sail materials for cruising yachts
For many years a dacron cloth has been the staple for a cruising yacht and was considered fairly high tech if the sailmaker chose to build it in a tri-radial design as opposed to a simple cross cut. So why are we now seeing the likes of “Cruising Laminate” and “Membrane” sails on cruising yachts? The obvious answer is improved performance but in a lot of cases “performance” is not necessarily speed but comfort.
On a cruising yacht one of the main focuses for a sail maker is to allow the boat sail more upright, so it is more comfortable to spend time on. A higher quality material with lower stretch is a significant step toward this, as the draft stays forward in the sail driving the boat forward, rather than sideways.
Better quality sails will also make the boat sail faster, which is also a considerable benefit when making longer passages. The main speed benefits are seen sailing upwind, as a good quality, low stretch sail should see a few degrees improvement to windward as well as better boat speed.
Durability is another key benefit to a higher quality sail as they will keep their designed shape for longer than a basic dacron sail. Where a lower quality sail will lose its shape consistently over its lifespan, a laminate sail will hold its shape giving the desired results for much longer.
Cruising laminate sails tend to be made up of 5 layers of material to create both the strength and longevity but this does also make them stiffer and more bulky than a single ply dacron sail. The slight negative aspect here is that they are less easy to flake into a sail bag but in our experience easier to use with in mast furling.
Remember the sails are the engine of your yacht and therefore should be a key consideration when building a specification.