X-Drive Carbon - Racing Mainsail

Above is the Beneteau First 36.7 SNAP SHOT racing with X-Drive Carbon/Polyester sails.

Carbon X-Drive on laminate with black yarns.

Carbon fiber is the highest performance yarn used in sailmaking. As seen below, carbon yarns are at the top of the chart in three out of four ways to measure their performance.  Carbon fiber’s resistance to stretch is three times greater that S-Glass yarns, which are three times more stretch resistant than polyester yarns.

X-Drive carbon mainsail and genoa.

Even though the individual tapes in an X-Drive sail are very narrow, their almost complete coverage of the sail leads to a smooth flying shape. UK Sailmakers’ tape laying machine puts down up to 11 tapes at a time in a 20 cm wide path (8 inches wide), which means there are hundreds of tapes on the sail (see the picture of a working jib tack to the right). Since each tape has 4,000 carbon filaments there are up to 44,000 filaments of carbon are laid at time, giving the sail great strength along with the ability to keep its designed shape without distortion. This means UK Sailmakers can use lighter and less expensive laminates than would be used in Tape-Drive sails and these savings are passed on.

All the carbon yarns used in X-Drive tapes are dry (not coated in glue) which keeps them from becoming brittle. Keeping the carbon yarns dry improves their flexibility.


A close up photo taken near the tack of a mainsail showing how closely spaced the X-Drive tapes are on a sail. This photo also shows how narrow the tapes are.

Extra Durability With Lite Skin® or Taffeta

To help protect today’s sails and extend their peak performance lives, UK Sailmakers can build all our X-Drive racing sails where one or both sides of the laminate is fully covered with Dimension Polyant's Lite Skin® or a lightweight finely-woven polyester taffeta. Both not only protect the film layer from abrasion, but it also prevents cracking of the film and reduces creasing. While neither adds any strength, they do make sails last longer. We also offer the option of putting a layer of taffeta or Lite Skin over the X-Drive tapes on the leech of the sail as shown below.

Lite Skin, is a thin, lightweight sheet of random, non-woven, polyester filaments applied to what will be the outer sides of the sail giving the sail a mat-black or dark grey appearance. Lite Skin is a proprietary product of Dimension-Polyant Sailcloth.

Taffeta is a lightweight, finely woven polyester cloth. Taffeta is slightly heavier than Lite Skin but it also more rugged. Taffeta is available in white or a medium grey color.

Partial Taffeta Option

Shown above is a Dehler 34 main with taffeta on one full side and over the tapes on the second side.

Above: An X-Drive carbon main with Lite Skin on a Santa Cruz 50. Below: An X-Drive jib with grey taffeta.

The leech of any sail benefits from having extra taffeta protection. Adding taffeta to the leech of an X-Drive mainsail reduces the destructive effects of leech flutter, luffing and flogging. Mainsails can flog in heavy air as the boat is de-powered and when the sail is being hoisted or lowered. Leech flutter happens when the leech line is not properly tensioned. The X-Drive construction method allows sailors to choose a sail with taffeta on one side of the sail, on one side and on the leech of the second side, or fully covering both sides. The more taffeta, the more protection -- at the cost of more weight aloft.

UK Sailmakers will work with you to determine the right amount of taffeta to add to your sails based on your boat, the kinds of sailing you do, and your budget. Having both sides covered with taffeta makes a sail more durable, but also would make the sail heavier. UK Sailmakers offers a Partial Taffeta option to save weight and cost.

Taffeta comes in white or grey.


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