3DL Q&A... Commonly Asked Questions


How long does a 3DL sail last?

Competitive Grand Prix racing boats typically log 150-200 racing hours on an Aramid paneled mainsail. For example, Team Dennis Conner used the same 3DL® heavy mainsail throughout their entire America's Cup campaign in 2000.

In the 2003 AC campaign, many syndicates reported over 400 hours on their 3DL carbon mains. Tacking and flogging take their toll on genoas, making them last considerably less than mains. AC syndicates and high tech programs use genoas/jibs sometimes only 20 hours. (While this sounds like so little time, a typical day race would include about 1.5 hours of upwind work. That’s 13 races for that one genoa, which, depending on wind speed is only used part of the time.)

However, with proper care while the sail is in the bag, with minimizing flogging, with care to use the sail in its intended wind range and with proper flaking in the bag, 3DL genoas/jibs can be fast for seasons as opposed to hours. While no two boats are the same and sail handling is the prime determining factor in a sail's longevity, North had documented many cases where the competitive sail shape retention of a 3DL sail is close to double that of an equivalent paneled sail.

While a 3DL sail may cost a bit more initially compared to paneled sails, 3DL's superior longevity makes it a superior value in the long run. This is one of the many reasons why 100% of the Volvo and AC syndicates chose 3DL.

Other sailmakers claim they can build sails that are lighter than 3DL.
Is that true?

Any sailmaker can make a sail as light as 3DL sail, but sacrifices will be made in effective wind range and durability. Remember that 3DL is lighter for a given amount of stretch or is less stretchy for a given amount of weight for the simple reason that the continuous yarns, laid in their 3D plane on the mold load up more evenly than those same yarns in a sectioned panel sail, whether tri-radial or the so called 2-D “string” sails. Some competitors have claimed their sails to be as light as 3DL in classes where corrective weights are added to a 3DL sail to meet class-specified minimum allowable weights.

Can you recut a 3DL sail?

This is a commonly asked question by sailors who have not sailed with a 3DL sail before, as recutting is a "part of life" with paneled sails. What we tell paneled sail users is that because the 3DL process reproduces a sail design (mold) more accurately and the sail holds its shape over a broader wind range and holds its shape far longer, recutting is rarely needed. If it is necessary, a 3DL sail can be recut by your local loft using the same procedures as a standard scrim sail. Minor tears and punctures are often repaired by simply applying reinforced Mylar tape over the damaged area.

Can you adjust the shape of the sail?

Because a 3DL sail's shape is molded in as it is manufactured, some owners have asked if the shape can be adjusted easily. Outhaul, Cunningham, mast bend, headstay sag and lead positions are adjusted the very same way as with paneled sails. However, less tension is needed to achieve a similar effect.

How much lighter are 3DL sails than paneled?

Compared to a traditional paneled sail with similar stretch resistance, a 3DL sail typically weighs about 20% less.

How does the cost of a 3DL sail compare with paneled sails?

3DL initially costs more than a paneled sail, but if you consider the superior shape retention of 3DL over several seasons, 3DL turns out to be less expensive per mile of fast sailing. We have many customers enjoying their third competitive season with their 3DL sails.

Can 3DL be used for cruising sails?

Yes. North's Marathon 3DL is engineered specifically for cruising sailboats. Marathon 3DL features yarn types and layouts designed for cruising use and North TF taffeta/film bonded to both sides of the laminate for additional chafe, tear and UV protection. Additional UV inhibitors are also applied to each individual yarn as well as the adhesives that bond the laminate.

For more answers on 3DL and how it can revolutionize your sailing, call your nearest North representative today.