View Full Version : A sailcloth question

10-23-2002, 05:01 PM
Is it possible to get good cotton or flax sailcloth, now?

I don't mean dinghy weight; I mean sails for a 37ft gaff cutter.

Ian G Wright
10-23-2002, 05:11 PM
No problem Andrew, give Mark Butler at Jimmy Lawrence a call. What do you have in mind?.


[ 10-23-2002, 06:11 PM: Message edited by: Ian G Wright ]

10-23-2002, 05:49 PM
What is your objective with the sail cloth?

10-23-2002, 06:06 PM
Thanks, Ian. Do you have a number?

Pat and Ian, I am very fussy about sails.

I have a suit of sails which I am very attached to, made some years ago by Gayle Heard, an excellent sailmaker who has now retired, out of a Dutch cloth which he told me was a cotton/terylene mixture. It is conventionally proofed with an oil and ochre dressing, and Gayle made it up as for a cotton suit, vertical and scotch cut, with 9" panels, hand finished of course.

Gayle was able to get enough material for a mainsail, boom staysail and two jibs, but could not get any more of it.

There is still some life in the sails, as they have been very well cared for, but sooner or later replacement is inevitable.

Meanwhile, I fancy a staysail, vertical cut, one row of reef points, rope luff, not to set on a boom but to set with conventional sheets.

I feel that the staysail is the sail that wears out first, and I also would like to try a "normal" staysail, since it would give a bigger area and would probably stand better on the wind.

So it makes sense to start with a new staysail.

[ 10-23-2002, 07:15 PM: Message edited by: ACB ]

10-23-2002, 06:15 PM
What about synthetics like Duradon? It has the look and feel of cotton, has less stretch, is stronger by weight and doesn't mildew easily.

10-23-2002, 06:17 PM
Pat - Duradon stretches more than cotton. I have a Duradon sail (made by Jimmy Lawrence) on another boat; it is nothing like the same quality of material.

10-23-2002, 06:29 PM
Sounds like you know a lot more than I do about sails, which isn't saying a whole lot. I sail most weekends on replica schooners that have Duradon sails. I can say that they hold up pretty well for years and years. I noted on the history channel show last week, "The Ship", that the Endeavor replica also uses Duradon.

Personally, I enjoy a beer on the dock almost as much as the sail. I would never be accused of being a racer. When I am looking for performance I take the ferry!

10-23-2002, 06:53 PM
Now let's see... Since the 40's or 50's dacron has proven to be the best cloth for sails, so when you go looking for some kind of cotton canvas, you must be aware that it will stretch, wear out, be wrinkled, covered with mould and generally baggy for its useful life.

Enlighten me. Whatever for?

10-23-2002, 07:11 PM
Think of it this way: imagine spectacular breast implants on grandma. On their own they may be great, but it just isn't the right rigging for that type of vessel!

10-23-2002, 07:44 PM
Ouch- gag!

Scott Rosen
10-23-2002, 08:17 PM
Originally posted by PatCassidy:
Think of it this way: imagine spectacular breast implants on grandma. On their own they may be great, but it just isn't the right rigging for that type of vessel!Grandpa may have a different view. He might think the implants are an improvement.

Different boats, different longsplices, as Ian the Left used to say.

10-23-2002, 08:19 PM
Whatever floats grandpa's boat! But I bet after all those years he would go for the classic lines.

[ 10-23-2002, 09:45 PM: Message edited by: PatCassidy ]

Ian G Wright
10-24-2002, 03:56 AM
Here yew go bor,,,,,,,
James Lawrence Sailmakers
22-28 Tower Street
Essex CO7 0AL

Phone 01206 305858




[ 10-24-2002, 04:57 AM: Message edited by: Ian G Wright ]

martin schulz
10-24-2002, 05:07 AM
Wow - so Lawrence, Brightlingseas is still in buisiness.

I have a pretty good mainsail on my cutter, which seems to be very old, but still in great shape. Apparently it belongs to the ship from that time it was sailed from the UK to Germany (1985). And since I have no idea, whatsoever, about sailmakers in the UK. I figured the company doesn't exist anymore - like so many other companies who have done work on my ship.

10-24-2002, 09:52 AM
Why, even Prairie Islander has a Lawrence mainsail. I wouldn't know a great sail from a handkerchief but it sure is neat to say I had my sail made in England.


Ian G Wright
10-24-2002, 10:26 AM
I don't claim that James Lawrence makes the best traditional sails in the world. That would be silly, I don't know all the worlds sailmakers, but of those that I know I will always choose that loft. Mark Butler, Jimmys son-in-law and, since Jim 'retired' to sail more, Number one in the loft is maintaining standards well.
His prices are well in line with other lofts too.


Leon Steyns
10-24-2002, 07:35 PM

If you can find a name for that Dutch cloth, I could ask around for you. If it's (still)manufactured in The Netherlands, I don't think it will be too hard to locate it for you. Otherwise you should try Gaastra, Ten Cate and De Vries.

Greets, Leon Steyns.

10-25-2002, 03:19 AM

Thanks very much indeed.

I never knew its name, but I can describe it. It looks and feels like a heavy cotton sailcloth, closer woven than Duradon is (Duradon is really a synthetic flax, with a looser weave than cotton),
dressed in the bolt to the usual reddish-brown colour.

It is actually a Terylene/Dacron and cotton mixture, such as a lot of clothing for people is made from, so it has some of the qualities of both materials - lower stretch than a pure cotton and increased durability, but it has the softness and heavy weight of cotton. The dressing stops it getting wet so it does not go hard when wet like undressed cotton sailcloth does.

The benefit to me is that Dacron/terylene is unpleasant to handle, noisy and slippery whereas this material is not, and I have a very well cut and nicely setting suit of sails - they don't just look right, they are quiet - no noisy flapping - and when you stow them they stay put and don't slide all over the deck.

Downside is that they must of course be stowed dry, but that is a small penalty, and they don't suffer so much from UV light.

Leon Steyns
10-25-2002, 08:38 AM

I will make enquiries about the sailcloth you describe. Maybe you should try to contact Gayle Heard if he remembers the brandname and/or manufacturer and/or dealer. I will send an email as soon as I've come up with some useful information.

Greets, Leon Steyns.

10-25-2002, 09:13 AM
Thanks very much, Leon.

10-26-2002, 09:33 PM
Todd Bradshaw said in an email to me:

Oceanus is neat stuff, but too heavy for anything that I build. The lightest weight offered is 7 oz. which really needs a boat in the 25-30 ft. range to really work well. Otherwise, you end up with heavy sails that are pretty doggy in light air. I use a 4 oz. Dacron made in England that looks less plastic than the domestic versions. From a few feet away, the Egyptian Cream color is awfully close to the color and surface finish of the old cotton sails.
I guess Todd doesn't come over to the misc of it all smile.gif

Leon Steyns
03-12-2003, 07:17 PM

About a hundred years ago, I promised to look out for your cotton/dacron/terylene sailcloth. I called a few sailmakers, but all of them recommended their own or their suppliers fabrics and requested more information otherwise...
Maybe this link will get you somewhere:
http://www.contendersailcloth.com/traditional.htm. [No affiliation with this company on my part.]

Greets, Leon Steyns.