Ullman Sails just released their new Expedition Series, which are sails engineered specifically for high-latitude sailors and explorers. The team at Ullman Sails that developed the new product includes their Brand Ambassador and sailing great Skip Novak.
Skip has been running sailing expeditions in the northern and southern high latitudes for 30 years in addition to his decorated offshore racing resume. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checks in with Skip about his style of frostbiting….
How cold are we talking?
In absolute temperature terms we do sail in sub-zero conditions, but more often at near zero or just above. If you sail in this kind of weather, and are well offshore, you stand a good chance of getting icing up on sails and rigging.
Icing can happen with a shift in the wind on the back of a cold front dropping you into minus territory. Even at above-freezing temperatures however, the wind chill makes things feel well below freezing to the touch. Very quickly you are wearing all the gear you own.
In 2014 we sailed to the Southern Ocean island of South Georgia in deep winter with two days of -5 to -7 degrees C. While broad reaching in 25 to 30 knots southwest there was an almost imperceptible mist blowing over the deck. In spite of what we thought was benign conditions at first, we could literally watch the ice form around lifelines, stanchions, shrouds, and on the deck gear.
Knocking the ice off every four hours did help, but it was a losing battle in keeping the furlers and winches free up forward. Luckily we had taken three reefs and only had a staysail flying, which was fixed in place all the way to the island. It took a day to chip and melt out all the ice once at anchor.
Although we didn’t feel threatened, if we had seen gale conditions with more water coming across the deck and more accumulation higher up the rig, stability would quickly become an issue. It was an eye opener.
Why the need for a specific series of sails for cold weather? What makes these sails different from a standard cruising sail?
Cold weather sailing usually implies windy and difficult conditions. Possibly this would be better described as ‘heavy weather sailing’, which of course can be applied to any region north or south and everything in between.
The Expedition Series meets the criteria of being able to go the distance for especially extended periods in generally a heavy weather environment without resorting to problems requiring sail loft service. This is accomplished by design and detailing parameters that are not the norm in what we call “cruising sails”. On top of that there is a safety issue at stake. In remote areas ease of sail handling and robust construction of your sails underpins this concern. – Read on