August 28th, 2018
I got an excellent deal on hull #163 (obviously used) at the beginning of the season. She came with the original Gaastra sails which were crisp, but a little “dry” I would guess (I estimate they’re 7-8 years old). The jib was the first to go (I sail almost daily), and I replaced it with the jib from North Sails. Immediately I noticed a change in performance. Better fabric, newer, better design/shape, it even sheets in easier.
I’m on an inland lake and there were too many sub 7 knot days which are less than interesting (did I mention I'm 250lbs+?) with the Gaastra main/jib setup. After asking around about the SQ main I hadn’t heard much in the way of performance increase. I’d read that it “looks nicer” and “is more modern looking”. I called Jon Britt at Nor’banks Sailboats and he gave the opinion from his sailing with it, that it was better, and kept speed on better in the lulls than the original Gaastra. I could definitely feel the jib was better, and after reading about “square top” sails in general, I plunked down my card with Nor’banks for a fancy-ass new sail.
The day it arrived I took it out in gusty westerlies which ranged from 5-15 with the occasional off axis (NW) gust into the mid 20s. Starting out on a beam-broad reach, I could immediately feel the difference in boat speed. She seemed to jump out of the water even before fully powered up. Rather than being more of an “On/Off” experience as it was with the Gaastra main, with this sail even before trim, there is power being generated, there’s a smooth power curve as optimal sail trim is achieved. In gusty/lull conditions with the original main, it felt like a disjointed collection of stops and starts, the Gaastra main either grabbed a lot of wind, or not much at all. With the SQ main that didn’t happen.
Upwind there’s a huge difference in power. Though it’s only 1 sq/m larger even when the sail is undertrimmed, it feels like there’s a lot more lift created. It’s definitely a lot more sensitive to cunningham, but not in a bad way. Even when pinching up, the boat still drives forward well. In gusty conditions the top seems to twist off better than the Gaastra main, gusts feel less like punches and more like shoves. There were regularly gusts into the high teens/twenties, and I could easily, even when sitting inboard, maintain more trim, without digging an ama into the water. Downwind, loosening the cunningham provides a nice full shape, even without bringing out the screecher, there’s greater power, and I could get significantly lower while maintaining more trim and apparent wind.
So what about lighter winds? This is where the SQ in my opinion really shines. I had about 5 knots a couple days after purchase, a time that I would hesitate in going out (I’m 250+ lbs) as the Gaastra setup really doesn’t give me enough in these conditions. After rigging I headed out. I started out on a close reach and moved forward to get the stern out of the water as best I could, to my surprise, the boat’s wake smoothed out and started that nice V shape. I was making a lot better upwind speed and small increases in pressure were definitely felt. Instead of going out for an hour of puttering around, I spent 3 hours grabbing pressure as it came and for the first time since having the Weta, actually enjoyed some lighter conditions. Returning home it was offwind, and I noticed greater apparent wind I could go significantly lower without disturbing the screecher.
Finally after about 2 weeks with the sail a day of nice consistent 11-13 knots out of the south. The kitesurfers flock to these conditions. Hiking on the rear quarter of the ama I was fully powered up and beating. When the wind really blows, I can close haul at full power and make great upwind speed with the SQ main, going lower in lulls and feathering up in gusts. After tacking out for a good 45 minutes it was time for the sleigh ride to begin. Board up, screecher out and a well trimmed main let me do about 4 gybes coming back in. With the full inventory out, I was catching kiteboarders who were on a lower course. Wake was disappearing behind me like a motorboat – basically the Weta is a whole lot of fun for a singlehander, that doesn’t require Olympic fitness to enjoy some major speed.
As a larger sailor, I love the big winds, but hate to be sitting home on a beautiful sunny day. In my opinion the SQ is a much more versatile sail with a better power curve and yes – it looks awesome.
Thanks Weta, and shout out to Jon Nor’Banks Sailboats for his sales expertise and service.
By Jay Winick