A most unusual request

Published on July 14th, 2021

Making sails for boats is a sailmaker’s passion, but those skills have other applications as detailed in this report by UK Sailmakers:


Sometimes sailmakers get unusual requests…the kind that require us to think outside the normal triangular box of making sails. Three years ago, a local high school contacted UK Sailmakers Northeast with such a request.

For as long as anyone could remember, every time the creek running beside the school’s football field flooded, it would cascade across the field destroying the artificial turf. When the school invested in a new field, they had to find a way to protect the investment from floods.

Therefore, the Unusual Request: Develop a system that would protect the field during flood periods and…yes, there’s more…could be deployed and stowed by a limited staff of grounds keepers.

We said it was an unusual request. The request came from an engineering firm hired by the school board. The lead engineer, with a background in sailing, reached out to sailmakers to see if lightweight sail cloth could be the solution.

UK Sailmakers’ Butch Ulmer took up the challenge and spent time with the engineering company to design a new covering system from scratch. He also worked with Dimension-Polyant, an instrumental partner that not only came up with the proper cloth to use, but came up with key ideas for securing the cover.

Since this whole concept started out as a blank piece of paper, UK Sailmakers worked with Dimension and the engineering firm plan out a unique system. The finished cover was approximately 75,000 sq/ft, almost 1.7 acres.

Traditional sporting field tarps are heavy rubberized cloth that are stored on large tubes. When deployed, the rolls are moved to the field and then large teams of people unroll the tarps over the field. The high school already had such a cover, but it went unused because it literally weighed tons and they didn’t have the manpower to use it.

Working with Dimension, UK spec’d out a light-weight sailcloth laminate that would be light, strong, and durable.

The cover was finished and installed hours before Tropical Storm Elsa battered the New York City metropolitan area. The storm swooped through leaving a lot of water on the field, but the surface stayed protected as the cover stayed in place. The ultimate test of the flooding creek did not happen this time, but all indications are the cover is just what the grounds keepers and the school board wanted.

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