Partly out of a desire to save overall weight in the boat, and partly in an effort to engineer more efficient sails, sailmakers started to manufacture sails that had a relatively light base fabric, then added a second ply of woven Dacron along the high load area, i.e., the leech. This development took place in the early 1980s and initial forays into two-plied sails, or sails that had heavier fabric up the leech were not a total success. The point where the different fabric strengths came together, for example, was an area that caused problems since a crease or gutter quickly formed where the seam had to try to accommodate the contrasting stretch characteristics of the different fabrics. The first designs simply had the fabrics joining along an imaginary line that ran parallel to the leech (Figure 4.7). As sailmakers began to recognize that there was
The first designs had the second ply joining the single ply along an imaginary line that ran parallel to the leech.
more load toward the head and clew, and less in the middle of the sail, some started to end the second ply in a crescent shape (Figure 4.8), while others tried their own configurations with the result that the saw-tooth sail (Figure 4.9) and other aptly named sails became part of sailmaking jargon. In each case, the basic idea remained the same. Use heavier fabric where it was needed and keep the rest of the sail light.
Another advantage of these two-ply sails was that they allowed the designers to combine fabrics in a sail. For example, they could use a balanced Dacron for the base fabric and a fill-oriented Dacron for the second ply up the leech. This way the yarns were being used to their fullest potential. They even tried three-ply sails, but the added expense of building the sails did not show commensurate gains in performance. After much analysis and trial and error, sailmakers found which fabrics could be plied and matched with others and that if they carried the transition point further into the body of the sail there was less chance of a problem occurring. It was a cumbersome process and sail engineers knew there had to be a better way. Fortunately, it was just about this same time that laminated fabrics began gaining a foothold in the industry.
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