Why do I need new sails? - Your sailmaker, when making your old sail, designed an ideal sail cut for your boat, your needs, and the local conditions of your area. Over time, the cloth of your old sail has been stretched and deformed by stress, so the sail no longer has the original, optimal profile for propulsion and increases the heel of the boat.
What difference does the sailcloth make to me?
Good shape stability is particularly important in regattas. But by now, cruising sailors are also aware of the benefits of an optimal profile: less heeling, more height on the wind, and easier maneuvering of the boat. Also, quality cloth lasts longer, meaning a slightly higher expense for better laminated or woven cloth is a good investment.
Laminate or woven, what's the difference?
The basic concept of making sailcloth on looms has hardly changed. Most woven cloth is made from polyester (also called Dacron), which was introduced in the 1950s as a replacement for cotton. Woven cloth is very durable, making it ideal for cruising sails. Laminates are created by joining layers of different material together to form a sandwich construction. A simple laminate consists of an open grid scrim of fibers bonded together with a film layer from both sides. The fiber scrim takes the load and the film layer prevents air from passing through. Laminates are much more efficient at producing a sail profile than woven cloth because the fibers have almost no stretch.
What is crimp?
When weaving a cloth, the yarns are passed under and over each other so that they lie snake-like in the finished fabric. This characteristic is called crimp. The cloth may stretch slightly under stress because the fibers stretch.
Do I need a sail with horizontal or radial cut?
This depends on the cloth. During weaving, the warp yarns, the yarns running along the cloth roll, are bent around the weft yarns, which run across the cloth roll. Thus, weft yarns have less crimp than warp yarns. A woven cloth therefore stretches less in width, but more in length. Woven cloth should therefore be used in horizontal cut sails where the greatest stress is across the cloth. Some sailmakers offer radial cut sails and use cloth with correspondingly strong warp yarns. This works well for smaller sails. Laminates should therefore always be used in radial cut sails where the load is along the length of the cloth.
What material is my spinnaker made of?
Most spinnakers are made of nylon fabric because it has a high tensile strength. With nylon, there are various generic terms ranging from 2.2 oz to 0.4 oz. However, these numbers do not denote the weight of the cloth. Nylon is also coated, impregnated, and warp or weft oriented. The important thing here is the relationship between stretch, tensile strength and weight. Heavier nylon does not always have less stretch and better tear strength. A high quality, lightweight fabric can be much better than a heavy product from conventional production.
Standard nylon and polyester, what about Kevlar and Twaron?
Polyester is still the best general-purpose fiber for most woven cloths and laminates for cruising sails. It is strong, durable and cost effective. Since the introduction of polyester, many new fibers have been developed, e.g. Kevlar, Pentex. Spectra, HM Twaron. These new fibers can be used for demanding requirements in terms of dimensional stability of sails, especially for racing sails. HM Twaron has a stretch value 8.5 times more favorable than polyester. PBO, the new "miracle fiber", is in turn 2.5 times stronger than Twaron! The use of these super strong fibers in laminates has led to ever stronger and thus lighter sails. However, the disadvantages of these "high-tech sails" are reduced durability and a high price compared to conventional sails.
So the selection of the cloth decisively determines the sail quality?
Careful selection and quality of sailcloth is always a good investment in the profile durability and longevity of a sail. Ask your sailmaker what material he will use for your sail and why. Only with this information you can really compare and evaluate different offers for sails.
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