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Story Contributors: Mark Bradford


North Sails expert Mark Bradford explains that 3Di sails last “longer than you might think”

3Di Sails in action at Block Island Race Week
📸 Cate Brown

Most sailors shopping for a new 3Di sail ask, “how long will it last?” Based on years of record-keeping, I can honestly say that the competitive life of a 3Di sail is far superior to any other technology on the market. It’s also much better than 3DL, our previous molded technology.

There are far too many variables to predict precisely how long a sail will last, but we now expect race sails to remain competitive for several seasons. That’s a significant change from a decade ago, and it makes perfect sense once you understand how 3Di sails are constructed.

The biggest killer of sails is UV. 3Di sails contain zero Mylar (the main culprit of delamination, use environmentally stable thermo-set adhesive (as opposed to thermoplastic hot-melt) and have a UV protectant added to the outermost surface. They’ll stand up better to the sun than any other sail material. The surface might degrade a bit, especially in the tropics, but those top layers protect the basic structure. As a result, when older sails come into our loft for annual maintenance, we often have trouble finding any damage at all.

One great example of 3Di’s extended life comes from the annual race from Sydney to Hobart. I sail on Black Jack, and before 3Di, we often carried a spare main in case we blew up the first one. Now we’re doing two or even three races with the exact same sail, all thanks to the longevity and reliability of 3Di compared to either 3DL or our competitor’s so-called high-performance options.

Our customer’s buying habits have changed, too. Before 3Di, whenever a customer bought a new race boat, they’d buy three mains: inshore racing, offshore racing, and deliveries. If they took outstanding care of their inventory, they might get three years out of the offshore and delivery mains and one to two years out of the inshore main.

But changing mainsails can be a day’s work for several people, so after seeing how fresh the VO65 3Di sails looked after at the end of the last two Volvo Ocean Races, some of the hundred-footer crews got savvy and delivered the boat home again with the race sail. When they realized the main looked exactly the same even after all those extra miles, that one-mainsail trend trickled down to the smaller race boats as well.

Today, even our most particular racing customers with new boats are only ordering a single mainsail. So that’s the best vote of confidence we could imagine about how well this product lasts. And it’s also a lot less hassle for them because once they get the sails set up on their boat, they’re not tweaking and adjusting and switching one in for another and vice versa. They’re simply pulling up the sail, using it, and then putting it away.

And 3Di isn’t limited to racing boats. In 2020, North Sails introduced 3Di Ocean, a full product line engineered to deliver the benefits of 3Di to the cruising community. For example, we used to tell offshore cruisers that Dacron sails would last for one circumnavigation. Now we tell them they could do two or three laps around the world with the same sail inventory, as long as they have them serviced at one of our worldwide lofts.

Whether you race or cruise, your new 3Di sails will undoubtedly last longer than you think. And it will last longer than any of our competitors’ products. What you’ll experience is a greatly extended lifespan, the longevity of a stable sail shape, and fewer replacement sails less often. Yes, 3Di is a premium product and may initially be the more expensive option, but its cost of ownership over seasons is unmatched.

For more details, contact your local North Sails expert today.

3Di Sails in action at Block Island Race Week
📸 Cate Brown

Story Contributors

How Long Do 3Di Sails Last? headshot
Mark Bradford

Managing Director, One Design Expert, Sail Expert — Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia Mark's One Design background is in 125's, 420's, 470's, Etchells, Star Class and Farr 40. This interest has seen him compete in 19 World Championships. He also has experience in the America's Cup working with BMW Oracle from...

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