New Sails: Why Elvstrøm Epex?

The selection of sail materials, cuts and sizes is huge!

Why I chose Elvstrøm Epex!

Fabric, laminate, dacron, dyneema, aramid: the variety of sail materials is huge and once that decision has been made, you haven't even thought about the cut, any special features, etc. It is therefore all the more important to know as precisely as possible what needs the sails should cover, in which area you are sailing, what service life you expect and of course what the sailing wardrobe may cost.

The first rough decision has to be made between the more classic fabric sails (canvas consists of woven fiber, e.g. polyester = Dacron) and the innovative laminate sails. Fabric sails are simply sewn and the basic material is relatively cheap. So they are easy to manufacture, there are no adhesives or complex processes and the service life in itself is quite good. The big limit of the performance of these sails is the low form- and pull stability. Here so-called laminate sails or other types of this "construction" show their strength: very dimensionally stable fibers made of Dyneema, Kevlar, carbon or other materials are glued onto a kind of carrier film (lamiate) and literally welded to them. This gives the sail great dimensional stability with a comparatively low weight. However, the fibers used are sensitive to UV light and some materials must not be kinked. This results in the many subspecies of laminate or membrane sails. Here, too, there is no famous uncorn that can do simply everthing. That is why it is super important to know as exactly as possible what you want to do with the sails and what it can cost. This limits the selection and you can ultimately choose between one or two variants.

Original sails

Five Senses was taken over with about 6 year old sails (see photos above). These were Dacron Genoa (110%) and a Dacron furling main with around 40 square meters. As part of the transfer to Italy, the limits of the genoa quickly became noticeable: with around 20-25 knots of wind we furled the headsail into one reef, and due to the low dimensional stability of Dacron, the material rolled more strongly in the top and at the base of the sail than in the middle. The sailing properties deteriorated dramatically. The biggest deficit of the main sail was the clearly concave shape. A crucial area was therefore missing in the leech. Due to the aging of the material, the sail was also warped and the leech fluttered without tension. For the charter operation in Croatia, I would have probably chosen very similar sail materials and sizes/shapes: inexpensive, performance is generally not important to a holiday crew and in the partially prevailing conditions under Bora a little less sail area does not hurt. On the contrary, I think the charter base wanted to add some security here. Ultimately, Dacron copes well with the high UV radiation.

The planned use

However, my requirements as a sailing enthusiast were different: I wanted to increase sail area so that I could still generate enough pressure in light winds. Dimensional stability was important to me, that's just my personal claim. I enjoy sail-trim, but my effort should also have the chance to work. The furling main caused a bit of melancholy when buying the boat. I even thought about swapping the mast to switch to a fully battened main. UV radiation is high in the Mediterranean, the stability against buckling is less relevant after we as the family crew did not want to change the sails frequently. As part of a boat fair, I paid a visit to various sailmakers and had the differences and advantages of their respective products explained. In the end I chose Elvstroem Epex sails. The sail maker of my choice offered the measurement directly on board and this was also a safety factor for me that I didn't want to do without.

Why I chose Elvstroem Epex:

The Epex sails fall under the category of membrane sails. I see this as a further development of laminate sails where delamination can no longer occur. Because no glue is used, the sail membranes are literally fused together. There is a short video, here. The outermost layer of the laminate is dedicated to UV protection and a special protective fabric made of Swela material is used on the edges.

The shaping fibers are made of Vectran (liquid crystal polymer) and Technora (aramid). Properties with very high strength (low elongation, high breaking load) and flexibility meet here. The disadvantages of these materials are offset by the special design of the sail. According to the sailmaker, the lifespan of these sails is around 7 years, depending on use and care.

In the main sail, Elvstroem offers the incorporation of fully continuous vertical battens. Thus, the main can be made convex, you gain sail area and achieve significantly more pressure in the sail. This was THE solution for my furling mast complex. So I get the best of both worlds: the easy furling flexibility that I need with my family crew and still usable performance so that sailing is also fun.

To complete my new sailing wardrobe, I decided to order the genoa a little larger (135%) and also add a Code Zero. I found my needs well covered and, against the shock of the total price, I received a boat fair discount, the visit to the boat mentioned above and a complete package with necessary blocks, etc.

To date, the sails have not disappointed me, on the contrary, they are always great fun!

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