X-Drive Carbon - Racing Mainsail

The white boat on the left, is using Tape-Drive sails, while the red boat's mainsail is an X-Drive sail made with carbon tapes on a polyester base laminate.

Carbon X-Drive on laminate with black yarns.

Carbon fiber is the highest performance yarn used in sailmaking. As seen below, carbon yarns are at the top of the chart in three out of four ways to measure their performance.  Carbon fiber’s resistance to stretch is three times greater that S-Glass yarns, which are three times more stretch resistant than polyester yarns.

X-Drive carbon mainsail and genoa.

Even though the individual tapes in an X-Drive sail are very narrow, their almost complete coverage of the sail leads to a smooth flying shape. UK Sailmakers’ tape laying machine puts down up to 11 tapes at a time in a 20 cm wide path (8 inches wide), which means there are hundreds of tapes on the sail (see the picture of a working jib tack to the right). Since each tape has 4,000 carbon filaments there are up to 44,000 filaments of carbon are laid at time, giving the sail great strength along with the ability to keep its designed shape without distortion. This means UK Sailmakers can use lighter and less expensive laminates than would be used in Tape-Drive sails and these savings are passed on.

All the carbon yarns used in X-Drive tapes are dry (not coated in glue) which keeps them from becoming brittle. Keeping the carbon yarns dry improves their flexibility.


A close up photo taken near the tack of a mainsail showing how closely spaced the X-Drive tapes are on a sail. This photo also shows how narrow the tapes are.

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