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UK Sailmakers Ireland: Five Top Tips for Buying Sails

23rd August 2019
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Outrageous—J109 on her way to class win at Sovereigns Cup 2019 using Carbon Uni Titanium main and headsail Outrageous—J109 on her way to class win at Sovereigns Cup 2019 using Carbon Uni Titanium main and headsail Photo: UK Sails

Olympic sailor Mark Mansfield who is an agent for UK Sailmakers Ireland offers his five top tips for those looking at buying new sails this year.

1. Correct Size Sails

Make sure the new sails are the correct size. IRC rule changes are happening all the time and good advantages can be had from optimising the sail sizing, sometimes by just a small amount. Make sure you get advice from your sailmakers about what is best. We had one Class One boat this year that ended up with the same size sails as before but dropped two points by changing the shape of their sails a small amount.

black velvetBlack Velvet Beneteau 34.7 with her Uni Titanium Main and Headsail. Black Velvet recently converted to non-overlapping headsails

2. Seasonal Discounts

Make sure you take advantage of any discounts that might be available. Autumn is traditionally a quiet time for production facilities and so discounts are offered for orders at that time. At UK Sailmakers, we have just introduced a new discount arrangement. More details here

3. Sailmaker's Knowledge

Make the best use of your Sailmakers. People working with sailmakers have a wealth of knowledge about what makes boats go fast. Whether it is helping you with your rating optimisation, helping you tune your rig or other areas, make use of them. Sometimes this can be added as an included extra in a sails purchase deal.

4.  Loft Facilities

Ensure the sailmakers you are thinking of has a proper loft to be able to service and adjust your sails. Ordering from a sailmaker with no proper loft facilities means adjustments or repairs are extremely difficult to organise. We recently had a customer who twisted his Code 0 cable and was unable to untwist it himself. It went down to our loft in Crosshaven where the 17-metre sail was hung up, untangled and refitted. This would be very difficult to achieve without proper facilities.

5. Sails to Suit Requirements

Make sure you are being quoted the material in the sails that suit your requirements and not some lower-tech and cheaper material that looks fancy but actually will stretch very quickly and not last long. For racing boats over 30 foot or even a bit smaller, the go-to material for quite a few years for low stretch is Carbon. The problem with not having Carbon in high load sails is if you exceed their normal wind range, they will eventually stretch, and once that has happened, you end up with turned in leeches and baggy sails. They will not last competitively for the same number of years as Carbon-reinforced sails.

WOW XP 44George Sisk's new X Yachts XP 44 Wow on way to winning the 2019 Sovereign's Cup with her Carbon Uni Titanium Main and Headsail Photo: Bob Bateman

So, Why Carbon?

A quick history lesson on sail materials.

Up to the ’70s, nearly all sails were made from Dacron (Polyester) and were 'crosscut'. Fairly cheap, stretchy material, but lasted a long time.

In the late ’70s, new materials such as Mylar emerged with much less stretch and were used for quite a few years.

In the early ’80s, Kevlar became the go-to material. Originally used for bulletproof vests, it had good stretch resistance but was more expensive. The first Kevlar sail I ever sailed with was on Moonduster in 1981, her first year, when she did the Admiral's cup. Kevlar sails in those days were still crosscut.

In about 1982, tri-radial sails, using a combination of Mylar in the low stretch areas and Kevlar in the high stretch areas(such as the leech) changed the way sails were made forever. Kevlar, however, has low UV protection and stretches after a lot of flogging and wear.

In the early 2000s, Carbon was introduced to sails and this was another game-changer. Much less resistant to UV damage and significantly less stretch. It has become the option of choice for the racing community. It is more expensive, however, which is why some sailmakers when in a competitive situation, sell sails without Carbon.

At UK Sailmakers, our Race sails (X drive Carbon, Titanium and Uni Titanium) are all Carbon-reinforced sails. The latter two options are moulded sails.

The graph below shows the strength differences 

sailcloth

If you are buying new sails, here is what you should be looking at:

  • Fully Cruising - Dacron is fine
  • Cruising and occasional races on Echo - Dacron is still fine
  • Racing mainly and occasional cruising - Carbon-reinforced sails such as UK Sailmakers 'X drive Carbon'
  • Racing mainly, club level - Carbon-reinforced sails such as 'X drive Carbon'

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]

Yannick Lemonnier [email protected] 

Andrew Steenson [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]

Mark Mansfield

About The Author

Mark Mansfield

Email The Author

Four-time Olympian Mark Mansfield is a Professional Sailor and racing Consultant/Agent for UK Sails Ireland. More on Mark here

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