Interview with Søren Hansen from Elvstrøm Sails

Søren Hansen from Elvstrøm Sails is an experienced regatta sailor and has been working with BAVARIA YACHTS for over 25 years. He sat down with BAVARIA life to talk about sail materials, their performance and how you can extend the life of your sail. 

BAVARIA life: "The sails are the true "engine" of a sailing yacht. Which qualities are available, how long do they last and how can we best take care of them?"

Søren Hansen: "BAVARIA yachts are equipped with sails made by the legendary sailmaker Elvstrøm Sails from Denmark. These are the best sails for easy handling and a well above average performance of your BAVARIA sailing yacht. 

Our CruiseTech sails are made from a modern, high quality Dacron cloth. This is a reliable, traditionally woven cloth, from which the overwhelming majority of sails especially for family and cruising yachts are made. Because they are uncomplicated and durable.

However, BAVARIA sailing yachts do have such a high sailing performance potential that it really makes sense to consider our SportTech sails. These are made from a polyester laminate, which will keep the carefully designed profile of the sail better and more long-lasting than a sail made from Dacron. A sail that keeps the profile, which the sail design experts at Elvstrøm Sails have created, even after many years of using will not only make the boat go faster, it also reduces the heeling of the boat and makes the ride more comfortable and safer. This is something that all cruising sailors truly value!"

Depending on the straining and the material, sails retain their optimal shape longer.

"Easy handling is mainly ensured by the design of the rig and sail plan. Modern, in‐mast furling mainsails by Elvstrøm from this material, with full‐length, vertical battens also offer good performance. These sails can now be designed with a roach in the aft leech, and even when reefed they will still hold their shape. Conventional in‐mast furling mainsails will always crease along the luff when reefed, because then, the halyard will no longer keep the tension. With full‐length, vertical battens, the first two also double as reefing points. When reefed, the sail is furled until one of these battens sits just inside the mast. This will keep the tension on the luff and the sail can hold its shape much better.

A BAVARIA can easily and effectively be sailed with only three sails. The best solution would be an in‐mast furling mainsail with full‐length, vertical battens and a self‐tacking jib (which is standard, for example, on the BAVARIA C42), or a size‐optimised, 106 percent furling jib. These two sails are perfect and easy to handle for all courses upwind and when beating to windward. When bearing off and the wind is freer, the jib is furled and a Code sail, set on a short bow‐sprit, can be unfurled. This sail is highly effective and using it is really easy. An alternative would be to use a Gennaker in a sock, which can be sailed even deeper downwind."

BAVARIA life: "How long will a sail last?"

Søren Hansen: "This question is being asked again and again, but unfortunately it cannot be answered universally. It’s like a car, where it depends on the driving style and the mileage. In general, however, it can be said that a Dacron sail can theoretically be used for a very long time; it stays in one piece quite long without tearing. However, relatively soon, after a few years, the Dacron sail will lose its designed shape and become less and less effective. 

But when the shape deteriorates and the profile of the sail changes, the boat will not sail well anymore. Heeling can become excessive and will reduce speed, it will become necessary to reef early and all that is quite uncomfortable. Also, the keel and the rudder will not work very efficiently with the reduced speed. The opposite is true for sails that hold their designed shape well: The boat sails faster and heels less, the ride becomes more comfortable. Keel and rudder are much more effective, resulting in less leeway and easier motion in the waves. In effect, the boat is not only faster, but also more comfortable!

The key question with sails is therefore not „how long does the sail last?“, but rather „how long does the sail keep its shape?“.  And in this regard, the laminate sail is superior. The Dacron cloth can remain in one piece for many years, but may not really be usable as a sail anymore if the shape has changed too much. The laminate sail, on the other hand, remains sailable until the last day because it holds the profile so much better. However, it will not stay intact for as long. At some point the laminate breaks and then the sail is simply structurally broken and has to be replaced."

Søren Hansen from Elvstrøm Sails is an experienced regatta sailor and has been working with BAVARIA YACHTS for over 25 years.

BAVARIA life: "How do I best treat my sails?"

Søren Hansen: "How can we extend the life of the sails through good care? The real enemy of all sailcloth is the sun, or rather its UV radiation, which wears down any cloth or laminate in the long run. With furling headsails, the question therefore often arises, whether the sewn‐on UV protection strip on the leech is sufficient, or whether it is better to pull an additional „sock“ as a cover over the furled sail in harbour. This offers good protection, of course. But only if you pull the lines on the cover really tight. Otherwise, the cover will flap in the wind, causing chafe and making the whole rig vibrate.

The material for the sewn‐on UV protection has become much better in recent years. It is a tough polyester material, which is glued on smoothly and sewn down only once so that it lies absolutely flat on the sail and does not throw any bumps or creases. And it offers effective protection, lasting for about eight to ten years!

Should you leave the boat for weeks on end, it is best to take off the foresail and put it below deck, loosely folded. The mainsail, when folded on the boom, should always be protected by a sail‐cover. 

Moisture by itself does not destroy the sail, but there is always a risk of mildew stains forming. For example, if a furling sail is rolled up tight and wet in the mast after sailing and then the sun shines for days. In this case, it would be better to unroll the sail on a sunny day and let it dry. This is not quite as dramatic with a mainsail, which is loosely folded on the boom, but even there you should at least take off the sail‐cover for an hour or two when the sun is shining. Salt always absorbs moisture. Before winter storage, you should rinse the sails with fresh water, then dry them and store them in a dry place."