There are many many fabrics available to the sailmaker. Here at Sanders Sails we only use the best as we rely almost entirely on word of mouth for our orders. This is why you will never see medium tenacity / boatshow fabric in our loft let alone in our sails.
Please contact us for our recommendation of what you need for your sailing application.
The first Dacron (Polyester) was developed in the 50's and this is still the most popular material for sails today. The quality of the Dacron is governed by the tenacity of the yarn used and the tightness of the weave. Cheaper Dacrons incorporate large denier medium tenacity yarns which are woven at high speed making it possible to produce large quantities very quickly. When making fabric this fast the last thing you need is yarns breaking therefore minimal tension is applied to the yarns which results in excessive crimp. The better quality Dacrons use a finer denier high tenacity yarn and considerably more of them. This means that it takes far longer to "load the beam" prior to weaving and far longer to weave the cloth. You may be surprised to hear that a good quality Dacron costs twice as much as the cheaper styles which is why "Boatshow Sailmakers" will normally only use the latter. However, a good quality Dacron will last far longer and perform far better making the initial increase in cost a worthwhile expense.
Until recently we almost exclusively used Hood Dacron for our cruising sails which was woven on old fashioned looms in Ireland. Unfortunately this facility has now closed down which has forced us to re-enter the market place in order to source alternative cloth of a similar quality. This has been an enlightening experience because we have not only discovered how cheap some fabrics are but also how poorly they perform. After testing all the styles from all the manufacturers we were quickly able to eliminate a large quantity as being "not good enough" but this still left us with a range of styles that needed to be "catalogued". After a lot of testing we finalised our choice to the following:
A) Crosscut Dacron:
a) Standard quality: Dimension Polyant C-Breeze Dacron.
b) Best quality: Dimension Polyant AP or SF.
c) Classic quality: Contender AP (this is for when a softer fabric is required that can accept the increased bias stretch of this cloth).
B) Radial Dacron:
a) For Cruising: Challenge radial Dacron.
b) For Racing: Challenge “Warp Drive” or Dimension Polyant “Pro radial”.
N.B. The racing fabrics are also suitable for performance cruising.
Vectron used to be exclusively manufactured by Hood textiles in Ireland but since their closure three other companies have started to produce it. The quality of these fabrics is currently inconsistent but we have sourced some that does compare favourably with that produced by Hoods. After much testing we found that Dimension Polyant Vectron is the best weft orientated woven sailcloth you can buy due to the inclusion of Vectran yarns which significantly increases the resistance to stretch; we use it exclusively.
Hydranet is a woven fabric that incorporates Dyneema in its construction to provide low stretch and rugged durability. Hydranet is made in weft orientated and warp orientated styles although we rarely use the former as we prefer the performance of the Vectron. It is rare to be able to use a woven fabric in a radial cut but this has been achieved with this fabric due to the unconventional method of manufacture. The Crimpless Dyneema warp yarns are the reason why the cloth can be used for radial sails.
The problem with woven materials is that due to the weaving process the yarns ‘are crimped’ which means that there is a certain amount of stretch inherent in the construction. Laminating eliminates this crimp and the film used either side of the scrim provides good bias support. Laminating reduces the amount of the yarn content required which results in a lighter sailcloth with less stretch. Racing sails take advantage of this reduction in weight so most racing laminates are what is known as ‘film on film’, in other words shiny on both sides. Although this weight reduction is an advantage to cruising sailors too the durability reduction isn’t. For this reason cruising laminates have a layer of light weight ‘Taffeta’ glued to each side of the fabric. This taffeta increases the bulk of the cloth which increases the durability.
These fabrics are designed to be used in a crosscut construction making them more cost effective. This style of design is most suited to smaller yachts or high aspect sails such as mainsails and No 3 genoas. The fabrics are available in Pentex, Aramid (Kevlar) and Carbon Fibre.
Warp laminates are designed to be used in radial cut sails. This more sophisticated panel layout takes longer to make and wastes more fabric than the Maxx / Flex alternatives and therefore costs more. Radial cutting duplicates the design more accurately than crosscut therefore this style of sail creates smoother shapes and is especially beneficial on low aspect sails such as No1 and No2 Genoas. These fabrics are available using Polyester, Pentex, Twaron and Carbon Fibre.
Membrane sails such as 3DLand D4 are custom made laminates. The yarns are individually positioned to align with the loads in the sail. This method of construction is the most expensive but also the most efficient. Sanders Sails design the yarn maps of each sail themselves selecting yarn type, denier and yarn count. The following yarn types are available: Pentex, Twaron, Kevlar, Carbon Fibre, Technora & Vectran.
Crosscut constructions available with Pentex, Aramid and Carbon Fibre.
Radially constructed sails that are available using Polyester, Pentex, Carbon Fibre and Dyneema. More expensive than the Voyager / Flex styles due to the more sophisticated panel layouts but better for low aspect sails and essential on larger yachts where the crosscut constructions do not have the right quantity or quality of yarn. The Dyneema Cruiselam is only available in warp constructions therefore you will not find crosscut laminates on large yachts where the stretch resistance of these superior yarns is necessary.
Cruising yachts can take advantage of this more advanced method of sail construction. To make the fabric more durable a layer of taffeta is laminated to each side (as with the other cruising laminates) of the custom membranes. Despite what stories you have heard it is possible to make successful reefing sails in these constructions. Due to advances in the sail design software it is now possible to create a ‘map’ that positions yarns at the reefed positions on roller reefing genoas as well as on mainsails.