Cuben fibre sails

Home Design Build Race Links Reports Other Topics

I ran an experimental suit of Cuben fibre sails from Graham Bantock at the Chelmsford club's Oliver Lee trophy event on 5 Jan 2003, and managed 4th place (05).  David Croom kindly let me have his photo of me sneaking the inside spot to lead around the mark from Ken Binks (83), who finished 2nd.  Mark Dennis (3rd, 119) is hidden behind my sails, while the winner was Mike Clifton (108).

If you are interested in a Cuben fibre suit from Graham, please ask him first about availability and suitability.  The sails I was running were experimental.  The cloth is certainly very light and very strong, but there remain some question marks about its long-term ability to retain its shape.  You can see that the cloth is naturally pretty wrinkled, and while this lack of attractiveness isn't a major issue, its micro-aerodynamic qualities could be.

A couple of weeks on, I've heard from quite a few sailors who are interested in Cuben fibre and my experience with it.  It is now clear to me that the very lightest Cuben fibre cloth (19 gm/sq.m) is really only suited to light airs sailing.  I have blown out my sails from only two Sundays of racing when the wind never got much above 3.5 m/sec in either event.  So let's say that the lightest Cuben fibre cloth must be packed away if wind speeds rise above, say, 2 m/sec.  I hope to try some sails from the next weight of Cuben fibre up, a little less than 40 g/sq.m.  I'll keep you posted.  And yes, the natural wrinkled state of the cloth does make working it rather tricky according to Graham.

Update on the 30 g/sq.m cloth:  I've now run with a second Cuben Fibre rig, this time using heavier cloth (but still a very light 30 g/sq.m).  My experience has duplicated my earlier findings -- even though I've not exposed them to top of A rig conditions, I've blown the head out of the main after four Sundays of racing.  Can't recommend the cloth at the moment, then...

An issue on the side concerns the legality of Cuben fibre in the IOM class.  Does it really make a single ply sail, since it is in fact a laminate, a sandwich of two films around a fibre matrix?  The answer lies in the definition of "ply", and we have to turn to the Equipment Rules of Sailing to find that a "ply" of sail material just means a sheet of it, pretty much regardless of how it is constructed or manufactured.  So it seems that Cuben fibre is legal under the 2002 IOM class rules.


2011 Lester Gilbert