My prior experience with commercially-made kayak sails has been mostly with the Pacific Action sail and the Spirit Sail. I used them both for more than a decade on my previous kayak, and loved the versatility of being able to raise either or both so I could sail in anything from strong winds to gentle breezes. They were especially fast on broad reaches. But they are functionally square rigs, optimized for downwind sailing. On my new kayak, I wanted better across-the-wind performance and some upwind ability. So I upgraded to a Falcon Sail.
Of course, like any fore-and-aft rig, the Falcon Sail trades off a bit of downwind performance for that superior cross- and up-wind handling. This is most noticeable when sailing in the arc from a broad reach to a dead run. (I’ve also installed a mount for my Spirit Sail on my new boat, so I can use it alone on dead runs, and together with the Falcon Sail on broad reaches in light airs.)
A note on handling sudden gusts in this zone: a sailor’s conditioned response to getting heeled over is to let out the mainsheet and allow the sail to depower. With the Falcon Sail, when sailing downwind between port and starboard broad reaches, the leeward back stay will stop the boom from swinging completely parallel to the wind. So be ready to also crank the rudder over and luff up into the wind if needed.
Patrick at Falcon Sails offers a mast extension that lifts the entire sail and boom above the junction ring where the stays are attached. This allows the boom to swing freely to the end of your mainsheet, though at the cost of raising the centre of effort and creating more heeling moment. (Translation: the sail will lean your boat further over.)
On all other points of sail, the Falcon outperforms anything else I’ve bought or made. It lets me make good off-wind angles that I previously needed a leeboard to achieve.
To go much to windward with the Falcon, you need to paddle as well as sail. This power sailing is no hardship; paddling increases the apparent wind, making it faster and more fun than paddling alone. Leaning my body upwind to trim the boat while watching the bow cut diagonally across oncoming waves is glorious. So is using about a half to a third of the effort I’d otherwise expend to make good the same course; it’s like having a second paddler sharing the work. That’s especially welcome at the end of a long touring day, when your boat and arms have gotten heavier, and your destination further away.
(I had the camera in my hands to shoot this little POV vid, so the kayak is not going as well to windward as it does when you paddle.)
Power sailing also means my paddle is always in play, ready to throw out a brace if required. That’s good, since upwind sailing is tippier than going across or downwind. (Why? Firstly, as noted, the apparent wind is stronger. Secondly, the total force from a sail pushes at more or less right angles to the boom. So on cross and downwind courses, when the boom is out and approximately perpendicular to the boat’s centreline, this force pushes roughly parallel to the boat’s stable end-to-end axis. As you head upwind, you sheet the boom in, more in line with the keel. That directs more of the sail’s force across the kayak’s narrow side-to-side axis.)
Falcon Sail’s FAQs mention being able to sail 300 degrees, or within 30 degrees of the wind, “when all conditions are optimized.” So far, my own real-world results have been roughly to within 60 or 65 degrees of the wind made good. But that’s affected by two factors: the rounder chines on my new kayak, and the fact that I’m still mastering the subtle trimming needed to get the most out of an upwind sail. Even at my current level, I’m able to sail effectively across an arc of about 240 degrees, a far wider zone than with my previous set-ups. That means that on any given day the odds are hugely increased that I’ll be able to sail or power sail at least part of the time.
When I first started adding sails to my boats a decade and a half ago, it opened up whole new dimensions in sea kayaking. Adding the Falcon Sail to my boat has opened up whole new dimensions in sea kayak sailing.
Part One of this review is here.
I have no connection to Falcon Sails beyond being a very happy customer.
The tell-tales on the sail are not factory supplied; they’re after-market accessories I added.