An area that most sailmakers are developing is code sails – fast, flat, furlingcapable offwind sails generally defined as having a mid-girth measurement between 50%-75% of the foot length.
Mike Sanderson, the Kiwi Volvo Ocean Race skipper and former winner, last year took over Doyle International with David Duff and Richard Bouzaid, and the new management team has big plans.
I spoke to Sanderson while he was racing aboard Mari Cha IV, the maxi on which he once bagged the monohull transatlantic record. He says rigging developments are changing how we think of sails and design.
“Going forward, there aren’t really any limits,” he says. “When Mari Cha was designed we thought the limit was how big we could build a racing mainsail and that was a big part of the 140ft size. But batten cars, halyard locks, square top mainsails, outhauls and boom claws have changed that.”
But just as racing technology is ‘trickling up’ to big yacht sizes, it’s set, he believes, to come down to average yachts. He points in particular to the cable-less Code 0. That, Sanderson says, is “a big idea.”
“You can have one downwind sail for light airs, tight reaching to downwind. You can ease the halyard and it turns into a gennaker.”
Cable-less sails, which replace the luff cable with full-length vertical carbon-mix panels, offer potential advantages, Sanderson explains, as “structural sails”. Under luff tension they help to reduce forestay sag. “If you use that technology for superyachts, for example, you have a gain in mast compression. It takes load off the forestay and disperses it through the sail. The load is taken back on the natural load lines of the sail.”
At the elite end of the sport using wingmasts, where it can be a struggle to get the forestay tight enough, cable-less sails offer just such a benefit.
“We are just scratching the surface,” he says. “If you were brave, you’d make lighter, cheaper masts with less compression loads that perform better because of it. There are development sails out there, jibs that are stealing the load off the forestay and contributing to holding the mast up.”