What Are Molded Sails

Smooth vent that represents a molded sail.

Vent pieced together from a number of flat sections like a paneled sail.

Figure 5.1

Two different plumbing elbows illustrating molded sails. The aluminium vent on the right represents the paneled sail with a curved form being made up from a number of flat sections joined together. Molded sails, on the other hand, are specifically designed to allow the yarns to follow an exact, curved catenary thereby increasing the efficiency of each individual fiber.

made up of layers of fibers, taffetas, films, and other substances. But in contrast to conventional panelled sails - either radial or cross-cut - the load-bearing yarns are laid down to follow the precise load paths that will be incurred by the sail, as opposed to straight lines in the form of a weave or scrim. Note that while in the case of North Sails' now famous 3DL process where the entire sail is made in one piece on a single mold, there are other companies that build their sails in separate sections that are then joined together to produce the final product. North, however, is the only company that can claim that their sails are truly molded. To illustrate this point, if you cut out a section of a North 3DL sail you will not be able to lay it flat. Every square inch of the sail has some molded shape to it. While the other sail-makers will argue that their sails are also molded, in fact what they are referring to are the computer programs they use that design the shape and engineering of the sail as if the sail was molded, but in fact shape is added through more conventional means, i.e., at each seam. The basic idea, however, of having load-bearing yarns or fibers follow an exact catenary remains the same. Despite the gee-whiz nature of the 3DL process, the other techniques are also worth a close look. In fact, they have plenty of advantages and backers among racing and cruising sailors alike.

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