Thursday, June 26, 2008

Second Date

On Wednesday of last week I took my new Laser sail out for another gentle breaking in-session. Mainly reaching around in medium winds, no excessive tightening of the sail controls, much along the lines of how I treated her on the First Date. At the end I concluded she was ready for use in a real regatta at the weekend.

Why is this necessary? I don't have a clue.

I asked another sailor about this topic of new sail care the previous weekend and he quoted no less an authority then Ed Adams as saying that such gentle treatment of a new sail extended its useful racing life by at least 50%. But my friend couldn't explain what this method actually does physically to the sail to boost its longevity.

Anyone know the answer? Why can't you just go and take out a new Laser sail in 25 knots? What harm would it actually do to the shape of the sail? What is actually happening to the sail fabric in the traditional breaking-in method? And do sailors of other classes care for their new sails the same way? Or is it just the crappy fabric used in Laser sails that needs this kid-glove treatment?

In desperation I turned to The Google and uncovered basically the same question posted in the archives of the Laser email list, from the good old days of the Laser on-line community when larger-than-life characters like drLaser and LaserBabee roamed the land. The question was in fact posted by the legendary LaserBabee in 1999...
I have a new sail I intend to start using in a few weeks. A couple years ago there was a letter from Dan Neri of North Sails posted on the list that explained all about the proper method for breaking in a new Laser sail. All I remember is the part about reaching back and forth for a couple hours in moderate winds.

Does anybody have a copy of the letter or does anybody know why reaching back and forth for two or three hours would help my new sail??
There were no replies to the post.

So here is an opportunity for all you expert sailors, armchair sailmakers, sailing geeks, and folk who just like to spout on topics on which you know little and understand less. What is the physics of all this "breaking in" of Laser sails? What does it actually do to the fibers in the sail? Or is it all some urban legend like the port tiller rule?


Stephen LLG said...

The anwser is of course, in the form of a question "what would Ben do" ?

Personally I think you are right, treat it like a new lady acquaintence, gently, gently.

EVK4 said...

Are you planning on stopping sailing this year so that you don't have to change your days sailing image? I'm a big fan of Polamalu.

Anonymous said...

Tillerman- I dont have a laser nd dont care about lasers, so I dont know why I read and enjoy your posts so much, but I just wanted to tell you that I do enjoy them and usually get a chuckle- Keep it coming!

Anonymous said...

Edward - yes.
Anonymous - thanks.

Anonymous said...

The original Laser sail was 3 oz H&B cloth. When the Radial came out the cloth weight was upped to 3.9 oz H&B and the full rig followed suit. This happened about 25 years ago. Not sure what the actual cloth weight is now but Laser sails are considered to be constructed out of "soft" cloth (without the extra layer of resin squeegeed on as is the case in Yarn Temper" or equivalent construction). I don't see any scientific basis as for why a gentle breaking in would increase durability. Some sail cloths reach a "sweet spot" for a specific sail design after the initial resin bonding has been broken down a bit. This may be what is happening here. But as far as increased durability, I don't buy it.

(From someone who worked at the original Laser computer cutting factory way back when)

PeconicPuffin said...

There are many forms of precision technology that require breaking in. Without getting into the individual "whys" if the people who make this stuff say its designed to work best if you break it in, then why not do it?

In windsurfing a sail needs to be rigged, sailed, and certainly submerged a few times before the sail seems to stabilize around certain settings for downhaul and outhaul.

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