Ian Ross (our sail designer) describes how a new sail gets to be production ready

Here at Ross Windsurf, we have worked very, very hard over the last 24 months to come up with our new wavesail. We are proud of it, but how did we get to the end product? This page will give an insight into our development process.

Who are we??
Firstly, we are a tiny company, but we really love windsurfing! Seriously, we could have got proper jobs but you can’t go sailing when you want if you work in an office! Chuckster, our sail designer has been working in the sail and windsurf industry for over 4.6billion years. You haven’t heard of him because, like most designers they hide in the background doing their own thing and just love seeing the things they develop being used. Interestingly, he’s a windsurfer, and not a bad one, which qualifies him to make judgements on his sails performance.

Since starting RB Sails, our parent company, Chuckster has been working on progressing wavesail design and after 3 years, and a complete re think 24 months ago, we have a finished product. Here is how the Chuckster got there…..

Evolution or revolution?
Initially, I continued the design concepts that I had been working on previously but, 24 months ago, I decided to go off on a complete tangent and make a different prototype. So we got to the new wavesail with a revolution!! This revolution was 4 battens. Now, I’m not saying no-one else hadn’t done it…they had! Naish for example with the Boxer was always an interesting sail, and I had a 4 batten sail back in the day! More recently, everyone is at it and 4 battens are all the rage!! But for me, it was a revelation as well as a revolution for my wavesailing.

Other design principles
Simplicity – simple things work, are lighter and generally look nice
Weight – Keep it light without neglecting any strength or removing features discerning sailors expect
Cost – Let’s be honest, one less batten and tensioner saves money. Our battens cost £10 each and tensioners are £8.00. We won’t compromise quality so we need to import the best materials to manufacture in the UK
Feel – Must be amazing for waveriding! Depower at the right time, power up at the right time and make me feel like I can improve my sailing
Finish– It might sound odd but I want a finish as good as, if not better, than the ‘best’ production sails. We make our sails in a professional workshop – this is not a hobby!
Where do I start?
Sketches on the back of beer mats! Sort of, except I use a pad on the computer, but it does start out as a sketch to decide on batten layout, outline, foot shape etc. At this stage, I try not to get too focused on the look of the sail, as I just want to know if the concept works and if I will continue to pursue it. However, I do tend to try loads of things out, like going to 4 battens, having a straight cut foot and so on.

Next, it’s on to the techie stuff and designing the sail proper. The mast is the most important thing. We’ve been using NoLimitz skinnies (RDM masts) for years due to their unbeatable strength and reliable bend curve. We do the CAD work, deciding luff (mast) curves and lengths, draft or fullness of the sail, rotation of battens and all the stuff that makes a sail work (or not!!). Panel layout is kept as simple as possible, partly because it’s cheaper for prototypes and secondly it keeps things secret.

The first prototype
4.7mtr seemed like the best size to start with as I was using that size most at the time. At this stage, it’s kept very simple, but I try some different fabric in key areas of the sail and try out a few little detail bits and pieces. Two factors that immediately worked for us were the 4 batten layout and straight cut foot.

So, the prototype is made, and rigged. It looks a bit weird, but it rigged fine and I went for a test windsurf.
Ian Ross tries an early prototype sail at Cornish reef break
Interesting! That was my thought. It was so light and incredibly responsive but perhaps lacked bottom end power and ‘refinement’. I used an older sail and decided that the prototype was the way forward (I hated the old one all of a sudden!!) but I had lots of work ahead of me.

At this stage I tweaked the luff (mast) curve slightly to resolve a couple of issues and next time I went sailing, I let Harvey have a go. Interesting, he felt the same as me!! Light, responsive, beautiful down the line, but a little too ‘dead’ half way through the bottom turn.

To work with other sailors I need to be able to understand what they mean. My own sailing experience and the close knit test team saves time when refining our designs.

Fuerteventura
I needed a larger sail to take to Fuerte and since I was enjoying the 4 batten sail, made a 5mtr prototype to take. I tried a few more ideas including the Kevlar strips and a slightly different batten layout. It was light winds, but the sail worked out amazingly. Other sailors were on 5.8mtrs and not planing and I was on a 5mtr and flying. It was light, powerful, smooth, controllable. But, I had concerns that it would get horrible in stronger winds
Ross test sailor goes for a monster off the lip
More input
It was time to let more people try the 4 batten concept. So I made prototype v2 of the 4.7mtr. This time I played with the looks and also tweaked the performance, tried some more fabrics and started work on the detail that would make the sail a finished product. Most people said this 4.7mtr looked pants! It was harsh but it gave me another sail for other sailors to use and give me feedback. At the same time the 5mtr was used in the UK by myself and various other sailors. Input, was good. Everyone loved the lightness and the forgiving nature even when overpowered. The negatives were based on the sail feeling so different to a 5 batten sail and that it took time to get used to this.

To be continued
Ross Windsurf custom windsurf sails from Cornwall, UK