SEA KAYAKER - APRIL 2005
WORKING WIND - 13 KAYAK SAILS REVIEWED; CHESAPEAKE LIGHT CRAFT - SAILRIG MK2 by Christopher Cunningham
Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC), a manufacturer of kit kayaks, offers a kit that converts a kayak into a sailing trimaran. Its stitch-and-glue amas have a deep-V section and an attractive profile. The laminated wooden akas are gracefully curved. The forward aka has a fitting to hold a pivoting leeboard and another to hold the mast. The akas have supports scribed to fit any deck and are secured to the kayak by lashings run through eyebolts installed at the sheer. The aluminum mast (15 feet, 6 inches for the 40-square-foot sail, and 18 feet for the 50-square-foot sail) requires a hole through the foredeck and a mast step secured to the hull.
On our Cape Horn test kayak, the akas carried the amas just clear of the water, so when the kayak was on an even keel, only the main hull was in contact with the water. It was easy to balance and fly both 10-foot, 7-inch amas while paddling. The arch of the akas keeps them clear of rough water and provides good clearance for paddling. The sail has a single batten to give it a foil shape. A downhaul shapes the sail by putting some bend in the mast and keeps the mast anchored to the kayak. The sheet leads aft to a deck-mounted block. The plans call for a boom, but none was supplied, so the rig was sailed loose-footed. That works well for beating and reaching, but the effective sail area is reduced when the sheet is paid out for sailing downwind and the sail curves out forward.
The 10- to 15-knot winds I sailed in with the CLC rig pushed the boat along at good speed, over 5 knots on a reach. The amas did their job elegantly and quietly, and the akas took the pressure of sailing without visibly flexing. The tall unstayed mast bowed noticeably, but the sail always kept its shape. With the leeboard set close to the mast, there was a significant weather helm (the equivalent of weathercocking), especially when beating. Angling the board to trail aft at an angle helped somewhat. The large sailing rudder supplied wasn't compatible with the test kayak's rudder fittings, but I think its greater surface area would help balance the sailing rig.
I'd suggest that builders make the flanges that project from the amas stouter than the 9mm plywood specified in the plans. They may be strong enough under the loads imposed by sailing, but one of the tabs had a small surface fracture, damage that would likely not have occurred if made from doubled up layers of 9mm plywood. To keep the bold holes in amas and akas from chipping, I'd drill oversize holes, filling them with epoxy and redrilling holes to fit the bolts. The CLC rig includes specifications for two sail sizes. The larger of the two would work well in light summer winds, and the smaller sail in the shoulder seasons. Neither sail can be reefed. The CLC rig will convert kit or commercial kayaks to sail and will reward home builders with a project that is both eye-catching and fun to sail.