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Radial Racing Mainsails

Pingo Tri radial main and X Drive jib
The GP26 PINGO sailing with a black aramid Tri-Radial mainsail and X-Drive jib.

Radial sails were the only performance construction choice before Tape-Drive and other “string-sail” construction methods were invented. Sails made with a radial panel layout are still an option for racing sailors who do not want a Tape-Drive or membrane sail.

The fully articulated panel layout of a tri-radial mainsail rotates the cloth’s thread line to match the primary loadpaths between the three corners of the sail. Radial cut sails are made with long narrow panels (called gores) designed to align the strong warp yarns of the material with the primary load paths of a sail. Because all loads start at a sail’s corners and then run in arcs across the sail to the other two corners, the gores radiate from the corners of the sail.

The materials used in radial-paneled sails are “warp-oriented,” meaning that the strongest fibers run the length of the gores.

Radial sails (with their many panels) allow sailmakers to use more than one laminated fabric in a sail. Stronger laminates can be used in high-load areas like the leech and tack, while lighter cloth can be used in the less-loaded luff of the sail. A third fabric, one that is heavy-duty and chafe-resistant, can be used in the foot panels to stand up to the abuses of tacking and chafing on the lifelines. By mixing cloth types, sailmakers can make a lighter sail that has more strength where needed. 

That same gore in the clew section of a mainsail shows the alignment of the warp yarns.
UKSailmakersWarpOrientedGoreOnRoll
A single gore plotted on a section of sailcloth. The black lines show the strong warp yarns in the laminate running the length of the material.
Tri Raidal Lite Skin Main shape shot

A Tri-Radial mainsail on a J/97.

UKSailmakersRadialMainsailRacing
Radial sails attempt to line up the strong warp yarns with the loads that arc between the corners of the sail. Unlike UK Sailmakers’ loadpath constructions (Tape-Drive, X-Drive and Titanium) the yarns in a tri-radial sail are cut at every seam, which can lead to distortion at the seams.

Construction Options

UKSailmakersJ70MainsailandGenoaBlankerHansLightAir300x205 edited

Radial Woven Polyester

Description:
Tri-Radial panel layout

Construction:
Long narrow panels radiating from the three corners that attempt to follow the load paths between the corners. The straight fibers in each panel are discontinuous because they are cut on every seam, unlike our X-Drive and Titanium sails.

Material:
Warp-oriented woven polyester cloth

Shape Stability:
★★

Shape after 500 hours:
Circa 40%

Price:
$$$

UKSailmakersRadialPolyesterLaminateRacingMainsail edited

Radial Polyester Laminate

Description:
Tri-Radial panel layout

Construction:
Long narrow panels radiating from the three corners that attempt to follow the load paths between the corners. The straight fibers in each panel are discontinuous because they are cut on every seam, unlike our X-Drive and Titanium sails.

Material:
Warp-oriented polyester laminates

Shape Stability:
★★

Shape after 500 hours:
Circa 40%

Price:
$$$

UKSailmakersTri RadialCarbonLaminateGenoa edited

Radial Carbon Laminate

Description:
Tri-Radial panel layout

Construction:
Long narrow panels radiating from the three corners that attempt to follow the load paths between the corners. The straight fibers in each panel are discontinuous because they are cut on every seam, unlike our X-Drive and Titanium sails.

Material:
Warp-oriented carbon laminates

Shape Stability:
★★★★

Shape after 500 hours:
Circa 70%

Price:
$$$$

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