Spectra

Spectra is also made by Honeywell Performance Fibers and is a "highly processed ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene" or UHMWPE, according to the literature put out by Honeywell. This outstanding fiber has been used to build sails for megayachts and for numerous racing sailboats competing in offshore

My own boat, Great Circle, had an inventory of Spectra sails that served me well for many years and many offshore miles.

races like the Volvo Ocean Race, the Vendée Globe, and the Around Alone. My Open 50 racing boat Great Circle had sails made from Spectra, and they always performed beautifully.

Spectra's initial modulus is second only to carbon fiber, a remarkable attribute for a fiber that, like Dacron, also has terrific flex properties and good UV resistance. The problem with Spectra is that under continuous load it starts to creep, or permanently elongate, with the result that the fiber is not used in ultra-high-performance racing sails like those used in the America's Cup in which precise shape control is crucial. On the other hand, aboard large cruising boats where strength, UV resistance, light weight, and durability are paramount, Spectra yarns are often ideal. This is especially true when used in a woven format since wovens are extremely durable and offer great chafe protection. One additional drawback to Spectra is that it has a slippery feel and does not bond well with adhesives, making it very difficult to laminate. As a result, fabric makers always try to laminate film to film between the Spectra scrims when making the cloth.

The most commonly used Spectra fiber is called Spectra 1000, but Honeywell Performance Fibers also makes an even higher modulus Spectra called Spectra 2000, which is usually used to make Cuben Fiber sailcloth, although it can also be used for regular laminated Spectra fabric. Spectra's other, more popular application is for making bullet-proof vests and reinforced cockpit doors on airplanes. As a result, when there is a war or general unrest in the world, the price of Spectra skyrockets as demand exceeds supply.

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