Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Sails For Easy Go

We made our own sails for Easy Go the first time around. Using the Practical Junk Rig with reference to The Chinese Sailing Rig we had a functional and good looking suit of sails. Their deficiency in blue water and heavy weather sailing soon became apparent however. The cloth was too light and fluttering caused damage under way and even when they were furled in the lazy jacks. Patching and reinforcements minimalized this until UV degradation and the powerful weather we experienced sailing south in November 2011 indicated that it was time to replace them.

We met Andrew Dove of Antigua Sails at Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua and it soon became apparent that he is light years ahead of us in the technology of sail design and fabrics. Using the original Easy Go sails we lofted up the new ones on the floor of his spectacular sail loft and got them cut out and taped together in one evening. The staff of Antigua Sails then took on the work of sewing them together with their state of the art air powered Cordes ogspotsewing machines.

Andrew had some interesting and radical ideas on sail building which we have incorporated or are considering for the the future.

These sails are made of a high quality 7.5 ounce polyester. Andrew identified that the original material we had used was an inferior loose weave polyester that depended on resin for its strength. The new sails are a tighter weave with less polyester. The material will stand up to UV degradation longer and will with endure the trials of heavy weather better.

The top two triangular panels are made significantly different with the single seam horizontally from equidistant and perpendicular between the battens at the leech and terminating at the luff. Heavily stitched they will resist the fluttering and stretching that the previous sails experienced. The radial appearance shows strength and it looks good as well. After the top panels had failed twice it was time to try something different. We are looking forward to giving them a good workout and seeing how they stand up.

The lower rectangular panels are stitched vertically as were the originals.

All panels have a small scallop on the leech to minimize fluttering. The leech and luff have lines sewn into the edges to adjust the tensions at the ends of the sails. They can also be tied to the battens in the event of a blown out panel to secure the battens until repairs can be made.

The loops for the sheets are spectra rope that has a loop formed mid way. The two tails are unlaid, fanned out and then glued and sandwiched between the reinforcing patches for the grommets that retain the battens.

Andrews experience with blue water sails indicated that all the reinforcements were far to light. These sails are really beefed up.

Eyelets are hydraulically pressed. The four corner attachment points are also tied back with webbing loops sewn into the reinforcement patches rather that the traditional hand sewn rings.

Chafe protection for the batten pockets against the mast is provided by a spectra webbing that should last longer than the sails. We were suitably impressed with the first sails chafe protection using the seat belts from old Lada cars. They still show only minimal wear.

Now for some interesting innovations that we are considering. Andrew has successfully painted polyester sails increasing their UV resistance and strengthening the fabric. The paint used in a high quality Acrylic Latex House Paint cut by half with water. The paint is applied with a roller. There is some minor flaking but this is minimal and decreases with further applications. A small price to pay for added sail life. This innovation is high on our list. We will let the sails weather a bit then add the paint to change the colour from basic white. Acrylic Latex House paint has served us well on the decks and hull of Easy Go.

A very radical innovation is in the batten construction. We have not implemented this yet but again it is high on our experimental list. The current battens are aluminum tubing which experience memory issues after being used in heavy weather. The top batten on the rectangular sail panels tends to bow and not come back to its original shape. I have straightened them out and use them lower in the sail rotating out the battens every time we reinstall the sails. Andrew has been experimenting and using Air Battens on Code 0 sails and we both agreed that it was likely the best form of batten to develop camber in the Junk Rig Sail. While these battens can be extremely complicated with compressors to inflate or deflate the battens a simpler rig is envisioned for Easy Go. Using a constant thickness high pressure air hose with machined ends to accept the batten lashings and a air filling fitting they will be pumped up to the appropriate pressures with a bicycle pump. They can be made virtually as rigid as aluminum tubing but will give camber to the sails at slightly lesser pressure. I'm hoping to do some experiments over the next year with this process and look forward to results from any one who has seen or used air battens. I think they will simplify the building of the sails allowing a flat traditional sail to develop a superior camber comparable to that of a traditional non battened lug sail providing the lift necessary for better windward performance. Andrew is developing techniques where the air batten will be built into the fabric of the sails minimizing weight and the need to lash a batten at all. When this becomes a reality the Junk Sail will become easier to make and rig to the mast.


  1. Any chance of photos to accompany the text? Make it easier for non-junkers like me to follow! Sounds interesting though = particularly the house paint to the sails...

  2. Information about making sails is very innovative.Thanks for sharing.