MINDEN, Nev. (KOLO) -- North Sails says it produces the best custom-made high-end yacht sails in the world.
"In this factory we specifically focus on the highest end of the sport, which means the wealthiest customers that have the most money to spend and demand the best," said the Technical Director for North Sails, Bill Pearson.
The sails are made inside the Company's two Minden warehouses east of the Pine Nut mountains in the Nevada desert. The warehouses provide more than 150,000 square feet.
"The most expensive sail we probably built is close to $1 million," said Pearson.
A custom order is made for a sail as small as 12 feet from top to bottom to as large as 250 feet high, which is 11,000 square feet in size and 4,000 pounds.
A sail this size would sit atop at 200-foot yacht, but these sails are lighter than any other in the world because of the process used to make the material.
It blends the strongest fabrics including carbon fiber and Kevlar® into one thin material so strong and so powerful its also used on Formula One race cars and passenger jet construction.
"Carbon fiber comes into the facility as yarn. This is not that much different that the polyester fiber that's in your shirt." Pearson said.
"Each yarn is made up of many thousands of individual filaments. Each that are smaller than a human hair," Pearson said.
A machine takes the yarn apart into individual filaments and places them side-by-side into a tape format. They're embedded into an adhesive to make one strand of tape. The result is a much stronger material than the individual components used in the process.
The tape is the thinnest of its kind in the world. " It's only 7 or 8 microns thick," Pearson said.
It only weighs 25 grams for every 10 square feet. It's installed on an "automated tape layer." It's programmed with precise measurements and places the tape in the shape of a sail.
Next, it's placed on a giant 3D sail mold. It's programmed to shape the sail to within 1 millimeter of the custom design.
North Sails invented this patented process and it's one reason the company believes it's the very best at what it does.
Walking on the sail as it takes its new shape can cause damage so the workers strap themselves in hang gliders to work on the sail. A heater glides over the sail and helps it take the shape of the mold.
"That allows us to have the most efficient structure and also the lightest sail structure for any given application," Pearson said.
The sail needs 28 days to fully cure, which is the process of the glue and fibers becoming one flexible strong structure.
Next, workers place edges on the sail.
The sails are shipped to places all over the world, including the Mediterranean, Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, where they'll give their owners an edge unmatched by any other sail in the world.
North Sails was going to be constructed in San Francisco, but was moved to Nevada instead because the Silver State offers a more friendly business environment. Now, the company has the largest sail making facilities in the world.
It operates 24 hours a day seven days a week and only closes for major holidays, which is about five days a year.