North Sails NEWS
Story Contributors: Quinny Houry
THE EVOLUTION OF A TRUE BELIEVER
North Superyacht Expert Quinny Houry reflects on a recent trip to Minden, Nevada, and reinforces why 3Di is light years ahead of the competition
It’s a long way from Minden, Nevada to the Spanish island of Palma de Mallorca. “It’s a 26-hour flight,” Quinny Houry told me, when we talked about the trip from Palma to the western edge of North America’s Great Basin. They may be geographically far apart, but the two places are inextricably linked; Minden is home to North Sails’ 3Di manufacturing hub. And Palma is often cited as the center of the Superyacht world, a world being turned upside down by the landscape-altering sailmaking technology coming out of the Minden facility.
It’s something that Quinny Houry knows all about both as Director of North Sails Palma, and one of a small group that coordinates the North Sails Superyacht products. “I always knew that 3Di sails were good and I knew that molded technology was better, but I questioned how much better it was… And then the last four years have completely converted me to North Sails, by way of understanding the engineering, and the North Design Suite software that’s used by our sail designers. I already understood how far ahead it is compared to what other sailmakers can offer, but it wasn’t until I went to Minden and saw the molds and saw the process firsthand, that I understood that North Sails is lightyears ahead of the other guys. Our competitors have got a long way to go to get there.”
Quinny started out rather more humbly, doing his apprenticeship in Portsmouth, on Britain’s south coast. He quickly rose through the ranks, working as a designer and head of production at lofts in Palma and then New Zealand. He returned to Palma to start his own business, eventually joining North Sails in 2018 when he merged his loft into the North Sails group.
The 3Di construction process starts when pre-preg 3Di tapes are taken from an industrial fridge. And at that moment the countdown begins, as the thermoset resin begins to cure. “I’ve watched it go from raw fiber to filaments to a molded composite, ready to go onto the curing floor, all in one day. The speed that the sail structure moves through the factory is the most surprising thing about building a 3Di sail,” commented Quinny.
The tapes are loaded into the tape heads, which track back and forth, printing the sail’s designed structure. The process blends the materials in a precise configuration that’s been engineered by the sail designer to match the loads in the sail.
“The utopia is to have every filament [in a sail] being load-bearing, with no weight that’s excess to what’s required – so no extra weight to hinder performance, and no unnecessary materials such as Mylar film that’s added solely to hold the structure together. When you go to the 3Di factory and you see the filaments being spread into the thin ply 3Di tape, you realize that each filament is being laid specifically to do a job and that there’s nothing else.”
After the sail’s structure has been created by the tape machines, the sail is inspected and then rolled up, for transport to the 3D mold. On the mold, infrared heat is applied to kick the chemical reaction to consolidate the composite structure and set the sail shape. The completed sail then sits for seven to ten days until it’s cured before moving over to the finishing floor.
“When it goes over the mold it gets vacuum bagged and cooked into the shape of the sail, and you realize that there’s no guesswork as there is with 2D sails… The shape we design is the shape that comes off the mold. The fiber is mapped to the modulus that you require, and the elasticity or the movement that you require, and the stability that you want to build up. And that’s where the software is incredible, it’s so refined about exactly what modulus is required in every part of the sail, and to calculate the angle of the tapes and the stiffness of the tapes, the resistance, elasticity,” explained Quinny.
The potential for the Minden facility to build every 3Di sail precisely to the needs of an individual sailor and their yacht has led to the introduction of a bespoke new Superyacht product. There are no longer categories for Superyacht 3Di sails that define cruising or racing sails, there is just North Sails 3DiSY. A custom sail that’s engineered to be exactly what the client and their yacht needs.
Quinny explained, “In this segment of the industry there isn’t a single part of a yacht that’s off-the-shelf. The sails should be the same, and so the 3DiSY product precisely matches the client’s requirements. A matrix of performance versus durability is created using the fiber blend and layout, the sail’s shape and the surface finish to match the client’s expectations. This is done with the client in a conversation that is unique in the sailmaking industry.
“The conversation starts with, ‘How do you want to sail your boat?’” explained Quinny. “Where do you want to sail it? What’s fun for you? What’s the most enjoyable part of the whole program of owning a Superyacht? Once we know that, we will make a sail to suit. We will make the best possible sails, defined by our team in discussion with the client’s team – their captain, their manager and all their decision-makers – and then we’ll make the sails that perfectly suit their needs.
“If you’re going to go cruising in Antarctica or the Arctic, then we’re going to have heavy duty surfaces that are highly durable, that weigh a lot more. We’re going to be putting a low modulus material in there to allow the sails a lot of elasticity, so it’s not transferring loads instantly to your boat and potentially pulling blocks off the deck.
“Or if you’re doing regattas, we’re going to use high modulus 3Di tapes. We’re going to create flat-backed sails. We’re going to create light surfaces. We’re going to do everything to transfer the load to your boat as fast as possible so that you accelerate as fast as possible. And that’s essentially what North Sails 3DiSY is – a conversation between the client and ourselves to determine and then produce the best possible sails for the yacht.” And all enabled by the unique 3Di manufacturing process tucked away in the Nevada desert. It’s a long way from the marinas and sail lofts of Palma and the Mediterranean, but going there and seeing it was, for Quinny Houry, believing.