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Racing Headsails: X-Drive Carbon

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 than S-Glass yarns, which are three times more stretch resistant than polyester yarns.

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X-Drive carbon Genoa and main on the Salona 44 ANGER MANAGEMENT.
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Close-up of carbon X-Drive sail made with a black aramid laminate. Without a taffeta layer, the sail is see-through.
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An X452 with X-Drive carbon sails.
L30 One-Design X-Drive carbon sails.
L30 One-Design X-Drive carbon sails.

The almost complete coverage of continuous load path carbon yarns on the sail leads to a smooth flying shape. UK Sailmakers’ fiber laying machine puts down up to 11 yarns at a time, which means there are hundreds of continuous yarns on the sail. Since each yarn has 4,000 carbon filaments, there are up to 44,000 filaments of carbon are laid at a 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 and these savings are passed on.

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

Detail showing the extensive carbon fiber coverage radiating out of the tack of an X-Drive genoa. For extra durability, the base laminate of the sail has a polyester taffeta on the side opposite the carbon fibers. Taffeta adds chafe-resistance, but does make the sail heavier.
Detail showing the extensive carbon fiber coverage radiating out of the tack of an X-Drive genoa. For extra durability, the base laminate of the sail has a polyester taffeta on the side opposite the carbon fibers. Taffeta adds chafe resistance but does make the sail heavier.
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An X-Drive carbon jib.
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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 a lightweight finely-woven polyester taffeta. Not only does taffeta protect the film layer from abrasion, but it also prevents cracking of the film and reduces creasing. While taffeta doesn’t add any strength, it does make sails last longer. We also offer the option of putting a layer of taffeta over the X-Drive yarns only 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 is also more rugged. Taffeta is available in white or a medium grey color.

Partial Taffeta Options

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The leech of any sail benefits from having extra taffeta protection; when a sail luffs, the leech is the area most exposed to flogging, abrasion, and potential damage. This is particularly the case for boats with overlapping genoas that get dragged across shrouds and the mast in every tack.

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.

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Partial taffeta on the leech of a vertical-batten jib. Even though this sail does not overlap the mast, the taffeta reinforces the area of the sail that gets whipped around the most when the sail luffs.
X-Drive main and genoa, both with a partial taffeta layers for extra durability. The genoa has taffeta on the foot and the area of the leech that overlaps the mast. The mainsail has a scalloped strip up the leech to protect the sail from flogging damage.
X-Drive main and genoa, both with a partial taffeta layer for extra durability. The genoa has taffeta on the foot and the area of the leech that overlaps the mast. The mainsail has a scalloped strip up the leech to protect the sail from flogging damage.
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