How it's Made: Designing the All-New Melges 40 Sails

With a history of world-class sail design, Quantum’s experts are at it again creating the next class of championship sails. Quantum’s Vice President of Design & Engineering Robert Ranzenbach gives us a look at what it takes to design and produce the first generation of a new one design class and how we designed the new Melges 40 sails.

iQ Technology® - Digital rendering of the all-new Melges 40

Creating sails for one design classes requires a careful collaboration between many people. When such an effort is hitting on all cylinders, this coordinated approach can yield amazing results, like the Quantum-powered one design teams who won recent world championships in the Melges 24, Melges 32, Farr 40 , and TP 52 classes. We’ve recently turned our award-winning strategy to the new Melges 40 class, where we’re expecting similar world class results. Here’s an inside look at what it takes to create championship-winning one design sails.

It Takes a Village

They say it takes a village, and that’s definitely true when it comes to sail creation. The sail designer and sailmaker aren’t enough. The boat owner, boat designer, boat builder, mast designer/builder, class representation, sailmakers, and professional sailors all contribute when creating sails for a new class.

At Quantum, our Inshore and Offshore One Design Directors coordinate entire teams of experts. Our technical team includes the Vice President of Design and Engineering, Vice President of Production, designers, master sailmakers, and class gurus. You’ll notice that our team includes more than one sail designer – Quantum purposely avoids designer exclusivity to ensure that each sail design includes the very best input from our entire team of experts.

For the Melges 40 class, the team included some of the best in the business: Scott Nixon, Jordi Calafat, Doug Stewart, Paul Tingle, Andrew Scott, and Dr. Robert Ranzenbach.

More Than Just Triangles

Beyond the obvious design and material requirements, creating new sails also has to takes into consideration the following:

  • Flying shapes appropriate to performance characteristics of the boat
  • Inventory
  • Fit to boat/rig
  • Finishing Details
  • Tuning Guide
  • Cost Containment

Typically, the boat designer (in this case Botin Partners) provides Velocity Prediction Program (VPP) output for the boat. Using this information, the Quantum team compares performance against other similar boats then begins developing the basic framework for the inventory.

iQ Technology®

Next, using Quantum’s exclusive iQ Technology® software, we fine tune the flying shapes to maximize the boat’s performance.

An important element of iQ Technology® is high-fidelity fluid structure interaction simulations (FSI), which integrate computational fluid dynamics (CFD) with structural calculations via finite element analysis (FEA). These fancy terms are steps that help us optimize sail structures and accurately predict flying shapes and sail forces. The sail designer can use this information in two ways: to ensure a careful fit of the non-overlapping headsails and to study various girth sizes on all sails to establish rational baselines for the class rules.

Next, Quantum works with the mast designer (Southern Spars) to ensure that mast properties are aligned to achieve the most desirable sail shapes. This is the same approach we used with Quantum Racing in the TP 52 class, which ultimately led to a new mast structure. This type of collaboration also provides an opportunity for the boat designer to organize all sheeting positions on the deck and to help influence the optimization of the boat’s structure.

It’s All in the Details

Once the baseline sails are designed, the designers fine tune the build details with the production team to ensure that the little, but critically important, details are just right. Then the production team prepares detailed construction drawings to ensure that the sails maintain Quantum’s production standards. “Our assembly team works closely with design and manufacturing to make sure our finish work is constantly improving in our Grand Prix classes, like the TP 52 and Melges classes,” said Paul Tingle, one of Quantum’s top Grand Prix sailmakers.

Always Be Testing

Even with all of this information and the expertise of Quantum’s technical team, real-world testing is still an important element of the overall process.

The predictions for the Melges 40 indicates it will be an extremely powerful canting keel sport boat. With that in mind, Quantum’s sail designers created a flatter mainsail and deeper jibs to help front load the boat, making for better balance and VMG sailing. They’ll analyze these designs in December with their first on-the-water test. Sail shape data collected on the water (using photogrammetric tools developed by VSPARS) will be relayed to the rest of the design/build team. The sails will continue to be fine-tuned until they’re delivered, making sure every aspect of the sail meets Quantum’s understandably high expectations.

“The Quantum process has been refined and validated in the Melges keelboat classes over the years,” said Scott Nixon, Quantum’s Global Offshore One Design Director, and a Melges 32 World Champion. “We have always treated the Melges classes as grand prix classes that deserve our full attention to the details that make fast and user-friendly sails for our clients. We work closely with our clients and their sailing teams to make sure our sails are constantly improving.

“We put our top effort into every one design class we work on, and we’re looking forward to continue validating our design process during the Melges 40 on-the-water testing phase this winter in Dubai. We rely heavily on two-boat testing and information exchange between our top Melges 40 teams to develop top sails as quickly as possible. Quantum’s standard for great results, top client service, sail support, up-to-date tuning, and continued improvement will continue in this new and exciting class. We’re ready for the challenges the Melges 40 class brings to the table “

Testing Platforms - Sails on Quantum's flagship testing program Quantum Racing

Grand Prix programs, especially the TP52 and Melges 32 programs, are not just testing programs for our latest technologies but also the validation platforms for our sail design process. Just like we are constantly tweaking and enhancing our sail designs, we’re also tweaking and enhancing our processes. It’s this dedication to never settling that gives teams confidence when they hit the water with our sails.

Visit the iQ Technology® information page to learn more about the technology and process behind our sails.

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