Tech Talk: Choosing the Right Sail for Foiling

Cams vs no cams

Some people say any sail will work for a beginning windfoiler. The same can be said for a beginning windsurfer. However, a beginning windfoiler is typically an experienced windsurfer, meaning they will make progress quickly, and within a handful of sessions will outgrow an inadequate rig.

Choosing the right rig starts with setting your foiling expectations. Most windsurfers and windfoilers will find that their style of riding will fit somewhere on a spectrum. Windsurfing as a sport has a spectrum of styles that ranges from waves/freestyle on one end, to racing on the other, with the majority of windsurfers fitting somewhere in between.

Foiling began as an alternative windsurfing discipline somewhere on the outskirts of that spectrum, but it's morphed into having it's own spectrum similar to windsurfing: 

The next step is understanding how different sail designs behave on a foil. A foil-specific sail like the Sailworks Flyer, which has two cams, is designed to be aerodynamically efficient under lower wind loads, allowing it to have it's ideal depth and shape without power in the rig. Conversely, a no-cam sail is designed to fill up and pull into it's designed aerodynamic shape when powered up. 

For pure wave foiling a no-cam wave or freestyle sail is a good choice. When a no-cam windsurfing sail is used for foiling it's often not sufficiently powered up to pull into it's desired shape. However, if you're looking to de-power your sail as soon as you're up on the foil to ride waves or swells with a weightless sail, then this will work to your advantage. This can also lead to a more comfortable foiling experience in very high winds. On the downside, you'll have much less low-end power to get you up on the foil. In moderate to light winds the low-end disadvantages of a no-cam sail are exaggerated. The Sailworks Gyro and Revolution are good picks if you plan to take your foil in waves, for swell riding, or for tricks.   

The wave-swell to free-race foiling spectrum is where using a cammed foil-specific sail like the Flyer will reap the greatest benefits. The shaping and cams give it depth even under very little wind load. This makes getting up onto the foil, and staying balanced on the foil when going through gusts and lulls very easy. Keep in mind the cams on these sails are made to rotate effortlessly, so they don't hold you back if you're into carving 360's, jumps and other freewave aspects of windfoiling. The lightness of the Flyer increases both efficiency and ease of use. If you ever have trouble getting up on the foil in light winds using a no-cam sail then you'll surely benefit from the built in depth of the Flyer.

On the race foiling end of the spectrum, cambered sails are definitely the right choice. We've raced the Flyer sails and won lightwind slalom races in the Gorge Cup Race Series. Racers use the stability and clean aerodynamics of their cammed race sails to get up on the foil as early as possible and to achieve the best angles on and off the wind. If you have a Sailworks NX or Flyer you're on the right track for this style of windfoiling. At the extreme end of this spectrum is PWA Windfoil Course Racing which has recently seen sailors customize formula sails making them very high aspect and using them on extremely long fuselages and very wide wings. 

So generally speaking any sail will work for windfoiling, but choosing the right sail to fit your expectations will go a long way to your windfoiling enjoyment. Choose the right gear and you'll surprise yourself with the easy progress you can make in windfoiling. 
Dale ripping down the swells on the Columbia River
Colson nails a 360 on the Flyer
Bruce at speed on the Flyer