I decided to install a Tides Marine SailTrack system for my mainsail, based on the very positive reviews from members of the EricsonYachts.org site.
The SailTrack is an extruded Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) Plastic track that slides into your mast’s internal luff groove and replaces the grooves functionality with its own external track in which stainless steel slides travel.
In order for Tides to send you the right kind of track, they have to know what kind of a mast luff groove you have, and to figure that out they will send you (for free) a set of “measuring discs” to measure the width, depth and shape of your luff groove. The gauges look like this:
To accomodate the track sliding in, the mast gate must be at least 3″ long, and the top of the gate must be at least 10″ above the gooseneck. I will have to cut a new gate into my mast to slide in the track.
My mast luff groove can, I believe, accommodate either round or rectangular slides.
I currently have round slides, and Tides said either will work find and that I should order round-luff track given my 8mm-5/16″ slides:
Track is priced on a per-foot basis, and one is allotted at the standard price one slide every two feet. My sail has a double-slide headboard and Tides recommended two small regular slides instead of of one of their “headboard” slides.
This guy makes the installation seem relatively easy, especially with the mast down:
The other step is to attach the SailTrack slides to one’s sail. I think this is relatively easy as sail-sewing goes, but I will probably bundle it with the work of adding a 3rd reef and take it to a sail loft. Here are some cruisers who repair/sew their own slides:
The Tides Marine web site is excellent and the SailTrack order form reproduces exactly the paper order form. I ordered everything on the site and paid with PayPal. My order for 37′ of track, 20 slides and FedEx ground shipping with CA sales tax was $1,224. Given the raves the system receives, I hope it is worth it.