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Baker Mfg. Co.’s hard wing sail

In my April 23rd post I mentioned one of the more remarkable small boats in our collection, the sailing hydrofoil Monitor which was made by the Baker Manufacturing Company in 1955. In preparation for the Speed & Innovation exhibition we have started restoring the hard wing sail that came with the boat (apparently, it was supposed to have a mate but it was never completed). The sail is remarkable because it is amazingly similar to the hard wing sails used on the 2013 and current America’s Cup Class catamarans.

I am always astounded by the modern hard wing sails which—and yes, I know they are carbon fiber so they are obviously strong—have “ribs” (for lack of a better word) that appear remarkably fragile. Our sail, which is built like an airplane wing (think “biplane”) has a super fragile internal wooden structure covered by doped canvas. Sadly, the canvas became seriously brittle over the years—so brittle it tore if you stared at it cross-eyed! Several months ago we removed the canvas covering in the hope that we would find a conservator specializing in historic airplane restorations that could help us recover it. Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t find anyone willing to take on the project.

The large forward wing before the canvas was removed
Here, you can see the internal structure before the canvas was removed

So, we’re going with plan B.

We are going to cover the two sections of the sail in Clysar—the same shrink film that’s used to cover the carbon fiber structure on the modern hard wing sails. This has several advantages—first, it’s clear, which means visitors will be able to see the internal structure of the wing. Second, it won’t hurt the wooden structure so if we ever manage to find a historic airplane conservator willing to help us we can take it off without any lasting effects.

The forward wing once the canvas was removed.
This is the trailing wing of the sail.

To prepare for the new cover we have been cleaning the wooden structures. They have already received a thorough vacuuming but still need a lot of work so we have been dry cleaning them with brushes, Q-tips and conservation grade erasers. It’s a lot of work, but you can see an immediate improvement. We are scrambling to get this done before the Clysar arrives on the 22nd (and the exhibition opens on the 27th!) so if any of you who live nearby have a hankering to help clean two 14’ long sails with a toothbrush come on by! We’ll take all the help we can get!

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