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January 2004

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



Yachting catalogue

Navigation tests

Used boats


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Article by
Angelo Colombo


North Sails started producing sails for Perini Navi in 1990 in order to fit out the 40-metre "Marisa", now known by the name "Principessa Vai Via". On that occasion, to meet the client's requests, the company introduced a new fabric called Spectra, today held to be one of the best solutions for sails to be used on super-yachts. Since it started the production of Spectra, North Sails has managed to develop and improve it, resulting in the current version, combined with carbon fibres, to satisfy the needs of super-yachts over 50 metres in length. For the sails to be used on board its boats, Perini Navi requires a series of specific characteristics, such as high resistance levels and limited weight. The sails must also be resistant to the stress imposed by the automatic hoisting and lowering systems on board. The material used to make the sails must retain as much as possible its original shape, in other words it must not be subject to deformation as it is fundamental that the surfaces to the wind keep their profile in order to constantly express their maximum power.

As far as duration is concerned, Perini Navi has imposed a standard calling for a minimum of four years with heavy use or 25,000 sailing miles. On Perini Navi pleasure boats everything must be perfect, from technical to aesthetic details. To meet the specific requests made by the boatyard, North Sails has had to focus on the quality of the material used; this was the reason behind their choosing Spectra and Spectra Carbon fabrics. To date North Sails has used over 40,000 square metres of fabric for the Italian boatyard, without ever encountering a problem caused by the material or by the production process. This fact is definitely added value for owners and masters alike, who can count on the work carried out by a company able to develop avant-garde technological fabrics and a processing system on a par with these extreme requirements. In order to guarantee the sails' resistance to wear and tear, North Sails coats them on both sides with a film called "Tedlar", capable of blocking UV rays 100%, considerably lengthening the fabric's life. To give an example, the super-yacht built by Perini Navi called "Independence", which was the first boat to adopt sails treated with "Tedlar", sailed for over 50,000 miles and for six seasons with no damage to the canvas. The construction philosophy of Perini Navi is subject to a constant evolution, expressed by the boatyard's desire to ensure high levels of performance on its boats. It is no coincidence that the displacement of yachts built by the Italian boatyard has reduced over time, their sail area is more powerful and is entrusted to carbon fibre masts and booms. These changes have brought about parallel adjustment in the production of sails, such as for example, the introduction of full batten spankers on these boats, using carbon battens with the necessary qualities for profile and mechanical resistance.

Perini Navi also used 3DL sails made by North Sails at their factory in Minden, in Nevada (USA), but developed at North Sails Italia. Advanced technology is used in the design of these sails, such as computer simulation of the sail load, permitting visualisation and optimisation of the sail surface response to all the vibrations it will be subject to. This technology enables a three dimensional vision of the sail, allowing optimisation of its profile and consequent wind response, also taking into consideration the expected strain of mast and boom. Furthermore, three dimension moulds are used in the production of 3DL sails, with layout of the fibres based on the load lines, rendering them non-deformable whatever the conditions. "Perseus", a sports yacht built by Perini Navi with aluminium mast and carbon boom, reached Auckland during the last edition of the America's Cup and then took part in the Millennium Cup attaining good results, which were also due to the performance of its sails aloft by North Sails. One of the most innovative projects by Perini Navi is "Squall", designed by architect Ed Dubois, 52 metres long and equipped with a 57-metre mast. The contained weights on this yacht play a decisive role. For the sails to be used on "Squall", North Sails used Norlam Gatorback Carbon Spectra fabric, capable of ensuring the resistance necessary where they are subject to greater load and of ensuring a constantly optimum profile; all this in compliance with the weight limits and duration imposed by the boatyard. North Sails 3DL sails can also be found on board all the Wally boats, such as, for example, "Tiketitan", a Wally 88 presented over two years ago that still today can be admired for her numerous innovative style and functional solutions, and which never fails to achieve good results in the most important regattas. North Sails obviously dedicate particular attention to the super-yacht sector; for this reason it created seven years ago the North Sails Super-yacht Group, a work group that brings together new ideas for offering the best answers to the needs of large boats. The group is made up of naval, industrial and engineering architects, expert in technological fabrics, scientists and fluid mechanics specialists, designers and engineers involved in the day to day development and production of the best sails for large yachts. The group can be reached at, a website packed with information about the world of sailing super-yachts.

For further information about North Sails and its products, please visit the website with links to the North Sails offices all over the world. In Italy you can contact North Sails Italia; via Pontevecchio 42; 16042 Carasco (Ge); tel. +39 0185 35261; fax +39 0185 350481; e-mail: