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Old 03-06-2011, 09:14   #1
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Best Way to Know When Sails are Done ?

It there a way to know for sure if sails are shot...short of watching them shread in a big wind? I just got an older boat and have no idea how old the sails are. The previous owner had only had the boat for a year so he doesn't know either. The jib and genoa appear to be about the same age. The main looks to be older but is free of tears, repairs etc. How do I know if they are blown out? Thanks
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Old 03-06-2011, 09:17   #2
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Re: Best way to know when sails are done?

Assuming that these are dacron sails?

Probably the best non-destructive test is whether you can use luff tension to move the draft forward when the sail is drawing. If you can't, then the sail is too stretched.
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Old 03-06-2011, 09:36   #3
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Re: Best way to know when sails are done?

My understanding is luff tension can be effected by the halyard, cunningham, and boom downhaul. To check for stretch do you recommend a particular process? ie..start with everything lose and then start tightening things? Any particular order? Thanks
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Old 03-06-2011, 09:44   #4
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Re: Best way to know when sails are done?

Cruising boat? They are blown out

You must hoist them in a breeze to know. If they look at all old you should assume they are worthless in the purchase calculation. Both headsails and mains should trim flat in a breeze when all the corners are pulled tight. Backstay on, mast in trim.

It is possible they are old and not blown out. In that case check the stitching for broken threads. If there's more than a few it needs to be restitched. But I've never seen a sail that needed stitching that wasn't past it's prime.

Spinnakers need to be crispy and noisy. If they are soft and quiet in the bag, like a hanky, they are worthless. You can use them, they simply have no monetary value.
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Old 03-06-2011, 10:03   #5
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Re: Best way to know when sails are done?

When I worked for Bacons in Annapolis, a used sail consignment shop, we used a sail needle to poke a small hole in the fabric. If you could then tear the fabric with your fingers at this small hole the material was sun rotted. Other suggestions mentioned above on draft and shape are equally valid.
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Old 03-06-2011, 10:23   #6
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Re: Best way to know when sails are done?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhr1956 View Post
It there a way to know for sure if sails are shot...
Rip a bit by your fingers... not hard, just a little preassure.
Like in the photo below where Nic is ripping our mainsail.

Idt doesn't mean the sail won't be usefull for another year or more, but its time to get ordering a ew one so you can have it below waiting for that ripping sound in some bit of wind

We had our new main made in Thailand but left it below and sailed with the old one - maybe 20 patches in it! - all the way up the Red Sea. It finally pooped it spants and shredded 40 miles off Turkey in 40 knots.

we got our moneys worth!


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Old 05-06-2011, 16:58   #7
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Re: Best Way to Know When Sails are Done ?

Dacron sails will last almost forever, insofar as they won't necessarily fall to pieces. However they do become progressively more and more stretched. If you aren't too worried about sailing performance, you can pretty much use them until they fall to bits. A stretched sail tends to be deep, and the leech tends to hook, so while its ok for reaching and running, it will not be great for sailing to windward and it iwll be difficult to flatten in strong winds.

Is is normal for a 2nd hand boat to be sold with less than stellar sails. I wouldn't worry about it, just use the sails and save to repace them progressively. My boat came with heaps of sails, (2 mains, 4 headsails, 3 spinnakers) all tired / stretched, in various states of falling-to-bitsness. 5.5 years on and all except 2 are replaced...
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Old 05-06-2011, 17:02   #8
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Re: Best Way to Know When Sails are Done ?

Use them until they tear on there own
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Old 06-06-2011, 06:41   #9
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Re: Best Way to Know When Sails are Done ?

The main doesn't have a leech hook, but the jib seems to hook at the foot.
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