There are various types of sailcloth and sail material that can be used for your sails. Each type has a different purpose.
If you require an all out racing sail I would recommend a Pentex Laminate Sail Cloth, because it is lightweight, has exceptional stability and resistance to stretch but it does have a short and limited life expectancy.
Cruising Laminates are designed to provide a combination of the benefits of Laminates and woven materials. They resist stretch, to a point, and lighter fabric can be used. This means less weight aloft so providing less heel and pitch which equals better performance. However, when a Laminate sail has been stretched it stays stretched, which is far more apparent than on a woven sail.
Woven Dacron Sail Cloth
This can be broken down into 4 basic categories:
Standard Production Woven Dacron
This is woven to a price and can be found as standard equipment on most production yachts. It is used for the lower priced budget sails. It is loosely woven, less time on the loom means less costs, the base fibres are not of the same quality as better fabrics and there is more resin used to hold the fabric together. Normaly this style will start to lose its designed sail shape after a season or two. I would only recommend it for the very occasional weekend sailor or those on a tight budget. We at Jeckells will not make our sails out of this type of fabric.
Premium Woven Dacron
These are more closely woven and more technologically designed. With various different constructions and base yarns used for a variety of different sails, e.g. Some are woven with more and stronger threads in the warp (along the length of the material) direction; these are suitable for radial sails.
Some are woven with more and stronger threads on the weft (fill) direction, which are more suitable for high aspect sails and some are woven with a similar construction in both the warp and weft which are called balanced fabrics.
These Dacron’s are more closely woven and use stronger yarns, most notably High Modulus yarns and have only a small amount of resin impregnated into the fabric which also means they are easier to handle.
For racing sails the resin content tends to be higher to give better stability but the sails need to be will looked after and stored carefully.
Marblehead Woven Dacron
This is the closest woven Dacron available today. It is virtually resin free and is made using only the highest quality polyethylene terepthalate yarns. It is woven on the most modern shuttleless looms which have been specially rebuilt and reinforced to pack in the highest possible number of yarns.
Because of its tight construction there is not the usual crimp problem so this material is ideal for the most discerning yachtsman be it for round the cans racing where a long lasting good performance sail is required or for a Round the World yachtsman who wants, expects and demands the best and most manageable sails.
Squared Woven Dacron
We have been using Squared Woven Dacrons for many years and now use the Bainbridge Ocean Premium Plus range. This Dacron is designed specifically for the discerning boat owner who require durability, high performance and a prestigious look, all in one package. High performance figures, longevity and a woven ripstop all contribute to the value of this sailcloth that is designed to meet your needs in performance or club racing.
Laminate Sail Cloth
Laminates are a completely different type of sailcloth, made from combination of film and fabric, such as taffeta. The film restricts stretch in all directions, whereas the taffeta fabric protects the film from puncturing and chafe. A laminate cloth makes for a faster and more lightweight sail than the Dacron equivalent, making it an excellent racing sail, both for club racing or more serious campaigns.
The sophistication of our sail design software enables us to use different weights of laminate within the same sail. This reduces wi#eight aloft which improves performance in light winds and improves furling – particularly usefull where space is a premium, such as in mast reefing mainsails. These distinct advantages of laminates must be balanced against the downsides – particularly that once the film has stretched, it is impossible to recover it.
Laminates come in two basic styles, Racing and Cruising. A Crusing laminate is designed to provide a combination of the benefits of both laminates and of woven material and resist stretch, to a point. However as it is still a for of laminate, when it stretches, it stays stretched and cannot be easily rectified.
Racing laminates use a combination of film and low-stretch fibre. The specification and production costs of these laminates make them among the most expensive type of sailcloth, but arguably the fastest. Those who are willing to pay extra to ensure seconds advantage on the water usually buy racing laminates.
It must be understood that as with all materials they will hold together but the long-term aerodynamic shape that provides the performance element to your yacht is proportional to the quality of the sailcloth you chose. The better the cloth the longer they will last.
Although performance may not be at the forefront of your mind a cheap sail, a sail made from the wrong fabric or an old sail will not allow the yacht to perform to its full potential.
Hopefully the information above will make you aware that just because a sail is bright white or only a few seasons old it does not necessarily mean it is a good sail!!
Please note that as the material stretches, the fullness increases and tends to get blown aft, this makes the yacht heel more, the performance deteriorates and it upsets the balance of the yacht so requiring either easing the sheets or more helm to keep the boat going straight (don’t forget the rudder is a huge break as well)
We will recommend the most suitable option for you having discussed your particular requirements, type if sailing and sail expectations. Remember, we have been manufacturing sails for over 180 years.