Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Preparing your sails for winter

As we approach the time of the year when most people are thinking about laying-up their boats for the winter it is important to give some thought to your sails. All too often we see furling genoas being left up all winter whilst the boat is ashore; the same goes for mainsails that are left on underneath their sail covers. This of course means that the sails are at the mercy of the elements for extended periods of time; not only that but the tightly bound and folded sails combined with a damp salty environment become perfect breeding grounds for mould and mildew. We strongly recommend therefore that if the boat is out of use for any period of time, especially over what can be a long and harsh winter at the very least they should be unbent and stored somewhere dry. If you are in a position to rinse and dry the sails yourself and inspect them closely prior to folding them away that’s great but if not we are happy to take care of the whole process for you.

Sail repairs and service by professionals

Regular maintenance of your sails by skilled sailmakers can significantly enhance their working life, saving money for the owner and ensuring reliability when it is needed most. Sails operate in a hostile environment where sail and pollutants can cause serious damage to even the best kept sails. Similarly, constant wear & tear requires careful repair and maintenance with an end of season overhaul being essential for the longevity of your sail wardrobe. It is important that any damage, no matter how small is repaired as quickly as possible in order to prevent further damage occurring.

Recuts and retrofits

A simple recut can improve shape and give a new lease of life to a ‘tired’ sail. With improved shape comes improved performance and handling, something that is well worth thinking about whilst the sail is off the boat anyway. Retrofit extras include UV protection, luff flatteners for shape retention when genoas are partially furled, changing from hanks to luff foils, altering batten configurations, adding reefs to mainsails etc.

Sail Laundry

OneSails recommend that any sails that are salty or damp get sent to a sail laundry prior to winter storage. The laundry process will remove any salt and any other airborne pollutants which may harm the sails if left for any period of time. This in turn helps to prolong the overall life of the sail. It also has the added benefit of making the sails easier to work on if any service work is required, and means that they will be dry when they are put away for the winter. If they are put away whilst damp, they are more likely to attract mould or mildew and will not be in a pleasant state when you come to bend them back on next season.

The specialist sail laundries are essentially large warehouse type buildings. The sails are cleaned by a variety of processes. A few older sails that have either gone soft with age or which have a soft feel by design get washed in large industrial washing machines. There is very little (if any) in the way of detergents or bleaches that gets added at this stage, the sails are simply rinsed to remove any salt. The vast majority of sails and in particular racing sails don’t go into the machines. They are laid flat on a smooth concrete floor and hosed down with fresh water from a pressure washer with a special attachment. Whilst the sail is on the floor any spot cleaning is done to remove any green algae, mildew, grease etc. At this stage some chemicals such as mild detergent solutions will be used where necessary. If chemicals have been used, the sails are then rinsed again. Once the sails have been cleaned they are then hung up to dry before being folded and returned to the sailmaker.

Whilst we highly recommend sail laundry for any sails that are being stored for any length of time, the process does have certain limitations. Although the sails will be returned from the laundry dry, salt free and in an ideal state to be worked on or stored, the process is not a cure all that will leave the sails looking ‘as good as new’. Stains such as mildew, grease and rust may be removed if they are treated straight away but will stain the sail permanently if left for any period of time. Other typical stains are from diesel or machine oil. These cannot be removed fully and will always leave a stain though laundering them will remove any smell and surface residue. It should also be noted that there is no guarantee that stains including mildew, mould or rust will be removed during the laundry process.

At OneSails GBR we are pleased to be able to offer a full range of sail repair and maintenance services, please feel free to contact us to see what we can do for you and how we can help to extend the life of your sails. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

4T Forte - One piece composite sails for racing & cruising

In 2007, OneSails introduced the first continuous fibre sails built without the use of resin or glue, eliminating delamination issues at a stroke. Now OneSails goes a step further, by introducing 4T FORTE™ membranes made from exclusive Multi Micro Structure (MMS™) technology (patent pending).

The 4T FORTE™ composite structure incorporates high modulus fibres such as STR Solid Stripes, a new low stretch component of MMS™ technology which eliminates both glue and the mylar film, so often the weak element of a laminate sail. Using a multi micro layered structure, elements of the membrane are fused together in a cross linked, polymerised matrix resulting in a stable, stretch resistant, and durable sail. By doing away with both glue and mylar film these sails are significantly lighter than conventional laminate sails. Not only is 4T FORTE™ intrinsically lighter than alternatives, but weight saving is enhanced by the fact that a 4T FORTE™ membrane does not need to be covered with extra woven taffeta fabric to protect it from UV or improve durability. Using components derived from recent developments for the military and biomedical science, MMS™ technology provides a robust and reliable sail skin, manufactured with the minimum of environmental impact and allowing realistic recycling options. Since glues, resins, and solvents have been replaced by heat activated fusion and the base polymer is 100% recyclable in a standard waste separation process, 4T FORTE™ sails can claim to be truly "green sails".

Multi Micro Structure (MMS™)  technology represents a leap forward in the production of sail material, leaving traditional mylar based laminates in its wake. A core structural grid, constructed from high modulus fibre takes care of the principal loads, whilst oriented micro layers provide strength in other secondary directions. The entire skin is encapsulated between ripstop "shields", which are UV, moisture, and mildew resistant. The whole skin, with its continuous fibres, is vacuum cured in a heat activated cross polymerisation process. which fuses the components together so that every single element in the structure contributes to shape holding. As a result, a 4T FORTE™ sail membrane not only exhibits superior structural integrity, but the use of more efficient components creates a sail up to 25% lighter than film based alternatives.

Thermo Moulded Sails

Unlike most of the membranes in the market that are built with the use of resins or glue, 4T FORTE™ membranes are made by a vacuum cured heat-activated cross polymerisation process. This ‘thermo moulding’ technology ensures superior structural integrity with no extra weight in the way of adhesives added to the sail. The cohesion of the different layers that create the flexible composite is obtained through the vacuum fusion of the thermoplastic elements which is why adhesives are not necessary. An added advantage of this process is that because no resins or glues are involved delamination is not possible and this term is therefore inappropriate with regards to 4T FORTE™.

STR Solid Stripes

For many years carbon has been the ultimate and dominant fibre in performance sailmaking. In 4T FORTE™ OneSails has instead introduced ‘STR Solid Stripes’ which have a better strength/weight ratio than carbon and a huge number of other advantages including being more robust, having higher tenacity and a full resistance to the harsh factors of the marine environment such as UV, temperature and moisture. These latest generation polymers have been developed relatively recently using a truly innovative synthesis processes. They are characterized by low specific weight and very simple chemical chains that are linked and rigid and which resist deformation by various aggressive spoiling agents.

STR Solid Stripes are similar to other products used in sailmaking such as Dyneema and Spectra, but they should be regarded as entirely distinct because they are not subject to the same kinds of issues such as shrinkage and creep. Moreover, they do not exist in the form of bundles of microfilaments, but as 'stripes' or thin homogeneous ribbons, presenting a significant contact surface and enhanced cohesion in the multi-layered microstructure within which it integrates perfectly.

As a consequence of the enhanced properties of these flexible composites, there will be a shift away from regarding racing sails as ‘disposable’ as 4T FORTE™  sails will be more durable with improved performance and better shape stability. In the cruising market the impact will be even bigger because it will be possible to have sails that last well, but which at the same time are lightweight, soft, dimensionally stable and with an attractive appearance.

Because 4T FORTE™ is a multilayer composite it can consequently be produced in many configurations with the modular style of construction lending itself to adaptation to meet the requirments of different end uses and budgets. At present the entry level version features structural yarns of Twaron with the next level featuring STR Solid Stripes. The premium version features a higher modulus version of STR Solid Stripes for larger boats and instances where performance cannot be compromised. The cruising variants of these three options feature a robust outer skin which offers enhanced UV, moisture & mildew resistance without the need for a heavy taffeta layer.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Code Zero's for racing and cruising

Many modern yachts whether they are designed for racing or cruising tend to be equipped with reduced area or non-overlapping headsails that are very convenient and easy to handle but unfortunately make light air sailing, particularly when just off the breeze very slow and tedious. This is perhaps more of an issue on cruising boats where the single furling headsail will be a lot heavier than the equivalent found on a race boat. Even in more traditional boats with large overlapping genoas the sails tend to be so heavy that in light airs they just sag and do very little. A Code Zero (racing) or FFR (cruising) is the ideal solution for the discerning sailor who wants to maximise the yachts potential in light airs and have more control at wider angles as the breeze builds.

A Code Zero for racing purposes under IRC has to rate as a spinnaker which places restrictions on the geometry of the sail; essentially its mid with must be wider than 75% of the foot width. This in turn places constraints on how flat the sail can be.

The OneSails FFR (flat furlable reacher) is a cruising version of the Code Zero. Because it isn’t constrained by any racing rules they are actually more efficient at closer angles to the wind than their race oriented cousins.

Both the Code Zero and the FFR are considerably flatter and smaller than their downwind oriented counterparts. The tack of the sail is usually attached to a point just forward of the base of the forestay or perhaps to a short bowsprit or prodder. There is plenty of precedent however, particularly on cruising boats for them to be tacked to a strong point just behind the forestay and set on a short strop so that the sail is set clear of the guardwires.  They are designed to be flown with a taut luff which enables them to be used with a dedicated free flying furling unit which in turn makes them relatively easy to hoist and drop though many racing boats will choose to launch them in the same way as a conventional spinnaker. Both sails are usually constructed from a dedicated ‘Code-Zero’ style laminate though on smaller boats ripstop Nylon is often used as a less price sensitive alternative.

Both the Code Zero and the FFR can be thought of as very versatile sails. Although they are designed primarily as close winded sails they can be used in other ways too. In less than around 5 knots TWS it is possible to sail as close as 50 degrees TWA which is pretty well as close as the boat would sail with its regular headsail. The difference is that the sail is bigger and lighter so the boat performs better. As the breeze builds the sail is used at wider angles as the luff begins to sag and the boat starts to get powered up. In 10 knots TWS the sail would typically be used on a beam reach when the boat would be underpowered with the regular jib but overpowered with a full sized spinnaker. The same principles apply as the breeze builds further; the sail gets used at wider angles down to a maximum TWA of around 130 degrees but by this time a dedicated downwind oriented sail would probably be more stable.

In summary they are practical, easy to handle sails whose all round versatility makes them a welcome addition to most sail inventories, regardless of the end use, racing or cruising. 

Just a quick note to tell you how pleased I am with the new FFR that you made for Albatross (She 36). It has transformed our light air sailing which was evident with reduced fuel bills on our recent cruise to La Rochelle in hot weather with little wind. It helps that it is so easily handled with the furler so it can be set or furled on a whim. On the leg from Ile d'Yeu to Ile de Re we were getting 7+knots with a 9 knot beam wind - magic - especially as it was faster than the engine would have given us....! (Richard B, Hamble)

The Code Zero was the secret weapon (at Giraglia 2013). It had a much better range than I had expected and was extensively used. So thank you for making it at such short notice....(Mike G, Swan 56)