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UK Sailmakers: Titanium Construction

15th May 2019
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UK Sailmakers’ Uni-Titanium sails on the Dublin Bay yacht WOW UK Sailmakers’ Uni-Titanium sails on the Dublin Bay yacht WOW

Towards the end of the winter period and during the beginning of spring UK Sailmakers Ireland were out and about doing our rounds of the country’s yacht clubs getting sailors hungry and prepared for the busy season ahead. Our EDU talk this year was based around top tips for fast sailing – always popular for sailors of all levels, and tends to bring out the questions! This year we also had a short segment on component-based sailmaking and sail materials – this was after answering many interesting questions from sailors on the subject during the 2018 sailing season.

Being conscious of avoiding a sales pitch we focused on the core materials and components used in modern sailmaking – carbon, technora, aramids, polyester, dyneema etc – and how these components were able to slot in and out of our particular production processes.

This segment was successful beyond our expectations. Being able to see components in their raw forms, discuss the different manufacturing processes and how each component can slot in and out as needed, and then having finished sail and material samples to touch and feel, it became a very interactive and informative segment for the audience.

We were surprised by some misconceptions surrounding modern formed sails, and even more so by how many sailors knew very little about what actually lay “under the hood” of their sails, both old and new. Having answered many questions and deconstructed many processes and products we felt it was worth satisfying the inner sailing-geek of the other sailors throughout the country.

You would be hard pressed to go racing at a major event in Ireland without seeing a black sail so that seems like a good place to start.

UNI-TITANIUM – GRAND PRIX PERFORMANCE

Titanium is UK Sailmakers’ performance sailing product line in which Uni-Titanium is the top level Grand Prix performance product. There are differences between the of our Titanium products – this is where the “component” based aspect of our production processes becomes crucial – the manufacturing process remains constant but the components being used in each individual sail can alter to suit its specification. This provides us with the freedom to explore, test, and evaluate new components and combinations without altering our manufacturing process. It also allows us to continually monitor our process performance and improve its efficiency.

So what is “under the hood” of a Uni-Titanium sail? Watch our video below and find our step by step breakdown below to find out.

Illu Titanium UniFilm

THE FORM

Uni-Titanium, like all Titanum sails, are one-piece sails when they leave production. The first step in the process is to manipulate the form into the concave flying shape of the sail

BOTTOM SKIN

The bottom skin is now laid onto the formed form. This skin consists of robotically cut panels which precisely match the form shaping. The outer side of the skin can be one of several different finishes depending on the sail specification. The inner side of the skin is coated with a co-polymer adhesive.

PRIMARY LOADING

Computer simulation is used to calculate the loading a sail will experience once flying in reality. These simulations are not run for every single sail. They are run for many different sizes, aspect ratios, specific design wind ranges etc. From these simulations come yarn layouts. For performance racing projects these simulations are run repeatedly for each sail until the most effective layout is found.

Once a layout for the sail has been chosen; carbon fibre yarns (or whatever component mix is chosen) are laid along the layout paths. These run continuously from corner to corner without interruption. The yarns are laid dry, without glue to reduce weight, and under a constant tension. They are held in place by the tacky coating on the base skin. Because the sail is still in its flying shape on the form the yarns are laid as they will be when the sail is hoisted. These yarns distribute the primary loading of the sail.

SECONDARY AND TERTIARY LOADING

When your sail is hit by a gust it will flex and distort as its power is harnessed, this is essentially a loss of power for the boat. This is realized by having to increase your halyard tension in higher wind speeds.

Unidirectional carbon sheets are laid throughout a Uni-Titanium sail. This is where the “uni” in Uni-Titanium comes from. The purpose of this additional unidirectional carbon is to absorb the secondary and tertiary loading on the sail – harnessing their power instead of it being lost in flex and distortion.

With a Uni-Titanium sail when a gust hits the sail shape does not change unless the trim is altered – it remains in its flying shape without distortion. The means that the full power of the wind is being transferred to your boat; resulting in more drive and lift in your sailplan.

TOP SKIN

The top skin is now laid with the co-polymer side facing down. This completes the sail structure. This top skin can be the same or a different component than the bottom skin. This allows great versatility when specifying the sail construction.

FORMING INTO A ONE PIECE SAIL

Once the sail structure is complete the sail can now move towards the fusing process to turn it into a truly one-piece sail.

A vacuum bag is applied to the form, still in its flying shape, and the sail is vacuum compressed to 1 bar. This squeezes the layers together under immense pressure and causes the co-polymer coatings on each of the skins to infuse through each layer.

The sail is then fused at 125°C with UV heat and pressure. This chemically locks all the layers together – forming them into one single piece.

Once fused the sail is then allowed to cool and cure before moving on for finishing.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY FINISHING

Once the sail has cured it then moves onto the loft floor for finishing. This is where the detailing of the sail is added. Primary finishing includes patching and reef reinforcements, headboard, clew tack and head attachments, luff tape or hardware installation, batten pockets and tensioning devices, leech and foot lines etc. This is where the sail is transformed from a sail-shaped sheet into a useable sail.

Secondary finishings are also applied in tandem. These include sail numbers, camber stripes, tell tails, class logo, manufacturer logos and other cosmetic details.

ON THE WATER

UK Sailmakers’ Uni-Titanium brings Grand Prix performance to the hands of sailors on racing grounds throughout the country North, South, East and West – look for black sails with the UK Sailmakers logo.

uksails topper

About the Loft

UK Sailmakers Ireland brings modern professional sailmaking to Irish Sailing.​ Formerly known as McWilliam Sailmakers; the company was started 47 years ago to bring the latest technology to Irish sailors - we continue this mission today.

Under new leadership in 2018; our loft is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of all Irish sailors. ​As sailmakers we do not just design sails for boats. We design and build sails for your boat. Our extensive and versatile product line allows us to produce sails to suit your requirements and expectations.   

​As a core loft within the UK Sailmakers Group we are uniquely placed to draw from a worldwide pool of knowledge and experience - these ties have been recently strengthened with the return of Barry Hayes and Claire Morgan from Hong Kong. ​Barry held a key role in our primary production facility on Hong Kong Island for the past fifteen years. With their return comes a renewed focus on technology R&D on Irish waters.  

​With a wide variety of sailing conditions and a impressive pool of talent the Irish cruiser racing fleet is the ideal test bed for new technologies.​ 

​As with all things in sailing; the secrets will be closely guarded - but for the first time in decades Irish sailors will be at the forefront of sail technology development.​

Although much has changed; some constants remain. The same great sail and customer service we have provided in the past will continue, as does our commitment and passion for growing the sport of sailing all over the country. 

​Staff:

Barry Hayes [email protected]

Graham Curran [email protected]

Claire Morgan [email protected]

Mark Mansfield [email protected]

​Contact Information:

UK Sailmakers Ireland

Hoddersfield Mill

Crosshaven

County Cork

P43 EY26

Republic of Ireland

Tel: +353 21 4831505

Fax: +353 21 4831700

Email: [email protected]

Graham Curran

About The Author

Graham Curran

Email The Author

Graham Curran is a sailmaker and director of UK Sails Ireland

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