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  #1  
Old 06-23-2008
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What do you get with laminate sails?

I have to start out by explaining myself before you read my novice question. I have lived aboard and sailed my cruising boats for 7 years and concurrently have club raced with several different captains on T-birds, and mostly larger keelboats.

I'm currently in the market to buy cruising sails for my boat and I've been looking at everyone's sails when I race and cruise and have been asking lots of questions. I know I don't have a performance boat but I do like to pull strings, have good sail shape, and sail whenever possible.

My question is, what exactly do you get with laminate sails? It seem to me that a well built, brand new dacron sail should have exactly the same shape as a laminate sail. Wouldn't it be just as "fast"? I've asked a few racers and I've heard that laminates stretch less, so does that mean that the effective range of the sail is increased before you need to change sails? Seems like that is more a function of ballast and sail area. Are the sails physically lighter?

Do they last longer by not getting stretched out as fast? If so is that all it is? Wouldn't it be cheaper to buy new dacron sails every 2 years or so?

Pert of why I ask is (obvious) ignorance and curiosity but I also wonder if I shouldn't rule out a laminate main or headsail despite the fact that I'm a cruiser. My captain has a (Pentex?) main from north that is now 6 years old and it still holds a GREAT sail shape. Could I be better off with that than an equally expensive dacron sail from a top loft?

Thanks for fielding my newbie question.

MedSailor
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Old 06-23-2008
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Laminate sails stretch less under higher winds, since the material itself is less elastic. They also will tend to hold their proper shape a bit longer, although the really fanatical racers don't use their sails much past a season. They are often lighter than dacron sails would be.

However, they do have some downsides. Laminate sails don't tolerate folding, furling or flogging anywhere near as well as dacron sails. They're also, often, more prone to UV damage and can suffer from mildew. They probably don't reef as well, since they're not as tolerant of folding. They're also, often, harder to stow or store, since they're less neglect tolerant.

Some cruising specific laminates have addressed some of these problems...but still are behind dacron sails in some respects.
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Old 06-23-2008
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There are a couple of companies, UK and Ullman come to mind, that have laminates with UV protection, cost less than 20% more, last as long, etc. Along with getting you more power and speed in a given wind. Along with being lighter, they will allow the boat to heel less due to less wt aloft. How much, probably a degree to two or three, but still less. Light airs like here in puget sound, they will ALWAYS out do a dacron sail speed wise. Especially on those summer evenings when it is less than 7-10 knots of wind.

Locally where I race in Edmonds, on the light wind nights, the higher tech sails ALWAYS out sail the dacron boats, even if the Dacron is newer. Some smaller boats like mine, with a 190# main, and a 155 with 350#, some sail manufactures are recommending Dacron mains, with laminate genoa's. A C&C I raced on during the noods, That owner noticed a difference tween the North 3DL and the std Doyle 108 jib's in speed etc. I have not sailed on that boat enough with both to say.

A boat next to mine, a Hunter 28, Just bought laminate UK sails for the main and jib. Delivered with in the last week or so, I can find out how things are going tomorrow night at a YC meeting. He cruises, no racing, the laminates with very little over the cost of dacron.

If performance is your goal even when daysailing or cruising, I personally feel a laminate is a better option than dacron. My dacs will be gone as soon as funds arrive. Right now the Ullman 's CAL sails look pretty good for my rig. A laminate that is sewn like a dacron, with pretty good speed etc and life span.

There is not a right or wrong, just what looks best for your application.

Marty
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Old 06-23-2008
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...And if you want to win races against your friends, don't under-estimate the psychological effect of having a new set of laminate sails - kevlar "angry yellow" or carbon "fast black" work really well.

Even if you're not sailing as well as them, there's nothing quite like the sight of a set of new fancy racing sails on the boat next to them at the start line to put them completely off their game (unless they're really good, of course.. ).
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Old 06-23-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartley18 View Post
...And if you want to win races against your friends, don't under-estimate the psychological effect of having a new set of laminate sails - kevlar "angry yellow" or carbon "fast black" work really well.

Even if you're not sailing as well as them, there's nothing quite like the sight of a set of new fancy racing sails on the boat next to them at the start line to put them completely off their game (unless they're really good, of course.. ).
I knew it!!! One time we saw new black carbon sails on our competitor's boat and we just decided to go back to the bar and not race at all....


So it has been mentioned that laminate sails are lighter and thus reduce heel. I could see that, but is that all?

It was also said that they give you more speed and power for a given wind speed and they last as long. What exactly do you mean by "power" and exactly how does it give you more speed? If all that is true than why does anyone make dacron sails anymore? Canvas is dead.

SD said it stretches less, so I assume that means that a given sail will hold a "better" shape by stretching (deforming) less as you go up in wind speeds. Correct? If that's true than how do they always perform better in the PNW light winds?


I'm definitely confused so far, but throw the hard physics at me I can take it!

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Old 06-23-2008
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The lighter the cloth, the easier it is for light zephyrs to shape a sail hence make the boat go better. Dacron straight out of the bag, will generally speaking do as well as laminates. But the dacron loses its shape sooner due to the stretchiness of the fabric, so it needs recutting sooner, or it is not as fast.

The mylar film being as it is basically a solid membrane, vs woven dacron, is able to not allow wind to go thru the cloth, hence the term blown out sails! Think about how easy it is for air to go thru canvas, then compare to dacron, not compare to the equal of a peice of plastic. The one with the least amount of air going thru the fabric, will be the faster, send more of the sails power in a forward fashion. When air, ie wind is going thru the fabric, this causes more sideways movement, hence healing vs go forward motion.

The real issue, is some of the material in laminates, can be broken down via UV rays, hence why some will have a UV protectant layer on them.

Some of the newer lams are just as open to being bagged, handled etc as the dacron sails. Personally, I think dacs will be out, just as canvas is at some point in time, it may not be in the next decade, but at some point in time, as the other material becomes cheaper, etc, they will take over the dacron for sail material.

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Old 06-23-2008
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You should talk to a reputable sailmaker for the straight goods on this issue... but my take is that to put laminate sails on a boat such as your would not be the way to go.

Your boat will never be able to take significant advantage of any of the performance advantages that such a lightweight inventory would provide (esp going to weather, where the finer points of sail design/construction pay the largest dividends)

A set of good heavy duty cruising dacron sails can easily last a decade or more.. overloaded laminate sails will not last as long - at this point they are simply not as durable.

Marty may well be right and we will most likely move on from Dacron at some point in the future, but for you I don't think that moment has arrived.
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Old 06-24-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blt2ski View Post
.....
Some of the newer lams are just as open to being bagged, handled etc as the dacron sails. Personally, I think dacs will be out, just as canvas is at some point in time, it may not be in the next decade, but at some point in time, as the other material becomes cheaper, etc, they will take over the dacron for sail material.

Marty
Hooboy.. if you're right, that is really going to annoy Class Measurers the world over!!

Dacron is enshrined in law in just about every set of Class Rules I've ever set eyes on.
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Old 06-24-2008
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Cameron,

You are correct in that a lot of class rules call for Dac's Especially the small boats. The C&C 115 I was on recently, one rig had all 3DL's, another had all dacs, the other 4 had mixtures, usually a Dac main, and a laminate jib of some sort. You get into some of the larger 1D boats, laminates are probably the norm more so than not.

For teh OP, if you need reps names for some for some of the local sailmakers, I have the Ones for North, UK, neil pryde and Ullman. Some locals in edmond like Scott Rushsails, the Neal Pryde rep to work with. Two on my dock have used Ian at UK, Jeff at Ullman PS is good too. Then jack at North is a constant too.

Your boat, in reality, may be better with a Dac main and mizzen, and a Lam ib/genoa for those light wind days here. My boat being all of 30', with a 190# main, and 350# 155 jib, the laminates for 5-10% increase in cost are the better option generally speaking for increased performance. Excepting the main is borderline, as they get bigger, then the laminates will be a better cost choice to a degree. laminates also increase your speed in some conditions, upwards of a knot. If cruising long distances, add that knot over 24 hrs for a 1-2 week crossing, along with a folding prop etc, you can make some major gains in distance traveled over a day or more, ie shave off 1-4 days for some crossings. For daysailing here in Puget sound, san juans etc. Dacs may still hold the edge for your boat all things considering.

I do think Dacs will go away at some point in time, or at least start being on the minor % sold, it may be 10-20 yrs or a bit more, but I think the lams will take over at some point in time.

marty
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Last edited by blt2ski; 06-24-2008 at 12:42 AM.
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Old 06-24-2008
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Good info... On my Catalina - I can tell you there was a huge difference in handling and speed with the X-10 Sails I got from North here in Seattle. But you do have to know how to get proper sail shape otherwise just as good as Dacron.

They are easier to manage on deck, contrary to beliefs stated that they do not do well with reefing - they do - if you do it properly and most importantly, in light airs - do very well. In all other handling characteristics, powerband is also greatly accelerated and one needs to really pay attention to the conditions, and will not allow you to sail harder in extreme conditions unless they are specifically cut for - and then - again a compromise in performance will be had at certain levels. You have to ask the loft these questions, and be honest about your intentions - because cut is everything with these sails. The biggest drawback I noted was that a 155 genoa X-10, hanked not furled, was so light and stiff it would often jam into the radar at the mast, making solo handling sometimes a painful task...
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