Technology continues to move forward in both fabrics and construction; sails that seemed exotic just a few years ago our now becoming the norm out on the water. Over the last few years there has been a major move away from paneled sails towards the “Load Path Membrane” sails in the racing market, proven performance and durability with woven Dyneema fabrics for larger cruising boats, and low stretch “crimpless” Dacron for improved performance in tri-radial cruising and racing sails.
The majority of racing sails we build today are “Load Path” type sails where the fibers themselves are laid out in the orientation to follow the loads in a sail rather than using individual panels to align the fibers as in a tri-radial sail. The advantages are a sail that holds its shape better, is lighter, and in many cases is less expensive than a tri-radial sail.
The Dimension-Polyant plant in Connecticut has been
set up to produce membranes for boats under 45 feet, or sails with a foot
length less than 21.5’using either all aramid fibers or a blend of carbon
and aramid. Because of its advanced design and automated manufacturing
process they are able to produce the best product quickly and
economically. The individual sections go through one continuous computer
operated production line where the yarns are laid down on the bottom film,
the top film is added, the section is laminated, and then the section is
marked and cut. To insure the strongest product possible the sections are
then bonded together using the advanced ultra-sonic Q-Bond system. They
are also now offering the membranes using Aramid yarns that are dyed black
which is both better in UV resistance and also visually appealing.
For smaller boat where the low stretch of Dyneema is not needed Challenge Sailcloth has recently introduced their “crimpless” Dacron. Sailcloth is woven with fibers going in two directions; the long direction is called the “warp” and the short direction is called the “fill”. Because of inherent way that conventional looms operate the fill yarns will be relatively straight while the warp yarns will go up and down over the fill yarns. This is called crimp, and because these yarns are not straight in the weave the fabric will have more stretch in the direction of the crimped warp yarns. If the fabric is loaded in the warp direction it will stretch more as those yarns try to straighten out. When loaded in the fill direction the fill yarns are already nearly straight and will have less stretch.
The result of this is that most Dacron sails have to be built as cross cut sails where the panels are laid out perpendicular to the leech. This configuration lines the fill yarns vertically up the leech which is the area that is most highly loaded. However a cross cut sail can never fully support the loads in a sail as well as a radial sail because while the most load may go up the leech there is still a lot of loading, especially in the corners, where the load is transmitted out into the body of the sail. In a tri-radial sail the panels radiate out of the corners and rotate up through sail in a pattern that keeps their primary yarns more closely lined up with the actual loading. Tri-radial sails were designed around using laminate fabrics where the primary yarns in the warp direction are laid out flat with little or no crimp and then laminated between two films of mylar. This allows them to have the lowest stretch in the warp direction and work perfectly in radial sails.
The new Challenge fabric, aptly named “Warp Drive” overcomes this problem with new patent pending weaving and finishing technology that allows the fabric to be woven with the crimp taking place in the fill yarns while the warp yarns have nearly zero crimp. The result is the first true warp orientated Dacron that is made for making radial sails. Its primary use will be in cruising sails for boat in the 30’ to 50’ range where the customer wants the longevity of Dacron with better shape holding than you can get in a cross cut sail. For furling headsails it also much less likely to mildew than a cruising laminate will.
As both materials and processes continue to change we are able to utilize the best available from a wide range of vendors. While many lofts are now utilizing overseas construction we still build all our custom sails right here at the loft in Newport Beach, California. Call or email us to discuss the best option for your next sail.