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What will my sails be made of?

The sails you purchase from us are built from the highest quality woven Dacron, made for superior shape holding. They are designed for the cruising sailor who truly values performance and durability.

Each sail utilizes Dupont's high modulus type 52 Dacron fiber. It is constructed with a tightness and weave balance that locks the fibers together so it is not dependent on resin for its long term shape.

The earliest sailcloth was constructed of woven flax. In the 1800s, the switch was made to American cotton and later, to Egyptian cotton.Currently, most woven sailcloth is constructed out of Dacron, although other fibers such as Kevlar, Spectra, and Pentex see limited use.

Even though it was almost 40 years ago that Dacron replaced cotton as the primary sail material for fore and aft sails, it is a bit difficult to explain all the subtleties of this fabric.Dacron sail fabric has continued to develop since it was introduced in the mid-fifties. Unfortunately, the difference between a top quality Dacron fabric that will perform well for many years and a fabric that will quickly break down and distort is not discernible by casual examination.In order to make a full assessment, the specific fibers employed and the production history of the fabric must be known. Even then, extensive testing is required to ensure that each roll of fabric is of satisfactory quality.

There are four primary factors that affect the quality and cost of Dacron sailcloth:

Yarn quality varies in terms of tenacity (breaking strength), modulus (resistance to stretch), creep (long term stretch) and "weaving quality."A high tenacity, high modulus yarn produced specifically for weaving is the most desirable and also the most expensive.

Yarn content relates to the aspect ratio of the particular sail.Lower aspect sails (number 1's) require a more balanced weave, with fibers of similar denier and count in the warp and fill. Higher aspect ratio sails such as blade jibs require more, heavier fibers along the load lines and fewer across the sail.

The tightness of the weave varies for a number of reasons, including:

  • The size of the yarns employed.The smaller the yarn denier, the tighter the weave.
  • The shrinkage of the yarns employed. Higher shrink yarns will produce a tighter weave than lower shrink yarns.
The type of finish used on the sail greatly affects the feel of the material.Also, highly resinated materials often rely on the resin for stability and when, after extended use, the resin begins to break down, the sail begins to change shape.Resin quality and quantity greatly affect the overall quality and cost of the sailcloth.

Courtesy of Doyle Sailmakers