Monday, July 24, 2017

White Sails Preferred


It is hard to imagine a scene that would be improved by today's graphite, technical sails over the classic whites.

Muscongus Bay

All Photographs From SWNE Archives

12 comments:

  1. You are reading my mind! Watching a race this weekend, I wondered about all the dark sails out there. What is the advantage to gray sails?

    Classic is always best!

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  2. I sail for pleasure. I don't need the latest high tech gear to enjoy the feel of the wind and spray, the popping of the sail when tacking, the wind singing through the rigging, the gurgling of water as it passes the stern. There's the feeling that the boat is alive as she moves along, at one with the wind and the water. The beauty of the boat, classic white sails against blue water and blue sky, is part of that experience for me.

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    1. Bitsy, you are a poet!

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  3. In my former life, when I lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (before hi-tech sails), I would regularly travel back and forth over the Chesapeake on the Bay Bridge by Annapolis. It was always a sight to behold in the summertime to glance down at the water and see all the colorful sails, but the white were always the most glorious and majestic - the color of the others made the white stand out more. Oft times it was the only sight that made traffic jams on the bridge bearable.

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  4. As a former career sailmaker, this general opinion is heard repeatedly from people outside of the sport and industry. The reason that high performance sails are dark colors is due to the desire for weight savings and ability to hold a consistent shape. White sails, made of coated woven dacron are heavier and have a shorten effective lifespan in which the desired shape of their "wing" deteriorates rapidly in comparison. To draw a simile, while many find the aesthtics of wooden, canvas, & leather military biplanes to modern fighter jets, the leading edge of technology chooses titanium & carbon fiber for the latest generations of planes built by the aerospace industry, For more casual sailors, dacron provides an affordable and more user friendly option.

    Modern sailcloth, usually darker in color, is a composite laminate -- effectively a sandwich of load bearing carbon and kevlar held between two scrims of mylar. The mylar includes UV inhibiting coloration to protect the more vulnerable fibers within the sandwich, much like the lenses of sunglasses for the sails. Without the UV protection, the fibers within the sail have a much shorten lifespan and lose their ability to hold a desired sail shape. The major sailmakers and sailcloth manufacturers vary the colors of the UV protecting film to aid in branding their product as new generations of sail designs are introduced.

    Modern sails have a particular beauty all of their own. Google image search "America's Cup Abracadabra 2000" and you'll see photos of the navy blue carbon laminate sails that I helped build for an unsuccessful defender syndicate that year that may rank as some of the prettiest sails ever built. (Somewhere I might just have a checkbook made of the same material)

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    1. Good heavens, I had no idea! Thank you for the education!

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    2. Thanks for that great info !

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  5. Aside from longer life, less weight aloft & easier to handle, there isn't much of an advantage ;)

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  6. In reference to the second photo, taken at the New York Yacht Club Invitational for international yacht clubs, the Swan Club 42s being sailed are using identical sets of composite laminate sails built for the event. The outward appearance of being more "white" is that the external layer of the sailcloth sandwich is a thin polyester scrim referred to within the business as taffeta (no, it's not really taffeta). The taffeta makes the sail a bit easier to handle, a bit more attractive, and provides UV protection as well. The downside of the taffeta is weight. In this regatta, where all boats are sailing in one design configuration, the goal is to have every yacht equally prepared to leave no crew at a disadvantage. Therefore, weight isn't an issue.

    When viewing such sails with the sun shining on the fabric, they give a much more standard "white" appearance, although in the picture above you can see at the corners that the higher concentration of kevlar strands show through with a yellow color. If you view the sails with sun shining through the fabric (https://nyyc.org/images/phocagallery/2015_Invitational_Cup/thumbs/phoca_thumb_l_-content-photo-2015-09-36242_0_1_photo_nyyc15df_0202.jpg) , it's much easier to see the load bearing strands at work.

    The boat I race on regularly is on our second such mainsail and is an excellent compromise of aesthetics and performance. The first main was built from carbon load bearing strands between the light grey taffeta, giving it a seersucker appearance. It was lovingly referred to as the "Brooks Brothers" main and contributed to two victories in the Chicago-Mackinac race.

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  7. How about the classic red sail cloth? Red was used on the cotton sails to ward off mildew

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    1. Yeah, love the look of rust-red sail on a boat with a navy hull!

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