North Sails LOFT NEWS
You would not think there was much in common with a foiling America’s Cup yacht and a cruising boat but you could be surprised. The technology used to help power these amazing craft to 40 plus knots is now used in cruising sails.
I can’t see the latest “cruising” production yacht up on foils just yet, though the level of construction and design has been advancing rapidly. These boats are super cool and no slow coaches either.
So how are cruising sail designs and construction keeping up, and how does this align itself with a foiling catamaran?
The North Sails range of 3Di range of sails has traditionally been used for race boats. High modulus aramid and carbon fibres molded on a full sized mold. The America’s Cup jibs were made exactly this way by North Sails as are all the sails in the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race.
This same technology is now used with dacron sails. Dacron has proved itself over many years to be a reliable, tough and affordable material, so making molded sails from Dacron seemed a logical step.
The introduction of 3Di Nordac this year to the North Sails product range has shifted the goalposts. These sails are 100% polyester fibres, molded and engineered for maximum durability and strength, making them excellent cruising sails. It’s all quite technical using a robotically-controlled gantry laying pre impregnated fibers with thermoset resin to your sails specific design and layed up over a full size male mould. Sounds pretty cool for a cruising boat! But the reality is dacron sails are so reliable it seemed a natural progression for this technology to move forward into the broader sailing fraternity.
The development of 3Di Nordac dacron molded sails has been tested over the last year on demanding ocean cruising boats and charter fleets. The results have been impressive. The technology, advancements in longevity, design and construction will make the tradition of white dacron sails for cruising boats stay with us well into the future.
If considering a more traditional sail construction the trend towards radial cut sails is now the new standard. The advantage of radial cut sails versus the original cross cut sail is superior shape holding. The radial design means North designers can place the panel strength along the load path of the sails. They also look pretty cool as well!
North Sails Radian cloth is a dacron specifically designed for radial cut sails and combined with our Tour laminated range for larger boats ensures those sailors which still like their sails sewn with thread are well catered for. Both products are North Sails in house manufactured cloths specifically designed for our radial cut traditional panelled sails.
At the pinnacle of cruising sails is the Endurance range. These sails are direct America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race trickle down technology. These sails have been hurtled around the globe on the Volvo Ocean Race, Vendee Globe and the Jules Verne.
The trickle down from the Grand Prix events doesn’t start and finish with sails however.
The Vendee Globe and similar events has driven big advances in sail handling technology all of which are very applicable for the cruising sailor.
If you are old enough to remember some of the first furling system for sails they were probably better off being used for a clothes line. Little plastic things with stretchy ropes. If the sail did furl it was a miracle and when it was re deployed the sail looked more like corrugated iron with the expected rust stains.
Furling large sails is now seen as the norm with Super Maxis, Vendee Globe competitors and Volvo Ocean racers all using various furling systems to enable them to go faster and safer with less effort.
The advances in rope technology have allowed for furling sails to have super strong soft rope forestays in the luff of the sails. For instance a sail on an inner forestay like a Number #4 type jib can be hoisted on soft rope inner forestays with a furler. If it gets too windy simply hoist the Number #4 jib, furl up the Genoa and deploy the new jib.
If sailing cracked sheets it may be possible to fly both the Genoa and Jib at the same time getting to your destination quicker.
Want to get there even quicker and add an even larger furling sail. Reaching and Running sails are now designed with furling systems. The larger the sails become, the more we rely on the new sail construction technology for strength, weight and design to enable ease of handling.
Cruising sailors can now enjoy a level of sail design, construction and handling systems normally only available to the grand prix racer.
What to take from all this?
The current selection of sails and products to suit your next adventure is huge. Whether it be a coastal cruise or a global expeditions.
All cruising sailors aim to make the journey safe, reliable and enjoyable. There has never been a better time to be cruising.
Ian “Biggles” Johnson