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Old 07-03-2010, 15:42   #1
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New Mainsail ?

How often should one renew one's main? Typically? I know sails get baggy and lose their shape with use. this is of course down to individual useage. But are there any rules of Thumb out there which would suggest perhaps 5 year or 10 year intervals as a compromise between expense and better performance?
Thanks (I'm talking to a sailmaker!!)
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Old 07-03-2010, 16:30   #2
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depends on usage we have a 79 GulfStar 37 and run on the original main and Genoa. this is not to say the boat wasn't used just not pushed hard to cause a lot of stress on the sails had boat for 5 yrs new both previous owners. 2nd owner set boat up for Marion/Bermuda race and Marblehead to Halifax. he did a lot of hard sailing with the boat the 3rd owner set it up to go south during winters but never did the circuit with same sails i am still satisfied with the performance of the origs. still get 9-10 knot out of boat on reach in about 15-20 mph winds against tide or on neutral tide. thinking of getting new main this yr. shape has gone some what, harder to get good foil with outhaul( i sail hard if the wind is there. so i guess it depends on usage, age and service
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Old 07-03-2010, 17:44   #3
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Depends on what you do, and on how often you do it.

A cruising main sail, on an off-shore boat will die of UV damage before it gets used up. We had 350 gramm Dacron sail, covered it up with the protector, still got only about 5 years of life.

A racing main sail will get useless shape before it gets physically damaged. Depending on your racing regime and materials used, you mainsail may last 1 to 3 seasons.

I believe that on a boat that is not cruised extensively, nor raced, a well made main made of quality dacron should last beyond 10 years. (Maybe a bit less if you have a small boat and the cloth is very light.

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Old 07-03-2010, 18:22   #4
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In my experince, ther are few good "rules"

Quote:
Originally Posted by nigheandonn View Post
How often should one renew one's main? Typically? I know sails get baggy and lose their shape with use. this is of course down to individual useage. But are there any rules of Thumb out there which would suggest perhaps 5 year or 10 year intervals as a compromise between expense and better performance?
Thanks (I'm talking to a sailmaker!!)
I have had sails "last" varying periods. Dozzens of factors.

A few questions:
* Do you race?
* Could you take a picture from the cockpit looking up in moderate wind?
* Is there any physical damage or obvious wear? I gather the answer is no, or you wold have said.

Then, you will get useful answers.
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Old 07-03-2010, 18:54   #5
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also depends on the sail. a full-battened main will outlast one with partial battens.

consider having the existing main re-cut. A great way to add a year or two for not much money.
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Old 08-03-2010, 19:42   #6
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My 75 Valiant still has the original main. Its not in too bad a shape either. Now I will probably make it a second and get a new cruisers sail, but it still scoots the boat right along. Same with the Yankee, although it looks like it was handmade and probably better than the original, it is still 20 something years old.
Bottom line for me: It is how it was made and maintained.
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Old 08-03-2010, 21:30   #7
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The Rule of Thumb is does the sail work or does it perform as you want it to.
The age in terms of years or hours of use has no meaning.
It is all about if you can shape it to give optimum performance at various angles of sail and wind strengths.
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Old 08-03-2010, 21:52   #8
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Only upwind performance matters: reaching and running can be done with any old rag. If you have windward work to do you will want that perfect curve with no oddities and all the battens. With all the strings tight it should be a very flat and even. Unless it matters not how long it takes to get where you're going. It's up to you.

Generally, if there's any doubt then you need a new one. The average sail on boats I see is 5 years past its useful life. Any sail from the 1900's on any boat is dumpster liner, or the owner never goes anywhere.
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Old 08-03-2010, 22:04   #9
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hi, we are based permanently in the tropics - Philippines and Indonesia around lats 9deg N to 9deg. S. My last set of dacron sails last around 3 years - main gaff sail, mizzen and 2 jibs. The sun UV is so strong that they literally disintegrate unless properly protected. Getting new sails in this part of the world is a challenge in itself. There is a British owned sailmaking company in Cebu, but mostly for dinghy sails and costs about 280 US dllrs for a dinghy sail. My main sail alone is 175 sq meters. Other alternative sailmakers are in Hong Kong, and Indonesia but getting there, either by yacht or air flight is expensive and a logistical nightmare.

I wanted a new sail plan to enhance the character of my schooner. I admired the sail plans of the English sailing trawlers of the 1890s that sailed to Iceland dragging a trawl net most of the way. For me it meant extending the bow sprit by 25 ft, figuring a way to fix topsails on the gaffs and fixing 3 jibs sails on the bowsprit and rigging for two stay sails between the main and mizzen masts. In a book ' Sailing Trawlers" by Edgar March ed 1947 ( a bible for owners of traditional gaff rigged sailing schooners) they used a 12oz - 16 oz canvas and 1/2 inch bolt ropes. Canvas here in Philippines is cheap to buy - 35 peso (70cents a metre and 36 inch width, but what sailmaker in asia could copy sail plans from the 1890s sailing rigs. Perhaps in Bira, Sulawesi, Indonesia where the schooner was built, but I feared running the gauntlet of corrupt port officials, immigration, customs and security police. By chance, I hired a local canvas maker to make some canvas screens for the heads (astern).He was very enthusiastic, like most filippinos, when I asked him if he could make up a jib sail, about 35 sq meters using the originals as a template. Wiithin 3 days he and his mates, had it rigged, and flying at the bows, all for 3500 peso (60 dollrs) and a bottle of tanduay rum. I let him get on with the main and mizzen sails (160 sq mts and 80 sq mts). They were all completed within 2 weeks, rigged and hoisted, all for 12,000 peso (250 dllrs). Making the jibs and topsails meant going aloft with tape measures, etc. No mean feat, as my main mast is almost 70 ft (guess-estimate). the top section of the main about 25 ft. These guys shin up them like they were coconut palms. They finished the 3 jibs and two tops sails within a month, making almost daily visits to the schooner to check on the cut of the sails. The whole lot coming to about 15, 000 peso ( 400 dlls) - materials and labour. They are still working on the stay sails. This may be a joke tale for guys that have chandlery shops, marinas etc within an arms lenght, but out here , improvisation is a necessity and way of life. My canvas maker never ceases to amaze me though, for my new year party at my english pub in camiguin, I wanted a Captain James Cook lookalike tri-cornered hat which he made with iincredible accuracy, given only a print of Capt Cook from the Greenwich Maritime Museum in London.

To protect my new sails now, I unhook them and they are stowed away out of the sunlight, unless anyone has any good ideas about UV protection.

Apologise for wandering a bit, anyone in Asia with a traditional phinisi might fiind this interesting, and might save them 1000s of dollars.

RIMA (72 ft with bowsprit 95 loa, dwt 59 tons, construction teak and ironwood), Camiguin Island, Philippines.
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Old 09-03-2010, 07:34   #10
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Added to the obvious UV and use wear on sails the condition of the sewing can be a major factor in the useful life of the sail. There is a tendancy for the sewing threads to shrink and break with age and use. If you do not take down the sail occassionally and carefully inspect - all - the sewing for worn or broken threads you will get a much shorter lifespan of the sail. Re-sewing the worn or broken threads along with patching worn or obviously stressed sail areas can significantly lengthen the life of the sail. There are many thinks like reefing blocks, lines, lazy jacks and areas rubbing against shrouds and spreaders that will significantly take years off your sail unless you patch and protect.
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Old 09-03-2010, 08:34   #11
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it would seem that mains last longer than head sails due to the stress of tacking and flogging of the loose footed jibs. full battens really do enhance the shape of the mains.
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Old 09-03-2010, 15:40   #12
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Wow -thanks for lots of very useful comment!!
I don't know the age of my main.I I know the gib is 5 years or so I suspect the main is more than double than and I don't go to windward well. I'm sure that is more to do with yours truly than any baggy sail but hey - got to try everything!
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Old 11-03-2010, 16:41   #13
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Only upwind performance matters: reaching and running can be done with any old rag. If you have windward work to do you will want that perfect curve with no oddities and all the battens. With all the strings tight it should be a very flat and even. Unless it matters not how long it takes to get where you're going. It's up to you.

Generally, if there's any doubt then you need a new one. The average sail on boats I see is 5 years past its useful life. Any sail from the 1900's on any boat is dumpster liner, or the owner never goes anywhere.
I think that is a pretty good summation, borne out by how my boat sails - no problem sailing nicely on a reach or a run but when close hauled, she points poorly leaving us looking at each other and at the speed log wondering aloud "Should we start the iron tops'l?"
So -I've decided going to tak the plunge and order up a new main - looking forward to it now. We plan to launch mid April so here's to a great season!Hopefully will get to post a few pics when under sail.
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Old 12-03-2010, 13:13   #14
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Our main is from the 1900s, (doesn't that sound old ) but being inmast reefing has meant it still looks very good because is spends most of its life rolled up inside the mast and the slot faces north on our mooring so little sun light. Sadly the Genoa now 9 years old and having being repaired is at the end of its life. We will get one more season out of it and replace in the Autumn when the sail makers are quiet and discounts are available.

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Old 12-03-2010, 14:46   #15
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There are so many types of fabric and methods of construction. I have had a couple of boats under my command with vektron reinforced fabric. That's pretty strong stuff. Impressive sails.

We have a plan to get a new Dacron main made from the best material available for a racer/cruiser. And... we will take very good care of it.
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