Antal's Mainsail Hardware
[Re: "Mainsail Track Hardware," PS, Feb. 1, 2005] With regard to Antal sailtrack and slides mentioned in the article, my experience was disappointing. I hope Practical Sailor will make judgments on the basis of experience, before giving any more mention in print.
I helped deliver a 40-foot catamaran I designed from the Chesapeake Bay to Miami a few years ago. It had a big, full-battened mainsail on a standard aluminum spar with Antal sail slides and winches. Using the two-speed Antal self-tailing halyard winch, it was impossible, at first, to hoist the mainsail. The winch was binding between the self-tailer and the drum, and the sail slides were jamming on the track. Pretty poor performance for some new, expensive gear.
The winch had a self-tailing mechanism that provided a very firm grip on the line. It appeared to advance the line faster than the drum, thereby causing increased tension between tailer and drum as the winch was turned. After a few turns, the tension would jam the winch. We were unable to do anything, except bypass the self-tailer. Raising the sail then became a two-man operation—an unsatisfactory resolution.
We were able to achieve some improvement with the slides, although it was not altogether satisfactory either. Initially, the slides were tight fitting on the track with bonded inserts of some material that looked like dark gray micarta. After many hours of filing and sanding the inserts to provide more clearance with the track, and generous lubrication with Teflon, it was still difficult to raise the sail. Even with no load on the slides, they had considerable friction with the track. The insert material was not low-friction. The eccentric load being applied tended to "tip" each slide, making the problem worse. The full number of slides up the luff produced significant halyard tension.
The aluminum track, although smooth to feel, had an abrasive surface that also conspired to add friction. But the main culprit was the headboard design with slides that tended to jam unless the direction of pull from the halyard was perfectly parallel to the track.
The boat was sold to an operator in Belize, so we lost track of the final resolution of the problem (if there was one). Based on this experience, it would be hard to convince me to buy Antal gear.
St. Augustine, FL
Practical Sailor contacted Siebe Noordzy at Euromarine Trading (Antal's licensee in the U.S.) for a better understanding of these issues. He told us that his company takes all such complaints seriously, but that usually situations like this are resolved in the first several weeks of ownership.
According to Noordzy, the Antal HS system has a strong track record. He told us it is used aboard all Moorings charter catamarans (from 38 to 62 feet); and said that this has been the case for the past six years.
Noordzy told us that most of the issues Mr. Marples experienced relate to installation errors. Here are some examples of "problems" that he has encountered:
1. Poorly installed track, e.g. non-metric screws used so that the sliders catch the screw heads that stick out.
2. The batten sliders turned all the way in, not allowing the batten end-fitting to rotate around the toggle.
3. Track dirty from installation materials used, e.g. Loctite, silicone.
4. Mainsail raised with the outhaul fully tightened, or the vang fully tightened, or both.
5. Mainsail raised with the backstay on.
7. Halyard not vertically aligned with headboard carriage. If the masthead sheave is too far inboard or outboard, then the headboard carriage will jam into the mast or pull away from it.
He also said that some users don't realize that they ultimately have to pull up the weight of the sail, and that alone can be misinterpreted as a problem with the track system.
Regarding the winch issues, Noordzy said: "Generally, if a stripper arm gets jammed into the self-tailer, that indicates that not enough wraps are on the drum, allowing the load on the line to be put on the stripper arm. If the line from the self-tailer wants to feed faster than the drumspeed, that indicates that the line off the stripper arm is making a larger diameter circle than the drum diameter, i.e. riding on the outside of the self-tailer discs. It could be that the diameter of the line used on that boat was too large for the winch."
We were encouraged that Noordzy asked our help in tracking down the new owner as he wanted to follow up and resolve the problem wherever the boat is. "Whether he sold the boat or not is irrelevant; the new user is likely encountering the same problem and we would like to track him down and get it resolved."
[Re: "Vendée Globe Equipment Evolution," PS Jan. 1, 2005] I'm writing as a long-time subscriber—since the early 1980s or thereabouts—to let you know that I found your Vendée Globe article the most interesting thing I've seen in your publication in all this time. I think a regular update on cutting edge designs such as the Open 60s used in the Vendée Globe —what works and what doesn't— would be great.
You might also put in a plug for Bruce Schwab. I know, you avoid commercial solicitations, but Schwab is the first American entry in the Vendée Globe since Mike Plant was lost at sea on his qualifying run in 1992.
Paul M. "Reese" Pomerantz
Though reader reactions to that artilce were mixed, much that's practical can be gleaned from the vessels that compete in events of this ilk. As for Mr. Schwab, it appears his successful participation in the race makes a strong statement for unstayed rigs, as well as the value of dogged perseverance. PS commends him for his efforts and success.
...Where Credit Is Due
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To Steiner: "When my one-year-old Commander IV binoculars fell to the floor and got damaged, I sent them for repair to Pioneer Research in New York. To my surprise, I received in return a brand new pair as a replacement, no charge.
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Lapairie, Quebec, Canada
To Aqua Meter: "The Aqua Meter compass on my 1976 Rhodes Continental leaked fluid and became inoperative two years ago. Due diligence determined that the company had been sold at least twice and the repair facilities I contacted said it couldn't be repaired.
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"Rule Industries is a Division of Danforth. I highly value outstanding customer service, which Maria provided. My 30-plus-year marketing background makes me sensitive to the callous indifference displayed by most telephone contacts, especially when old/out of date products are involved. Rule Industries and Danforth have earned my respect and my support for their products." (www.rule-industries.com)
Arthur D. Shriver