Sven Kraja (G-592) running fast on the hard sand of St Peter Ording
In the last years the German Sven Kraja has played a starring role in sandyachting, trying to break the French supremacy in Class 5. In 2012 Sven won the Mini Class in Cherreuix and now Frog Sails, his sailmaking company, is getting more and more popular in landsailing world.
ruotenelvento – Who’s Sven Kraja? Why and when has Frog Sails started to make sails?
Sven Kraja – I’m 42 now and I had my first sandyachting competition at the age of 15. I learned boatjoinery in a shipyard where aluminium was at hand. The Manta had just arrived in Europe. When the guys there had some time, we spent it building up some sandyachts. After travelling one year around the world I came back with the intention of learning something new, so I chose sailmaking because in Germany nobody who was able to make good sandyacht sails. All we got was coming from France and England. I started learning sailmaking at Holmsegel, where I shortly beginned to build my own sandyacht sails. This happened 15 years ago. I learned a lot in computer-aided design and proper sailmaking. I was prepared to take over the company from my boss, but anyway this didn´t work. So 2 years ago I started my own company. Frog Sails consists of two people: I deal with the workshop and Gitta, my girlfriend, handles all the paperwork. Then we also have now and then some students who give us a hand.
rnv – Why did you call it Frog Sails?
SK – I had two sails from some 14footer lying side by side, one from a sailmaker called Alligator Sails, the other one called Butterfly Sails. It sounded pretty funny to call my sails also with the name of an animal, Frog Sails. So the name was born very quickly. The symbols in the logo are very easy too: the four elements. We only turned fire into ice, for iceboating, then we have land for landyachting, water for sailing and air for kites and airplanes.
rnv – Who are the pilots sailing with Frog Sails? Do they race only in Class 5 and in the Minis?
SK – Since I’ve been doing this job for the past 15 years I can say that lots of people sail with my designed sails. Tim Spears won in class 5 2008 worldchampion title, lots of British people like Dave Green and Rob Collins are using my sails. Also I can say nearly all the Germans in all classes, 2, 3, 5 and Mini, are using my sails now. One week ago we sent our first sail to New Zealand.
Sven Kraja and his team taking a break from races in SPO in Frog Sails’ motorhome
rnv – What’s more fun? Class 5 or Minis?
SK – In light wind conditions I really enjoy the maximum speed of a class 5 yacht. The rig and the chassis work perfectly together and every time there is something new to explore. But fleet races like in the Minis and changing courses are much more fun.
rnv – I was in Cherreuix and the course for the Minis was more comfortable than the one for the bigger yachts. I guess in SPO was the same. Do you believe this separation will live on or Minis can sail even on rougher places without danger?
SK – In SPO for the first time we had a more difficult course for the Minis and it was a hard time for all the pilots who are not used to. They sometime forgot to slow the yacht down in some crucial points or didn’t find the right way. I think we can sail rougher places (see the Promos), but pilots have to make sure to have a soft seat and small tires.
rnv – You got an amazing success in the Worlds 2012 and now a 5th place in the European in SPO. How is the Miniyacht Class changing?
SK – It was clear that the Minis were getting to this point. Some Minis are even faster than Promos. A tipical Beachrunner feature is the soft seat, but now Minis are becoming more sporty. Our customers choose the beachrunner because it´s very comfortable. We didn´t want to make too many changes.
rnv – Why did you choose Beachrunner? (and is there any difference between Beachrunner and Drift Sailing?) Which are the strong points of the Beachrunner? Are they designing something new to cope with the chopped Promos and Class 5s? Do you have an agreement with Beachrunner to make sails for all their production or do you cut sails only for racing?
SK – There is no difference between Beachrunner and Drift Sailing as far as I know. Beachrunner showed up years ago in my old company to learn more about sandyachting. After years of attempts the Beachrunner became a proper sandyacht. I think with the soft seat, and this is the main point of an easy sailing, it´s a perfect miniyacht to start with. I have already sailed a prototype with the mast in the front. It looks more speedy and it´s very comfortable in high winds. But you start to lie very close to the ground and this makes it less comfortable, so it´s up to you to choose what you want. I choose the old beachrunner also because I don’t want to disappoint my other customers and I want to show them how far we can go with a sandyacht that’s very easy to sail. Yes, I have a agreement with Beachrunner to make now all the sails for them, but their old sails were also designed by me.
rnv – Very easy to say, more difficult to reach, the sail should work together with the chassis. Just a mere question of center of pressure or a sailmaker can do more to fit a sail to a yacht?
SK – Now we really could start a whole book about what a sailmaker can do! Mastcurve, mastrake, profile deepness, clothstretching, profile of the mastpocket (if you choose a two-piece-pocket), how the clothlayout is, outline and twist, these are just a couple of ideas. Mast and chassis are also big separate points.
rnv – Since here in Italy the greater part of the fleet is homebuilt maybe there could be a market for sails alone. How much does a 4.7 and a 5.5 Frog Sail cost?
SK – A normal made 4.7 costs about 750€, including epoxy battens, tensioners or webbing, sailnumber, sailbag. Deliver is around 30€. For the 5.5, same details, 830€ plus deliver. A Class 5 Sail, area 5.5 m², comes with two-pieces-mastpocket, thinner sailcloth in the front for better bending, headboard, more battens and tensioners, sailnumber, sailbag, at 900€.
A great shot of Heiko Hartmann (G-599) sailing his Class 5 in SPO
rnv – You’ve gained al lot of experience all over Europe. Which is your favourite beach? Have you ever sailed in the States? Are you going there for the Worlds next year?
SK – All beaches have their own charme, but the most important are the people around. I love sailing and I’ve never have done it before in Spain or Italy. I never have been in the States, we’d like to go.
rnv – You live in Schleswig, north of Hamburg, it must be pretty cold during the winter. Do you like sailing on ice too?
SK – Yes, just in front of my workshop in winter I can do iceyachting. Competition we do all over Germany in different spots, where we find the best ice conditions. I saw some people doing iceyachting with little miniyachts, it sounded so much fun.
All the pictures of Sven Kraja and Frog Sails can be found on Frogsail on Tour Website
Enrico Azzini for ruotenelvento, the landsailing and powerkite blog