Marvellous Membranes

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Marvellous Hyde membranes – a user perspective By Glen Truswell

Having convincingly won the International 14 Easter Tray Regatta, Glen Truswell offers an insight in to the 2013 Hyde Membrane System…

I clearly recall my hesitance and lack of general excitement when it was suggested we switch to the Hyde Membrane System to propel our 2013 International 14 campaign. Having successfully sailed with Hyde radial cut laminate cloth sails for approaching a decade (in the Merlin Rocket and more recently International 14), I am often still caught recalling the days of cross cut Dacron with great fondness. This subject often comes up when debating the relatively small performance and usage advancements that I believe radial cut laminate cloth sails delivered to many of the better-developed dinghy classes. Rightly or wrongly, these thoughts resonated strongly in my mind, this time fuelling uncertainty as to whether I, or the available technology, was ready for the next “big step” let alone if it could actually deliver discernible performance and usage dividends in the short term? However, throughout questioning, Mike Lennon of Hyde Sails remained insistent that the time and the technology was right and on this basis we finally decided to proceed.

The Theory

The basic theory behind the Hyde Membrane System (as far as I understand it) is primarily that fibre reinforcement is only added to the membrane where required and not at where it isn’t! This affords Hyde the luxury of adding significantly more fibre reinforcement to the high-load path areas of the sail using “weight for weight” what would previously have been the redundant “parasitic” reinforcement from the low-load areas if a conventional laminate cloth sail making system was used. Beyond this, the fibre reinforcement added to the membrane is continuous directional filament, which accurately follows the load path lines of the sail (unidirectional tow). This completely supersedes conventional laminate cloth sailmaking systems, which require constant re-orientation of several many small panels in order to best react the applied loads (bi-radial, tri-radial etc). Furthermore the enormous reduction in panels and associated cut/stuck/sewn seam length underwrites smoother, more accurate and repeatable construction.

On The Water

Despite all my previous concerns, our first lone outing in Poole in 15-20 knots (two weeks prior to International 14 Easter Tray) left me more excited about these sails than any new set since my very first – some 25+ years ago!

This was for a number of reasons:

 Shape Translation: The successful DNA embedded in our 2012 Hyde Tri-Radial Laminate Cloth Sails had translated extremely well to the 2013 Hyde Membrane System, this was extremely clear to see as the sail shapes exhibited looked instantly familiar even when easing away from the shore. Fairness: The moment we got on the breeze upwind the mainsail looked significantly smoother, crisper and sharper than it ever has. I would go as far as to say blade like in-fact. Stability: Whether diving in to massive lifters, backers, squalls or lulls, the draft just feels more “locked in” and doesn’t wander fore and aft at all.  Batten Rotation: Batten rotation when tacking or gybing is significantly easier, more consistent and generally “less of an event” than it’s ever been.

But here’s the really big advancement:

Leech Twist Profile Differential: The International 14 has a massive mainsail leech roach and so as a class we often find ourselves applying more and more vang tension when sailing upwind (even in relatively moderate breezes) in order to prevent the mid/upper leech setting too far open. Unfortunately though, as soon as you hit an inevitable lull in the breeze, the mainsail leech closes down hard and stalls the airflow over the sail. The vang must then be released accordingly, but as soon as the “nominal” breeze returns the vang must be re-applied and the process starts all over again. This can get tiresome and is not at all conducive to smooth fluid sailing!
An even more challenging International 14 scenario is experienced when tacking with the vang full on in relatively high winds. In this instance the pressure loss in the sail is so significant (when the bow passes through the eye of the wind) that the mainsail leech closing down on both the old tack and the new often causes the rudder to stall. The very best outcome in this situation is a brief interlude stuck in irons! Easing vang pre tack and re application post tack is the obvious solution, but again, this is not conducive to smooth fluid sailing!
However, the Hyde Membrane System benefits from such significant gains in shape stability a long with enormous increases in fibre reinforcement in the leech area, that the only leech twist profile differential experienced between “full load-on” and “full load-off” appears to be limited entirely to the deviation in mast/tip bend. As such the two significant, unsavoury yet generic International 14 ailments documented are conservatively negated by in excess of 50 per cent! In effect we have almost arrived at a point where a single vang setting covers the entire wind range both upwind and down and I have to say that I find this absolutely astonishing!  

A total convert

The cumulative effect of these elements is so clear and significant that all were recognised and noted in a 60 minute sail on our own in Poole in 15-20 knots. And as a result of subsequent boat to boat speed testing and racing at the International 14 Easter Tray, all my tri-radial laminate cloth sails (old and new) are now for sale! My initial concerns were clearly misplaced as within in only four weeks, I have become a complete Hyde Membrane System convert!  

To find out more about Hyde’s International 14 sails see Hyde Sails I14

or contact your local Hyde Contact  or call 02030 090 447.  

Hyde Sails is one of the largest volume sail producers worldwide. Backed up by 45 years of expertise, Hyde has consistently placed itself at the forefront of sail technology, design and production for everything from Optimists to ocean racing yachts. See for details. By only using the reinforcing fibres where they are needed, high load areas can have extra reinforcment


Hyde Sails Ltd, Harbour Building Office A, Hamble Point Marina, Hamble, Southampton SO31 4NB

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