a Pacific Action Sail with a SOT, they are very easy to deploy and stow when not in use. I would contact Johnson Outdoor, they would certainly let you have one, they have flooded the Anglers Afloat SOT forum with kayaks and gear. I think you should compare both. There are certainly plans on the web to build a PAS clone for next to nothing.

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    Good review. Even given all the pros, I'm still not going to fork out 170 but then I'm not being forced to either.

    TGB
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    May all your winds be gentle. And for ww - May it rain the night before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregandGinaS View Post

    Paddling downwind has never struck me as a hardship: it's fun...
    100% with you there. Tacking upwind sounds like fun as well. Got to be better than paddling into the wind, anyway.

    I'd be interested to hear how well the windpaddle does across the wind and/or into the wind...
    As am I. I can't imagine it'd be much chop? But horses for course I guess. As MK says, a more serious sailing rig equals more work as well, both in rigging it up actually sailing with it.

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    ing into the wind or across it can be fun and can get you places, that may otherwise be very hard going in adversely windy conditions. I know you can be both at the same time. But do you want to be a or a ?

    TGB
    May the gentleness of morning, greet your silent passage through endless waters...

    May all your winds be gentle. And for ww - May it rain the night before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TGB View Post
    ...do you want to be a or a ?
    I've never known what I want to be, TGB. Hence my lowly station in life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sohojacques View Post
    100% with you there. Tacking upwind sounds like fun as well. Got to be better than paddling into the wind, anyway.
    I do wonder how this would really compare. If the loch is not that wide all the tacking back and forth still seems to me that it would take quite a while to make progress. I am of course talking here about the less specialist sailing rig.

    Plus in a windy day I am not sure I would want to be tacking out well away from shore. Paddling into the wind may be a chore but I think I would be happier within swimming distance of it
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Plus in a windy day I am not sure I would want to be tacking out well away from shore. Paddling into the wind may be a chore but I think I would be happier within swimming distance of it
    Didn't look at it from that angle. No sail for me then

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    I am of course talking here about the less specialist sailing rig.
    You're presumably talking what I would term an "occasional sailing" rig: something compact enough to be carried in the canoe when out for a paddle... and effective enough to be worth having carried when you do want to sail.

    This is something that interests me, and the minimum would seem to be ~ 24 sq. ft. of PROPERLY SHAPED (not flat) sail area and spread with a minimum of two spars - which could be pretty tiny.... though I've pushed others into working on a solution using a split poling pole. If the sail can be stored around either the mast or a spar, all well and good

    I'm assured that having a sail screwed up in a bag is not good

    The expedition rig I'm fitting to our Flashfire at present is Chris Randall's old Gunter rig: not sure what area it is, but probably bigger than is strictly necessary for occasional sailing. Solway Dory's well established expedition rig seems to be a more compact. Looks like this:



    I went to the workshop hoping to take a look at one of these but they'd had a run on them: bad timing on my part. I'm pretty sure it's what I want though.

    Could you get upwind with that alone? If you have a good static paddle placement on the upwind side (vertically, rather than as in the photo), I'm pretty sure you'd be OK: I did some experimenting last weekend and with less sail area up (I was carrying twice what's in that photo) and I don't see an issue, though it's a pretty "active" approach!

    The relaxing option? A short, clip on leeboard: something 7" wide, 1/2" thick (widest: shaped in on one face) and short enough to fit sideways across your canoe - with holes in to reduce weight if you like. Solway Dory's standard offering is 3.75lbs... but that's rather a nice piece of ash

    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Plus in a windy day I am not sure I would want to be tacking out well away from shore. Paddling into the wind may be a chore but I think I would be happier within swimming distance of it
    If you're out solo (as I usually am) then practising deep water recovery would seem sensible for any open water canoeing (paddling or sailing)... but if you're trying to make headway into a breeze that's blowing along a lake... you can always tack back and forth near the shore - just as everyone has to when tacking up our local sailing-rivers here on the Broads!

    The more important thing for really windy days, for me, is having the scope to use a smal sail area: big gusts on a big sail area in a narrow canoe could get a little too much...

    Lots to experiment with this winter
    Last edited by GregandGinaS; 2nd-November-2010 at 11:50 AM.

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    Been looking for a sail after i sold my Mad River Horizon fitted with thwart and foot.
    (kept the sail and poles)
    Cant be bothered with fitting thwarts and feet to the Mega and MR Explorer as they get in the way when solo paddling back wards.
    So i called Nick at Vortex,to see if i could do a deal on a Cruiser sail.
    He had a damaged one returned by a customer,i could have it for the price of the postage.
    (what a very nice man).
    sail arrived today,its great,you can obviously feel where its fractured a bit, but so long as i am careful with it should be fine.
    Just spent half an hour watching the video and practising folding,hey i think I've got it.
    Took a while not to get it into just a fig 8,just have to bend the hoop up a little further.
    Or Nick says clip it to a boat to keep the bottom steady
    So thanks once again,ill post some photos of my exploits with it after the next trip.
    reassuringly negative

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    That's a great review John, thanks for taking the time
    Rich




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    Thanks to your review, we finally bit the bullet and picked one up.

    All I can say is...Amazing!!!

    We took it on last week's holidays and used it for a 17km long lake. The first 12km leg was covered in just over 1.5hrs. Top speed was 12kms an hour!

    This thing is so easy to use and packs down when not in use. A standard fixture on my boats now.

    Thanks again.

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