Cruising Fabric Options
At Zoom Sails we try out best to match the sail material with the customers needs and budget. We are not biased towards any particular type of construction and don't increase our profit margins based on the value or type of material used. We are also honest about performance, where a low stretch material will help a lot sailing high angles to windward, there will not be a lot of difference running or broad reaching. We've spent a lot of time researching and testing different materials as well as tracking them in real life use. Below are our common options for cruising sail material.
Woven Polyester (Dacron cross-cut)
Dacron is still the most common sail material used in the world today. The main reason is the low cost for a highly durable sail. Dacron has a big variance in quality and at least a dozen different dacron's are available to sailmakers from five manufacturers.
We have done extensive testing including UV resistance and are able to offer only be best performing and longest lasting dacron's in each price range to our customers.
The not as common radial cut dacron offers an advantage in low aspect non reefing sails - genoas or screechers where the bias load is high.
Woven exotic (Dyneema/Vectran)
Currently our preferred material is Hydra-Net radial cut made in Dimension Polyant in Germany. This material offers the shape holding performance of a laminate, with durability and overall life exceeding the best dacron. This makes it the Rolls Royce of long distance tropical cruising materials.
To date most of the cross-cut woven exotics haven't shown any great advantage over a 100% polyester sail. The exception is the new Nautoshere polyester/dyneema blend, which has a super tight weave. Some of the low cost "vectran" hybrids are even outperformed by quality 100% polyester wovens.
Laminated polyester and exotic fibers
Laminated polyester can offer good value high performance sails and combined with exotic fibers are the lowest stretch, most stable fabrics available. Polyester cruising laminates in radial construction are common for smaller boats, and radial Dyneema cruising laminates take over for the bigger higher load yachts.
Tear resistance and durability is generally good. The materials are suited to colder climates like North Europe and New Zealand. In equatorial climates these materials still have problems with molding, lamination and UV. Therefore are not as common for the tropical around the world sailor.