Quantum Sails Sweep 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Places in the J/88 Class at the Can Am Challenge Regatta!

For a new class, the J/88 has developed a nice racing fleet out of Youngstown Yacht Club.   This year their Can Am Challenge Regatta on July 25, and 26, was well attended with 8 boats racing.  This is the biggest J-88 regatta to date.  With more events in the future, the class seems on its way to some fun racing. 

If you have not sailed at Youngstown, you are missing a treat.   The water is beautiful, and racing in fresh water is great.   Youngstown Yacht Club goes out of its way to provide the fleets with great competitive racing.  Super race committees, with well-run race course management.  Also their on land hospitality makes this event something that should not be missed.  

Overall the wind strength started at around 8 Knots and built to 20 on the final beat on Saturday.  In the first two races Rob Butler sailing Touch2Play seemed like the pace setter for the fleet with convincing wins.  The Next race saw Jeff and Joe Pawlowski take the win with Iris Vogel on Deviation coming from behind to edge out Touch2Play for second place, on the last run.   The next two races presented the fleet with tricky shifting conditions, with a front trending the wind to the west, but with left hand shifts still in play.   The Deviation crew mastered the shifts, and sailed fast for two wins to end the day. 

The second day presented itself with light wind out of the North West.   After a postponement the Committee managed to get of two races it trying light winds.   Iris Vogel managed to get of two solid starts with, challenges from Easy Eights and Touch2Play, she managed to sail fast and smart to finish off the regatta with two wins. 

For Iris Vogel and the Deviation team, it shows that hard work pays.  They have raced at Key West Race Week, Charleston Race Week, Block Island Race Week, and Now the Can Am Challenge.   Dedication to working on the boat, improving the layout, learning to get more speed and keeping track of small refinements has led to a very successful season.   Deviation was fast upwind and down wind.   For Iris having support on sails and tuning from Quantum sails makes the difference – fast long lasting sails that preform.   

Quantum boats finished 1, 2, 3*, and 4.  

*3rd place finisher Easy Eights sailed with a new Quantum Jib.

You can read the full results here!

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Composite for Cruising Sails?

Our resident cruising expert, Dave Flynn, wrote a great article for the June 2015 edition of Blue Water Sailing. This is a must read for our cruising fans out there. Read on to learn why getting sails that hold their shape longer can make the most sense.

I know, I know, you just want a good, durable, reliable cruising sail, and it can’t cost an arm and a leg. You don’t care if you go upwind two tenths of a knot faster. Look, I’m already carrying my house around with me, how fast am I going to go?  You just don’t need that racing stuff. Performance is not a key design criteria. Or is it?

Actually, I would argue that it is. It's just that for the cruising sailor the definition of performance is different. Its not about boat speed, (though that is not a bad thing), but it is about control over heel and weather helm. It is also very much about the functionality of the systems you rely on to make sailing easier. The furling system for your headsail, or the in mast or in boom system for your mainsail. It is also about making a small number of sails cover a wide range. It is about making your self steering system work better. The reality is that the design criteria for a good cruising sail makes it much more of a challenge to build than for a racing sail where the focus is very narrow.

Oh, and don’t kid yourself that your want to get there slower than your buddies.

Stretch Matters
The key to building a better sail, cruising or racing, lies in reducing stretch. Think about it. If your sails stretch and the shape becomes fuller as the breeze builds all sorts of bad things happen. First, you heel over more than you should or want to. The boat becomes difficult to control. Balance is lost and weather helm develops so you have to fight the helm. You scramble to reef. Your significant other who your are trying to introduce to the joys of sailing decides this isn’t all that much fun.

Full, bloated sail shapes are a particular liability if your destination happens to lie to weather. Bad sail shape severely compromises the ability to sail upwind. Unfortunately, most cruising boats have already made significant sacrifices to upwind performance in the name of comfort and usability. Draft is limited. Center of gravity is high. Weight is up. Windage is up. Sheeting angle is wide. But no matter what the brochures advertise, it always seems like the way home is upwind. Why make it even more difficult with inefficient sail shapes?

Stretch is also a function of load. The bigger the boat, the higher the loads, and the more difficult it becomes to maintain flat, clean shapes. There are very few woven sails built for boats over 70 feet today. The loads make composites the only reasonable option. Weight also becomes an issue as the boat gets larger. Small fortunes are spent on carbon masts and composite rigging to help increase righting moment (and reduce the need for draft and keel weight). Composite sails have a big impact on this equation as boat size increases.

Loads are going up even on the small to medium size cruiser. A big percentage of all new cruising boats are multihulls. Their dramatically bigger beam creates much higher righting moment, which in turn generate much higher loads on sails and rigging. They typically also feature big mainsails with large roach profiles, or even square tops. The loadings in the these are very difficult to handle well with conventional woven materials. Even the monohulls are getting wider and more powerful. Take a walk down the dock at the next boat show you go to. The latest generation is fighting back against the multihull competition by getting wider and wider.

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Consider the furling system. I challenge you to find a cruising boat that doesn’t use at least a headsail furling system. One sail to do it all. One sail to be big and powerful in light air, but flat and small in heavy air. Nowhere is their a better case for less stretch. Oh, and that in mast mainsail furling system. Every had one jam up as the sail bunched and creased, making it impossible to roll in or out? The culprit was probably stretch. In mast sails must remain flat and smooth or they won’t roll up properly in the small cavity provided. In boom systems also have a small space in which to stuff a lot of sail. They also rely on precise boom and batten angles to get everything to line up and fit in. If the leech stretches and the angles change the system doesn’t work.

Finally, just think about effort. When you pull on the furling line, if the sail stretches, much of your effort is wasted. The sail has to stop stretching before anything moves. Everything works easier and better with less stretch. (Think about that for control lines as well). In the end, the functionality of all furling systems is compromised by stretch.

The Answer
So, the performance we are after in a good cruising sail comes down to reducing stretch. How do we do it? Composites are the answer. While there are several approaches to the problem all composites share a couple of attributes. Instead of using small, woven fibers to bear load, they use big straight unwoven fibers. Bigger fibers resist stretch better, and since they are unwoven  there is no “crimp.” They don’t have to go over and under the fiber running in the opposite direction. To protect this fiber network, classic woven polyester material (called “taffeta” in the trade) is used as exterior skins. These lightweight outer layers protect against chafe, wear and UV. There is also usually a layer of polyester film inside. The film is equally strong in all directions so it can help support the off threadline, or “bias” loads.

Composites are used in two different constructions. The first uses pre-made fabric which comes on a roll from the supplier. Pre-made rolls of composite materials can be cut up into triangles and trapezoids and pieced together, jigsaw puzzle fashion, in an attempt to mimic the load pattern in the sail. Since the loads radiate out from the three corners of the sail and run vertically, the now classic “tri-radial” panel layout is the result. The strength of materials made for use in tri-radial construction is in the long, or “warp” direction as opposed to the short or “fill” as found in a conventional woven sail. Tri-radial cruising sails have been around since the mid-eighties. They are far from being new technology and are well proven.

The second, and more modern approach, is to custom make the entire sail using raw materials instead of pre-made goods. They are often referred to generically as “membrane” sails. Quantum’s Fusion M, North’s 3DL and 3Di, Doyle’s Stratis are all examples of this approach. Here the entire sail is a blank slate. Loads are addressed as if the sail were one big piece. Fiber of any type and size can be strung in any direction. Extra fiber can be added for reefs, or to address loads when partially furled. Modern computational techniques (finite element analysis) are at the heart of this approach, since the fiber needs to be placed intelligently. These computational systems can actually predict stress and strain (stretch) to insure that enough fiber with proper orientation is in place. The components are then laminated in special facilities to create the finished product. Membrane construction produces a smooth, clean sail shape with the least amount of stretch possible for a given fiber type.

The final variable is fiber type. Polyester (often referred to by the trade name “Dacron”) is the most common fiber used in cruising sail applications. It is durable, flexes well. and has reasonable UV resistance. It is still used in exterior skins (the taffetas) of almost all composites  used in cruising sails. It can also be used in large, straight yarns on the inside as the primary fiber network. The next step us the food chain is to replace polyester with a fiber of higher modulus (measure of stretch resistance). There are a number of high modulus options. Aramids like Technora and Twaron offer 4-6 times the stretch resistance of polyester. Carbon, Vectran, and  Dyneema offer even higher levels of performance. All of these can be used in various blends. Each has specific strengths and weaknesses. They are available in pre-made materials for tri-radials, or as raw materials for membrane construction. Polyester composites offer reductions of stretch of as much as 30-40% versus a traditional woven sail. High modulus composites can offer four to five times the stretch resistance.

Of course, the next question is how long do they last? This question really has two parts. The first is how long will the sail remain intact as a triangle? This is a pretty low bar. Almost any sail made out of modern synthetic material will hang in there for 3500-4000 hours of use. The amount of UV exposure and flogging are the limiting factors. This could be 10 years for the average sailor in the middle and northern parts of North America, maybe only four or five for those based in the Caribbean. Sail around the world and your sails will surely be toast by the time you get back, maybe sooner.

The real difference is shape life. That’s the high bar. How long will the sail retain the flat, smooth, aerodynamic shape it had when new? Shape life deteriorates from the moment a sail is hoisted. The beauty of composites is that they start with a much better ability to resist stretch (40% to as much as 500%). But there is another great thing. This performance deteriorates at a much slower pace. Look at a well-made composite sail that is four or five years old and the shape may be nearly as good as new. In fact, up until the point that they fail from too much sun and abuse, composite sails will typically have pretty nice sails shape. The same is not true for conventional woven sails. They get baggy, full, and covered with stretch marks long before they fail as a triangle.

So what are you buying when you pay more for composite cruising sails? Better shape from the start, but also much better shape over the long haul. Are they worth it? Well, if you are still buying bias ply tires, use a wooden driver, and have a flip phone maybe not. For the rest of us, composite cruising sails make a lot of sense. 

By Dave Flynn
Quantum Atlantic
Director of Special Projects

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Making the Most of a Blessing From the Wind Gods: Spirit Walker Wins the 2015 Race to Mackinac

With constantly shifting weather models leading up to the Chicago Yacht Club’s 107th Race to Mackinac, the race came down to maximizing opportunities while minimizing mistakes.

In the days leading up to the Chicago Yacht Club’s 107th Race to Mackinac, weather predictions ranged from no wind at all to storms and 50-knot winds. Chris Bedford of Sailing Weather Service, and chief meteorologist for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, opened up his weather briefing at the skippers’ meeting by saying, “The weather this year, it’s complicated.” When race day rolled around, it was anybody’s guess where the wind would be.

The cruising fleet got underway with sunny skies and very light winds on Friday, but on Saturday, the racing fleet was greeted by overcast skies and steady winds.

Before the race, Quantum’s TJ Craig, on Mike and Dawn Fisher’s Archambault 40 Fishtals, said, “What this race is going to come down to is who can maximize the opportunities that come their way and minimize their mistakes.”

“Almost everybody stayed on the west side of the rum line. The boats that really got lucky—lucky isn’t the word, or maybe it is—were the boats that were a little bit east of us, but still west of the rum line,” said Craig.

The luck Craig referred to was a finger’s width of sea breeze that filled in on Sunday afternoon, taking a handful of boats up the lake at eight knots when the rest of the fleet wasn’t sailing faster than two knots.

Among those boats was the overall race winner, Vern McCain’s Sydney 38 Spirit Walker sailing in Section 3. “We made peace with the spirits above,” said McCain. “We got a lot of weather information early on, and just kind of stayed with it. I think that was probably the biggest factor.”

While many crews might cite great preparation and a lot of experience sailing together as another key factor in their success, McCain called his crew the “Wal-Mart crew”—most of the 12 members were pickups, brought on just ahead of the race. McCain had had back surgery in May, and while he’d registered the boat, it wasn’t clear that he’d be able to start. With three weeks to go, he said a friend of his called him up to say, “Let’s do this thing.”

“We put the rest of it together, and here we are. I think everybody was real conscious of everybody else because they didn’t know each other. There were no personality problems, nobody with a big ego, and if they had one they didn’t bring it with them,” said McCain.

Spirit Walker sailed the majority of their upwind work with Quantum sails. We asked McCain if there was a moment when they knew they had the race sewn up. He replied, “We went into Point Betsie and normally that can be a kiss of death, but the gods gave us a little wind off the shore and kept us rolling when the boats on the outside were running pretty slow.”

Doug Evans’ J/109 Time Out was on a similar line to Spirit Walker, and finished first in their section and third overall. As a surgeon, Evans has spent his career working with pancreas cancer patients, and his boat is dedicated to raising awareness for the disease. Not only is this the first podium for Time Out, it’s also the first Race to Mackinac.

Evans credited much of his success to a new Quantum Code 0 he’d acquired shortly before the race, which they used from just after the start until well into Saturday night. “The Code 0 that TJ Craig and Kerry Klingler recommended was invaluable, and it helped us build a huge lead,” he said.  “A lot of people have asked me about our light blue sail. I wouldn’t be surprise if Quantum gets a boost in business.”

Success wasn’t entirely restricted to a few boats in one particular line of wind. Wes Schultz’s Kokomo was second in Section 2 and 11th overall, taking a dramatically different course up the Michigan shore.

“We had a good start. We’re always are careful at the start, even though it’s only a small part of the entire race,” said Schultz. “We went east. At one point we were probably the most eastern boat in the fleet, going fast with great VMGs. We led our section for almost the whole race until the wind filled in and the boat behind us, Chewbacca corrected out on us, but we were the first boat to finish in our section.”

Schultz wouldn’t divulge what information led them to make the decision to go east, saying only, “We sail as fast as we can where the wind takes us. We do our own weather forecasting and it seemed to work out.” He also added that the average age of the Kokomo crew is 60, and that’s badly skewed by one young crewmember.

“I’ve sailed with most of these guys for 15 or 20 years. We’ve almost set a record for the Mac, making the podium for the past five years. We’ve gone 3, 2, 1, 2, 2—I’m very proud of that,” he said.

“We used Quantum sails from the beginning to the end, starting with a Reynolds sail—a reacher that Quantum CEO Ed Reynolds had developed for us for the Queen’s Cup, which was very fast.” Kokomo later switched to a #2 jib that Evans reported was extremely fast in all the conditions they used it in, including close reaching through the straights.

“I’ve known Ed Reynolds since before he sailed, when he was on his hands and knees cutting cloth, and I’ve stuck with him through the years; he’s always done a great job,” said Schultz. “They’ve got a great group of guys at Quantum, and they’re always very supportive.”

In the end, there’s a lot of luck involved in a light wind race. No matter how well you prepare, when the breeze is shutting off across the lake, you either get it or you don’t and there’s not much you can do about it. Even with local knowledge and secret weather reports, what it often comes down to is who is prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way.

And like Bedford said, the weather was complicated—a heavy storm with 30-knot winds blew across the straights midday Monday. The crew on Felicia Wilhelm’s Dehler 39 Troubadour was exuberant reaching toward the bridge with a Quantum asymmetrical kite when the boats ahead of them started rounding up. Troubadour doused the kite and rode out the storm with only a mainsail, but still maintained eight knots of boat speed. After the storm blew through, taking most of the wind with it, they were again inching their way to the finish under spinnaker.

But like every Mac race, despite the flies and the heat, the storm and the cold, from first boat to last, good times were had by all. The Pink Pony was in full swing and the island was hopping well through the rum party on Tuesday.

“Sometimes you win the race, and sometimes the race wins you,” said Craig. “Maximizing opportunities when you come upon them was how these boats were able to benefit. They were ready for the wind, and they made the best of it when it came. Boat handling, preparation, and crew work is what won the race for them, along with just a little bit of luck.”

You can see the full list of results here

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