25 May 2015

GEAR: SeaDog Commander.

I fell in, again.
I have been surfing for an hour and now I was heading home.
I sailed for a while but then I turned directly into the wind and I wanted to stow my sail away.
Stretching myself forward trying to reach the shock cord to secure the folded bundle of my sail made my loose my balance and I kept on falling in.
I realized that I needed a sail that would fold easily on my kayak deck.

Commander testing_1

My high aspect SeaDog sail (0.7 Code Zero) catches the wind beautifully and allows me to cut into the wind at a higher angle than before, but I had a problem with it.
Since I like to have my spray deck area clear my sail is mounted differently than a typical set up.

Commander1 at Peel_r
image courtesy of SeaDog
A typical mount for the sprit style sail (SeaDog, Flat Earth etc.) calls for a tall mast with stays mounted below the boom.
I prefer to have my sail mounted lower to allow the mast not to protrude in my "paddling area" when stowed on deck.
I don't like a folded sail that encroaches the deck where my hands swing when paddling.
It's simple: I want that area clear so my hands don't catch the sail.

On my high aspect sail the boom is substantially shorter than the luff (mast section) resulting in an uneven bundle when the sail is lowered down: the boom is much further away from me when I lower my sail onto the deck.
In need to secure the sail firmly onto the deck I use a section of sock-cord to wrap around the mast, battens and boom to create one solid bundle that I know will not fill up with water when waves wash over the deck or I roll the kayak.
In the bumpy waters, I was now having trouble reaching that boom and I was loosing my balance.

SD_CodeZero 07_c_gd
SeaDog CodeZero 0.7, folded. In order to reach the boom this sail intrudes the cockpit area.

It has been in the back of my mind for some time now: I wanted a sail with a slightly lower aspect and a longer boom.
I consulted with SeaDog sails and after I proposed my design to Richard a technical compromise was hatched: the design I had in mind might end up less efficient and might cause some loss of upwind reach.
One other trait that I really desired in my new sail was that it would be quiet.
Douglas Wilcox aptly calls it "motoring"; the sound that the leech makes when sailing cross-wind.
I don't like that at all and a highly value a quiet sail.
I proposed a double batten to Richard and after some measuring we decided on an optimal length, given my initial request of "neat bundle" when folded.

SeaDog Commander Mk1, folded on deck

SeaDog sails distinguish themselves for utilizing the very best high tech materials and superb cut and manufacture.
I love the pattern that the carbon fibre makes in the sail cloth used for the batten pockets; it looks really high-tech matching the finish of my Greenland paddles :-)
The twin battens shape the sail perfectly and there are no areas where the sail puckers; the sail stays aerodynamically shaped to catch light breezes allowing a high angle of head wind sailing.
My concerns for decreased upwind performance did not materialize: the SeaDog Commander stays inflated at really high angles too.

SeaDog utilizes a special thin thread that is incredibly tenacious and UV resistant: the results is beautiful stitching.

I asked for a combination of sail cloth that would be stretch resistant, dry fast and remain stable. I also wanted to add the Clear-View feature into the bottom panel so I could easily see where I was going. Somehow vinyl windows cut into my previous sails never really helped with forward vision; they were just too milky and were ruining a smooth surface with a puckered section of sail (different stretch).

The new Clear-View panel really offers a better vision of on-water obstacles and boat traffic while the sail surface remains perfectly tensioned and smooth.
The orange tip adds incredible high visibility on the water while the pattern in the other panels makes for a stunning sail. The SeaDog Black Diamond series (with the Clear-View TM lower panel) are the highest technology sails that I have see so far: a true masterpiece.


The new SeaDog Commander has a surface area of about 0.8m² to match the sail I most use in winds up to 20 knots.
Above 20 knots, in a beam wind, there is more heeling (pushing over) that I am comfortable with while my kayak does not really go any faster (max. hull speed).
If I know that there will be high winds forecasted I rather use my SeaDog CodeZero 0.7m²
I mounted this SeaDog Commander sail high enough on my carbon mast so I can reach it when folded onto the deck but not too high to intrude into my paddling area.


Disclaimer: my association with SeaDog has grown where we now collaborate on new projects. After purchasing my first sail from SeaDog I started to offer feedback and stimulated Richard with new ideas. Richard recognized that there was room for improvement with the original sprit sail design. Being able to quickly accommodate to special needs or requests with custom sails, SeaDog is able to blend high-tech sailing cloth to create sails that I wanted to realize for a while. I paid for the materials and he offers his workmanship: we both benefit from it.


  1. Another good & informative recount - Thanks Gnarly.
    How much time have you spent with the new design & in what wind conditions.
    Do you believe the design changes Richard & yourself have created, are tailored to your boat & style ....or in your humble opinion, suited to a broad range of paddlers & their sea kayaks?

    1. The Commander is a new sail but 3 prototypes have been made to date before settling on the final cut. There are some tweaks from mine and the boom has been optimised further: just a bit shorter to give the sail a nicer shape but still retaining the initial parameters. The two battens however are the real highlights; they give the sail a fantastic shape that can catch the lightest breeze, maintaining a pucker free surface. I have 4 kayaks that this sail fits well. On the 5th one I will need to reposition the mast base (initially placed for the 1m² sail) or get a longer mast (not desirable). Richard has been testing the Commander in lighter breezes and he feels that it performs extremely well. I find that the Commander suits winds up to 20 knots, excelling in lighter breezes. Any kayak that has been set up for my other 0.8m² sails can take the Commander; the bonus is easy bundling when stowed on deck.
      I believe there is a bit of backlog with orders, some even from Europe.

  2. That is a great looking sail Gnarly :o)


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