Is Polyester Good Fabric for Sailing?
Modern sailcloth begins life as industrial fiber and film. Some of these products are well known to sailors by a specific supplier’s brand name, yet in many cases, the material properties of these products are not well understood.
A better understanding of the characteristics of these fibers can truly be helpful in choosing the right sails for your boat. If you want to know the ideal sailcloth fiber, you should know that it would last for decades of use, stand up to the harsh sailing environment – meaning that it should have toughness and structural durability. The fiber should not stretch under load (modulus and shape-holding) and would be sold at low cost.
However, in reality, available fibers exhibit varying degrees of these attributes with some materials having vanishingly small levels of stretch for weight, but less than desirable durability, while others are tough, but stretchy. Finding the right material for sailing is not easy, but it is the key to being happy with your sails. Polyester fabric is the most used in sailing, but not many people know much about it, for instance – is polyester stretchy, what is it made of or its structure. So let’s explain what kind of material is polyester exactly and why should you use it for sailing.
What is Polyester?
Polyester is a generalized term for any fabric or textile, which is made by using polyester yarns or fibers. The long term of the synthetic, man-made polymer is polyethylene terephthalate (PET). If you know what is polyester made of – it is made by mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. In other words, polyester material is a kind of plastic that was invented in 1941 by the British chemists John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson, yet it became extremely popular in the 1970s.
When made into fabric, it was used to create polyester clothing, furnishings or textiles. You will find clothes that are 100% polyester or natural fabric mixed with it.
Polyester Texture Characteristic
Does polyester stretch? What does polyester feel like? Is polyester see-through? These are just a few questions you should ask before choosing a material for sailing.
Polyester is good and recommended for sailing because it is very durable and resistant to many chemicals. It is resistant to shrinking and stretching, as well as wrinkling and abrasions. Polyester fiber is very strong, yet lightweight, and it is easily dyed. Polyester retains shape very well and the fabric is easy to look after. It can be washed and dried at home and dried quickly.
Why Use Polyester for Sailing?
For decades this material has been the most commonly used sail fiber because it is strong, durable and relatively inexpensive. Woven polyester sailcloth is often called “dacron”. It was specifically developed for sailcloth by DuPont. High reduction, combined with very tight weaving produces sailcloth which is tightly backed and stable without having to rely on adding excess resins for stability. You can use polyester fabric as stand-alone woven cloth, or as a component in laminates. Its yarn is quite resistant to UV damage.
Polyester fibers are thermoplastic or heat-sensitive. This means that fabrics that are 100% polyester can be given permanent pleats and decorative shapes and patterns. They are also highly stain-resistant, which is great when it comes to cleaning. Polyester is slippery and almost silky to touch. It is a naturally bright fiber and is perfect material for sailing.