Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Taffeta Can Protect Sails and Extend Their Performance Life

23rd October 2023
XP50 Aerialcrp Titanium 2XI Grey sails
XP50 Aerialcrp Titanium 2XI Grey sails

Wear and tear can destroy almost any part of your sail. You pad and tape the lifelines and put chafe guards on. You put covers on spreader tips. All these things protect your sails, but your sails can suffer from abrasion and folding as well. Every time you tack, your sails will flutter, bending threads and slowly breaking down the sailcloth over time. And, if you have an overlapping Genoa, the constant brushing over the mast and shrouds will eventually cause wear on the laminate

What can you do to protect your sails and extend their performance life? One solution is to purchase sails with a protective coating of a light taffeta on one or both sides of the sail. The taffeta we’re talking about is a durable fabric made from twisted polyester yarns. These panels of taffeta can be laminated to mylar sailcloth when the sailcloth is being manufactured.

Simply put, a protective layer of taffeta will strengthen, protect, and extend the life of a sail. Ranging in thickness from 1.0mil to 2.0mil, you can order a sail made with taffeta already bonded to one side (preferred) or you can have UK Sailmakers apply a layer of taffeta to an existing sail. In either case, the value represented by the extended performance life of the sail vs. any cost implications makes taffeta a wise decision.

Oyster+575+Lisanne XD Carbon Double taffeta sails grey Photo: Nico MartinezOyster+575+Lisanne XD Carbon Double taffeta sails grey Photo: Nico Martinez

An additional benefit of adding taffeta is that it helps create a firm, stable, and durable structure when laminated, allowing the sailmaker to reduce the weight of the core mylar or woven film helping keep the sail as light as possible.

There are two schools of thinking regarding how much taffeta is needed. For sails where you want to dramatically extend peak performance life, full coverage of one side is recommended – ideally using a base sailcloth with integrated taffeta mentioned above. To protect the sail even more, on the film side, you can have a taffeta “wave” applied, a wide strip of taffeta that follows the shape of the sail down the leech and forward across the foot. This taffeta wave adds a layer of protection against abrasion where it is needed most, without adding extra weight and bulk to the entire sail.

Titanium 2XI double taffeta and Code zero with CZ 15 Taffeta Titanium 2XI double taffeta and Code zero with CZ 15 Taffeta 

That said, many cruising boats going offshore or those sailing in races like the Fastnet opt for full taffeta on both sides of the sail. This makes the sail extremely strong and durable, although it does add to the sail’s overall weight.

The majority of the taffeta sailmakers use comes from Germany, India, or Taiwan and comes in white, grey, or black. Regardless of colour, the taffeta material itself comes in 3 primary formats:

  • 50x 50 – Light taffeta, Taffeta L, which is about 1 sm-oz when laminated to a film.
  • 50x 150 – Medium taffeta, Taffeta M, which is about 1.3 sm-oz when laminated to a film.
  • 150x 150 – Heavy taffeta, Taffeta H, which is about 1.8 sm-oz when laminated to a film.

Approximately 90 % of all boats in Ireland with taffeta only need Taff L or Taff M; anything more would be too heavy.

An example of taffeta laminated onto mylar is the Radial laminate DCX from Dimension Polyant. This is a very durable lightweight radial laminate used on most cruising and performance cruising boats. And taffeta protective coatings are not just for mains and jibs, today’s Code 0s are made with very light taffeta coatings, too.

UK Sailmakers Cruising sails Radial laminate DCX from Dimension PolyantUK Sailmakers Cruising sails Radial laminate DCX from Dimension Polyant

One final note, because taffeta will absorb some water, the sail can add weight in certain situations. As such, taffeta-coated sails are not well suited for one-designs like 1720s or J/70s that are normally better off with quick dry, lightweight mylar sails. However, if you have a J/80 with a furling headsail, a taffeta headsail would be really good as it would add to the durability of the furling sail.

To learn more about what taffeta coatings can do to extend the peak performance life of the sails on your boat, contact your UK Sailmakers loft today

 IMP Holand 39 with XD Carbon taffeta sails IMP Holand 39 with XD Carbon taffeta sails

UK Sails Summer

About the Loft

UK Sailmakers Ireland brings modern professional sailmaking to Irish Sailing.​ Formerly known as McWilliam Sailmakers; the company was started 50 years ago to bring the latest technology to Irish sailors - we continue this mission today.

Under new leadership in 2018; our loft is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of all Irish sailors. ​As sailmakers, we do not just design sails for boats. We design and build sails for your boat. Our extensive and versatile product line allows us to produce sails to suit your requirements and expectations.   

​As a core loft within the UK Sailmakers Group, we are uniquely placed to draw from a worldwide pool of knowledge and experience - these ties have been recently strengthened with the return of Barry Hayes and Claire Morgan from Hong Kong. ​Barry held a key role in our primary production facility on Hong Kong Island for the past fifteen years. With their return comes a renewed focus on technology R&D on Irish waters.  

​With a wide variety of sailing conditions and an impressive pool of talent, the Irish cruiser racing fleet is the ideal testbed for new technologies.​ 

​As with all things in sailing; the secrets will be closely guarded - but for the first time in decades Irish sailors will be at the forefront of sail technology development.​

Although much has changed; some constants remain. The same great sail and customer service we have provided in the past will continue, as does our commitment and passion for growing the sport of sailing all over the country. 

Barry Hayes

Contact Information:

UK Sailmakers Ireland

Kilnagary Business Park


County Cork

P43 YR22

Republic of Ireland

Tel: +353 21 4831505

Production: +353 (86) 198 0199


Barry Hayes

About The Author

Barry Hayes

Email The Author

Barry Hayes, Director of UK Sails Ireland, managed the main UK Production facility for UK Sails in Hong Kong until last October and has been a sail designer with UK sails for over 15 years.

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