Transforming the Polyester Sail

Published on June 6th, 2017

North Sails has been building Dacron sails since Lowell North launched his company in 1957, but they are  saying enough is enough and have launched 3Di NORDAC, a new product that marries their patented 3Di shape holding technology with the toughness and affordability of polyester sails

Tailored for small to medium sized cruising boats (for now), 3Di NORDAC transforms polyester fiber into seamless, one-piece sails that has the good looks of traditional Dacron with better shape-holding ability.

Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck reached out to North Sails Market Segment Manager Bill Fortenberry, who he coincidentally taught to sail a long, long time ago, for an update on this new product.

Is this making sailing more expensive?
No. 3Di NORDAC is making sailing more enjoyable. It is well known that you can buy an inexpensive cross-cut polyester sail. What is equally well known is the poor value inexpensive cross-cut sails provide.

Woven polyester sails lose their shape well before their structural durability is compromised. As a result, cruising sailors are not receiving the type of sailing performance they are paying for. Sails that hold their shape make sailing more enjoyable by improving a boat’s speed and motion through the water.

3Di NORDAC sails are affordable because they have been priced within our polyester family of sails, and they provide better value because they have more permanent aerodynamic shape. This matters even with heavy displacement cruising boats.

Are cross-cut Dacron cruising sails still an option?
Yes, we still offer cross-cut premium Dacron sails. We expect over time there will be less demand for sails made with the ancient process of weaving fibers into canvas cloth and sewing together panels.

Will 3Di NORDAC be used for keelboat One Design classes that require Dacron?
At some point in the future, it may be possible to adapt 3Di NORDAC for One Design class racing, but to date it has been engineered for cruising.

For the cruiser/racer boat that is used for both, is 3Di NORDAC the choice?
For any sailor looking for a dedicated racing sail, their first choice should be a sail with higher modulus material such as aramid or carbon, which both feature more resistance to stretch. Polyester fiber stretches more than aramid fiber.

This is what makes 3Di NORDAC great for cruising as the stretch provides a breaking strength safety margin and also makes the sails more forgiving and easier to trim.

However, if you are used to racing with Dacron sails, then 3Di NORDAC will outperform a paneled Dacron sail in terms of stretch and shape holding. Often we see cruiser/racers use a cross-over mainsail and have a different headsails for racing and cruising. This is not an uncommon configuration and 3Di NORDAC will be great as a cross-over mainsail.

If a local PHRF area gives a “white sail” credit, would 3Di NORDAC qualify?
It is hard to know how local PHRF boards will treat a 3Di NORDAC sail. Technically there is no reason it would not qualify for a cruising sail credit. The sails are 100% polyester, they are not laminates, there is no Mylar, and they are engineered to weigh the same as a comparable Dacron sail and they are priced affordably. But for someone looking to get a rule-beater sail, I would caution based on the advice above regarding the difference between racing fibers and polyester.

Additional information:
First-hand account

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