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Old 07-06-2014, 11:56   #1
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Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Hi there,

For a while now I've been contemplating getting a light-weather sail to get the heavy steel boat moving at least a little in light winds on my transatlantic passage in a few years. It would also mean having a backup on board in case something unfixable happened underway to the main rolling genoa. I've had kind of dismissed the idea though, due to the high extra cost. I recently read a chapter in one of the Pardey books however about making your own sails, and that got me thinking.

Would it be possible to make your own light-weather sails? Has anybody got any experience with that? Is it worth the savings? The boat is a sloop rigged 29 footer, so we're not talking a humongous sail of course.
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Old 07-06-2014, 12:06   #2
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Sure it's possible, but you would need a place to work as a loft for cutting and fitting the panels. The sewing machine and the skill are big factors too. I would not take on such a project before looking at the used sail catalogs such as the ones at Bacon & Associates in Annapolis. There are some great deals on the used sail market!
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Old 07-06-2014, 15:37   #3
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Quite some years ago I was somewhat financially challenged due to an unfortunate divorce proceedings. I was trying to race my Yankee 30, and really needed a spinnaker. At that time Sailrite was selling spinnaker cloth "seconds", material with mostly cosmetic flaws, for about 1/4 the price of regular cloth. They also published little pamphlets on sailmaking.

I had never sewed a stitch on a sewing machine, nor did I know anything about the devices. So, I bought an old Singer household machine for thirty bucks, bought the Sailrite manual on spinnakers, bought the recommended amount of cloth and set out to build a kite. It took me a few weeks of evenings, some sneaking into places in off hours to lay out the panels, and a lot of colourful language, but eventually I had produced a quite useful radial head spinnaker. That kite and I won a lot of races, and the total cost, including the machine, was less than 300 bucks (in about 1980)!

So, yes, it can be done! Light air sails don't require anything special in the way of machines, save that a decently long zigzag stitch is helpful. I don't know if the "seconds" are still being sold, but the savings on labour are very significant, and the satisfaction of seeing that sail flying for the first time was great for me!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 07-06-2014, 15:58   #4
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Perhaps a quick video of how the professionals make a Genoa.



However, I think your reasoning is sound. We have a smaller spare genoa just incase the 140% is damaged so we can still sail home. Came of ebay and is in superb condition. Think it came of a racing day sailing yacht which would explain its condition.

I suppose for lightwind you are really looking for a cruising chute and if you are short handed a snuffer to go with it to make dousing easier.



However, this is a radial pattern with a lot more sections than our cruising chute which is a cross cut design so way simplier.

This
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Old 07-06-2014, 16:51   #5
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

I don't have anything bad to say about the sailrite kits. But frankly North Direct is win just a few % of the same price but you get a completed sail, and North Sails support. I think it is a little false economy these days to mess around with doing it yourself.
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Old 07-06-2014, 18:03   #6
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

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Originally Posted by Stumble View Post
I don't have anything bad to say about the sailrite kits. But frankly North Direct is win just a few % of the same price but you get a completed sail, and North Sails support. I think it is a little false economy these days to mess around with doing it yourself.
If you are referencing my post, I was not using a kit. I made my own sail from scratch: design, lofting, seaming and finishing. It was a lot less expensive than any sail from any loft at that time.

The process not only provided a useful sail but also taught me a lot about the process of sailmaking. This knowledge has been very helpful over the years, both in making repairs to sails and in communicating with "real" sailmakers about sails that I wanted them to build for me. You don't get any of that buying from North Direct!

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Old 08-06-2014, 01:37   #7
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Assuming you can get your hands on some decently priced sailcloth and start from scratch I do think its worth your while. Te kits oubuy will be cheaper then when you buy tesail ready made, but I'm surethey still make a hefty profit on them. I'm fairly certain their margin will even be bigger on a kit sail then on a regular one.

The actual making of the sail is not something I am very worried about. I have a decent sewing machine, know how to use it and have worked with spinnaker cloth before.

The two main questions remaining are the following:

1. What cloth to use and where to get it? You could buy it off a sailmaker I guess, and if you're really lucky (highly unlikely though) you might get a good deal on some cosmetically flawed cloth. But could you also use regular nylon ripstop like used for kites? With some searching around I'm sure a deal can be had on that...

2. How do you go about designing your sail? It all seems horribly complex if you look at the video about making your own spinnaker... And buying help from a sailmaker would quickly end up very costly, defeating the purpose...
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Old 08-06-2014, 01:57   #8
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Orchidus, I don't know if Sailrite still sells seconds of spinnaker cloth... you could ask them, and they have always been very friendly to us amateur sailmakers. If they don't help, you could try approaching Bainbridge or any other cloth sources... they must have some reject materials! But, no, don't try to use non-sailmaking ripstop, for it is very different stuff. Spinnaker cloth has coatings which help control bias stretch, and are very important to the well being of a sail.

When I built my kite, Sailrite was publishing a small pamphlet called something like "Designing and making your own Spinnaker". This was a long time ago, when we used to read stuff out of books rather than using U-Tube videos for info! It had all the info for the design... but it was for a radial head, cross-cut body sail, not one of the more modern designs. This is a simpler construction, and one which wasted less cloth than a tri-radial or star cut type. Not the latest thing, but it worked then as a racing kite, and would still work for a cruiser. The main advantage in more modern designs is maintaining shape over a larger wind speed range. I don't know about you, but we don't fly the kite in strong winds (even though we now have a more modern design)... it is a light air sail for us, and shape maintenance isn't so important.

So I wonder: have you visited Sailrite's website or contacted them? They are the amateur sailmakers best friend IMO, and can help you along your way.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 08-06-2014, 02:17   #9
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I have visited the website a few times, but havent contacted them yet. Mostly because I'm still unsure about what I want. I'm sure I dont want a spinnaker. That leaves a gennaker, code zero or drifter if I'm not mistaking. And I'm leaning a lot towards a drifter for its simplicity, versatility and low cost. But thats a whole otger discussion.
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Old 08-06-2014, 05:29   #10
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Don't be too quick to dismiss the used sail market.

My cruising chute came with one 4"x5" patch and no other defects for 0.85 cents/square foot. 'shop around!
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Old 08-06-2014, 06:28   #11
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It seems like most of the second hand sails here are the regular mainsails, jibs, genoas and spinnakers. I'm not sure how much luck I'll have finding a drifter...
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Old 08-06-2014, 06:35   #12
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Wanted add in the local yacht clubs perhaps?

How big a sail do you need?

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Cruising-S...item462105db83

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Old 08-06-2014, 08:01   #13
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

Try Masthead Sailing Gear - Atlantic Sail Traders - Bacon Sails - Minneys Yacht Surplus I have found lots of good used sails from these firms. I purchased several very good used sails including a 2 1/2 oz. drifter for little money. You may have to be patience for the right size to come along but that's part of the fun of hitting the jack pot!
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Old 08-06-2014, 08:15   #14
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

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It seems like most of the second hand sails here ...............
Are youn still in Belgium? I'm not familiar with the used sail market in Europe, but you can shop well outside your area. The Bacon used sail catalog gives a very accurate description and condition rating. As I recall you have an option for returning returning with no loss other than shipping. My used sail purchases, cruising chute and mizzen staysail, were made long didtance.
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Old 08-06-2014, 09:14   #15
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Re: Making your own Light-Weather Sail

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Are youn still in Belgium? I'm not familiar with the used sail market in Europe,
Try marktplaats.nl for used sails. Always some gennakers for sale there.

btw; When sailing east to west I would not worry about light winds if you go at the end of December or January. Plenty of trade winds that time of the year.
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