What is Hood Vektron?
This is a question I am always asked when talking sails with customers, so I thought I’d make it easy and prepare a brief bio on Hood Woven Vektron.
Is woven sailcloth comprised of high tenacity polyester fiber co-mingled with Vectran® fiber in the fill direction (i.e. up the leech)
Sails made from Hood Vektron are:
- White in color, in their natural finish
- The panel layout is cross cut
- They “look” like Dacron sails
- The fabric is extremely stable* see below.
- A single layer material, woven, with no Mylar films (which is where mildew breeds)
- There is a light gold pinstripe on roughly 8 mm centers on the fabrics, functionally invisible unless you pick the sail up and look at it up close.
- Resistant to all the various chemicals, abuses (chafe), UV, flex (flogging) and the rest of the tests we all put our sails through.
Fiber is one of the 8 fibers the sail making industry uses to make fabric/sails. It is the only one, apart from polyester (and nylon which is not relative to this discussion) that can:
- Be woven
- AND: Withstand weaving & the stresses weaving imparts on the fibers.
- AND: Has sufficient strength, stretch resistance, recovery, flexibility, abrasion resistance, UV exposure and the other characteristics that fibers intended for use on boats (as sails) to make its employment in sailcloth worth the effort.
- AND: Has a “reasonable” cost in the spectrum of sail fibers. It is more expensive than polyester but less than the others: Kevlar, Technora, Spectra/Dyneema etc.
- AND: Very importantly, it has a high resistance to heat. This aspect is very important in the manufacture of Hood woven Vektron.
The process of weaving polyester fibers into Dacron sailcloth is fairly straightforward. Yarns of fibers are introduced to each other at right angles. There are a number of stages and actions going on at the same time that are not germane to this essay. At the conclusion of the weaving, the raw woven fabric, (called greige –Grey – goods) are treated in various ways depending on the end use of the fabric. This is commonly called “finishing”.
One stage that all woven fabrics pass through is exposure to high heat and pressure. One of the key characteristics of polyester that make it so versatile in the manufacture of Dacron sailcloth is its propensity to shrink when heated. The practical aspect of this is that, after the fabric is woven as tightly as possible on the loom, it is then heated and it shrinks and becomes even more tightly knit together, “finished” as the cloth guys call it. This tightness varies greatly based on all manner of issues and so the cost per meter of Dacron varies as much as 100%.
The basic stages in weaving what becomes Hood VEKTRON fabric are broadly similar as for “regular” Dacron, but there are a few extra stages that take extra time & so make Vektron more expensive per produced yard. The greatest benefit to boat owners of this Vektron fabric is that the fabric is even tighter in the finish than the most expensive Dacron.
WHY TIGHT FINISH?
Try this test: Grasp a table napkin, or similar woven fabric. Along the direction of the fibers, pull it apart. Now, pull it apart on an axis that is at 45 degrees to the first. It is stretches more for the same load. It is this so-called bias stretch that is important in the manufacture of sails and sail fabric. The less bias stretch there is in a fabric, the longer the sail’s shape will remain as the designer intended it.
PERFORMANCE: WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?
- Sails made from Hood woven Vektron can commonly be made from a cloth weight 1-3 ounces lighter than the “same service” Dacron. For example, a mainsail for a 35 footer in 7.5oz. Dacron can use 6.0oz. Vektron. A sail that needed 9.0oz. in Dacron can use 7.0oz. Vektron.
- They are more stretch resistant, not only on the bias, but also in the fill and warp.
- They are way less susceptible to mildew.
- There is no Mylar film to de-laminate.
- They are thinner in the cross section, so less problematic when being used within-mast furling, especially with todays masts where the cavities are small(er)relative to the original Hood spars.
- They have a softer “hand.” They are easier to handle, flake, fold and so on, thanlaminates.
- In applications like classic yachts, they can have traditional cross cut sails, evenwith narrow panels, if desired, and so keep the original visual appearance of theboat. They can be dyed to enhance this look too.
- Vektron sails make a very viable alternative to the low-key Wednesday racerthan more expensive and less durable laminated sails.
- Vektron sails, being cross-cut design, can be re-cut over time, just like in the olddays.
- And crosscut is a preferable way to design RF headsails or in-mast sails that are to be reefed.
Vektron is a better value product. It offers more performance, durability, ease of handling, less potential for damage and overall better value for most sailors.