Voyagers weigh in on sail fabric

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In the next issue of Ocean Navigator we'll have a special section on sails. So we asked Jim and Jean Foley, who sail aboard the 62-foot aluminum pilothouse cutter Onora, for some feedback about their voyaging sails. The Foleys know a little about voyaging: they were awarded the Cruising Club of America's 2014 Far Horizons award in recognition of more than 110,000 miles of offshore cruising they've completed during the past 21 years.

Here is Jim Foley's response:

"Onora’s original sails were spectra laminate and theyserved her well for eight years but at 35,000 miles they were baggy and condemned as ‘not worth fixing’ by a Stockholm sailmaker. They did not look very good. Because they were so heavy, a couple of years before, we had left them on when Onora was on the hard in Trinidad. We returned two months later to find them permanently darkened by mildew.

"For replacement I choose sails made from a fiber called Hydranet. It weighs less. The weight factor aloft is nice — less heeling — but the bigger plus for the two of us comes when we strip the sails off of 62-foot Onora. We were promised the fabric would last longer. We now have about 35,000 miles on the new sails and still have the shape that enables us to point five degrees higher than at the same age with our old sails. Our sailmaker in Whangarei, New Zealand replacing the sunshield, congratulated us on the purchase, adding that he had just replaced a Hydranet main at 80,000 miles which still had some life in it.

"Finally, these sails don’t mildew. Of course, for what they cost they had better look good!" 

By Ocean Navigator