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Old 09-11-2012
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Re: Another new sail question/rant

I went through a similar thing. I had been a North Sail patron for a brief period of my life. During that period they convinced me to buy a couple of their 3DL's. I had bad experiences with early 3DL's and they swore the technology had really improved. After falling out with North, I went to Quantum and had one of their panel cut, high modulus sails made.

Of the two North 3DL's, one of the North 3DL's never quite fit and also was so under reinforced that it never made sense for the wind range it was built for, and so fankly has only been flown maybe a half dozen times. The other North 3DL was supposed to be a powered up AP #2 but was cut so flat, that it too had a much narrower wind range than I had hoped for, but I have bene using it and so it has had approximately 200 hours of use, mostly in moderate winds well under 15 knots.

At approximately the same time, I had Quantum build a broad-seamed, horizontal panel, laminated kevlar, powered up AP #3. That sail is not a 'film' sail like the 3DL. It was made from roll goods. As my sail of choice except in the lightest air, the Quantum Sail has closer to 300-350 hours on it, and certainly a lot more use in a lot higher wind, than the North 3DL's.

This weekend, I noticed that the North 3DL #2 is breaking down, with the mylar layer failing, and the Kevlar exposed and delaminating. That is similar to what killed a 3DL North Mainsail that I have that also had low hours before it failed. When I look at the Quantum panel sail, it still looks very fresh, and certainly still has a nice shape.

My conclusion is that whatever the theoretical value of these 'Molded film' sails, in reality, at least the North versions, just do not hold up very well in real use. Also the technology is such that they seem to have a very hard time getting the flying shape right as well.

At this point, I have decided to move completely away from the 'Molded film' sails and concluded that a broad seamed, high modulus sail is the way to go. The Quantum broad seamed AP #3 has been brilliant with an excellent flying shape, doing almost as well as the much bigger #2 in low windspeeds, and holding its shape very well all the way into the low to mid 20 knot range. And its been much more rugged as well. Lastly, broad seamed sails are considerably less expensive than the film sails, if the high modulus cloth is available in the weight that you need.

Then again, some of this may be the sailmaker (I have very little good to say about my experience at North), some the cloth and laminating techniques, but mostly I think that these molded film sails are being way over sold and are as you suggest very short lived.

Jeff
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay and part-time purveyor of marine supplies
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