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Old 24-08-2014, 15:05   #1
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Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

We are outfitting our 48' Aluminum Cutter Rigged Ketch to sail to New Zealand...and beyond, we hope. We have bids to replace our Headsail, Staysil and Mizzen from two high-end sailmakers (Scottauer & Hasse), a smallish company in New Zealand (Willis), and Neil Pryde Sails (I believe these are manufactured in China.

We really like the idea of working with someone locally (Seattle) and want sails that will take us around the world. I have no question about the craftsmanship of the the high-end sailmakers, but what I don't know is if we really need that high-end -- the cost is nearly double the other two.

I welcome feedback from folks that have done off-shore sailing in considerable weather...are sails like the liferaft...i.e., an area you absolutely do not skimp, and/or if you've have any experience with Willis or Neil Pryde. Sails.

Thanks!
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Old 24-08-2014, 15:33   #2
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Re: Offshore sails - are high-end worth the $$

Our sailmaker has suggested that unless you are particularly performance oirentated (i.e. racing performance) Dacron still offers the best solution in terms of cost/longevity. Obviously Dacron also varies in quality.
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Old 24-08-2014, 15:37   #3
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Re: Offshore sails - are high-end worth the $$

When buying sails, we use someone local, who will come and do the measuring themselves, and if something isn't right with the finished product, it's not an issue of shipping the sails halfway around the world.

Some people care a lot about sails, and others, less, so if you have a local measurer and he causes the sail to be sewn where labor is cheaper, depending on how picky you might be, that might be satisfactory. I agree that the workmanship on Hasse sails can be beautiful....but we actually prefer pressed stainless grommets to hand sewn ones. It's a question of what you personally want and for that, you need a working relationship with some sailmaker.

Often, the choice of the type of sailcloth and the weights of it are a result of this discussion. A lot depends on how you will use the boat, as well as personal preferences.

We've known folks who bought Chinese mail order sails and were okay with them. Our choices have been local lofts.

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Old 24-08-2014, 15:51   #4
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Re: Offshore sails - are high-end worth the $$

Again I agree with Ann!
Local is good - but, remember how you will use them. If you are to go offshore, and something needs repair/service while under warrantee, how will you do that? Sometimes, an international loft (Like Norths?) can provide service in many locations. The reduction in cost may justify the small lofts sails though. Check and see if they actually make the sails, or buy the cut panels from offshore - many do. Generally, but not always, the larger companies have better design facilities and cloths available to them. Bargain for the pricing - I've recently got Norths to go within $1500 of a kitset sail from Sailrite - on a $6000 sail - and they come to the boat, measure it, make the sail, fit the sail, and come on a test sail!
Personally, I prefer cruise laminate sails. They hold their shape better, and therefore give more drive and less heel for a given area. By the time they begin to delaminate, a dacron sail will be a bag of $%^#& anyway - although some still use them like that! Others will disagree.
Best of luck with your voyage. If/when you get to New Zealand, if you come to Auckland, I'm at Gulf Harbour Marina - come and have a beer!
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Old 24-08-2014, 15:53   #5
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Re: Offshore sails - are high-end worth the $$

I believe Port Townsend Sails is relatively close to the Seattle area.
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Old 24-08-2014, 18:14   #6
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Re: Offshore sails - are high-end worth the $$

You can specify the quality of the sail cloth whether high end loft or not. There are very few mills that make sail cloth and all the sail makers in the world order from them. Good old Dacron of whatever quality stands up to the abuse and UV degradation way way better than the laminates. The laminates are nice for their light weight, smallish size when bagged and they hold their shape until the end. Unfortuantely the end seems to come in an explosion as the fabric deteriorates to the point it disintegrates. Dacron will last virtually forever especially if care is taken to keep the stitching in good shape. Dacron sails hold their shape well but will bag out with age and abuse. They'll still work, just not as well as new.

The cost differential for sails is in details and service and overhead. Your local friendly sailmaker will come to the boat, measure the sail, give you any advice on setting the sail and any improvements you may need to the sail handling set up you have for better sail shape and longevity. They are also there if you need them after delivery for any recutting or advice. A lot of time and labor is involved in making a sail if there is any significant handwork. The production lofts often do minimal handwork leaving it to machines, A local sail make will probably have more handwork. Personally like handwork as it's often fixable if something should go wrong where machine work needs (fanfare please) a machine. Large lofts like North etc. have a lot of overhead for advertising and servicing the racing crowd. North, for one, has their cruising sails made in China so wonder what the difference is between going to them rather than direct to a Chinese mfg.

There are local lofts and there are local lofts. Priced Hasse and Pineapple sails for my boat and they were nearly double what a small loft in Alameda wanted. Despite the quality craftsmanship, just couldn't justify the difference. These high end lofts do beautiful work but out of my price range. Eventually went with Mack Sails out of Fla. and got three sails, instead of two, and a new boom from them for what the high end lofts wanted.

Good luck in your decision.
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Old 24-08-2014, 20:07   #7
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

As a sailmaker, I must correct a few statements written above:
-“Good old Dacron of whatever quality stands up to the abuse and UV degradation way way better than the laminates…”
This is part true and part false. Quality Dacron, absolutely yes. Poor quality Dacron, of which there is much used will NOT stand up to abuse/UV better than “laminates”. If talking about cruising laminates – no way – for example I just spoke with someone that had a mainsail made by Lee Sails that lasted less than 1 year. They sent Lee a video of their 8 years old daughter tearing the cloth like it was tissue paper (for the record, Lee replaced the sail, but the owners had to pay for cost of new/quality materials).
-“The laminates are nice…. and they hold their shape until the end”
This is not true. I’ll assume “laminates” means cruising laminate, and most of these are polyester yarns sandwiched between mylar film and polyester taffeta. Polyester and Dacron are the same. Cruising laminates and not woven, so have less stretch than Dacron mostly by eliminating crimp (stretch from over/under of woven materials). So, polyester cruising laminates do stretch and distort with use. Substituting high modulus yarns instead of Polyester makes for less stretch and more cost. As for Dacron lasting “virtually forever” and laminates ending in “explosion”, well, both are a bit overstated.
-“larger companies have better design facilities and cloths available to them.”
A better design facility (nicer furniture?) does not mean a better design. Good, current design software (easy to come by) and a person that is skilled and experienced at using it (hard to come by) make a better design. As for cloths, some of the bigger lofts make their own cloth (some good and some not), but between sailcloth manufacturers there is quality at least equal and available to all.
-On the comments about handwork
Handwork is time consuming, therefore expensive. I’ve not seen the generalization that productions lofts do less handwork and local loft more. Some local lofts add much handwork and have built a reputation as “high quality” because of it, yet many local lofts have little handwork because it is expensive. Production loft also often go cheap (less handwork), but some, such as China Sail Factory do a lot or a little as specified by the designer of each sail. Handwork looks nice, but by no means indicates quality – it’s knowing where it should be versus machine sewing.
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Old 24-08-2014, 20:57   #8
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

Call Grey Hawken in Anacortes of Lidgard Sails. Sir Peter Blake and Playstation used them. Handmade in Auckland, NZ.
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Old 24-08-2014, 21:00   #9
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

Halsey Sailmakers (my old loft) made most (if not all) of PlayStation's sails.
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Old 24-08-2014, 21:05   #10
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

Quote:
Originally Posted by svTOTEM View Post
Halsey Sailmakers (my old loft) made most (if not all) of PlayStation's sails.
That was Halsey-Lidgard in the Fremont area of Seattle. Halsey and Lidgard parted ways, and Halsey merged with UK. Playstation's sails were made in Auckland.
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Old 24-08-2014, 21:25   #11
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

Ah, no. That was Halsey Sailmakers in Old Mystic Connecticut. Halsey and Lidgard did partner for several years and split. I was sail designer at Halsey, but it was a long time ago and I moved to west coast during the PlayStation project so don't remember exact count on sail construction, but I stand by my statement. Perhaps Lidgard made more sails after it's set the circumnavigation record?
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Old 25-08-2014, 17:41   #12
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

We are Australian and sailed to Alaska and returned for a Pacific adventure. We had new sails made by Hasse in Port Townsend and cannot find a word to describe the care in measuring, making,and testing of the sails not to mention the after sales service we have received. Awesome, fantastic, wonderful - none of these words describes the work, care and friendship we discovered at Port Townsend Sails.

Go see Hasse and you will not regret your choice or money spent. Give her our best wishes if you decide to go that way.

Sue
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Old 28-08-2014, 05:56   #13
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

There are many factors involved. High end is more about the cloth, construction and specification than about the brand name. The high quality dacron's are available to every sailmaker, though Challange/Dimenion Polyant/Bainbridge/Contender, these guys work hard to outdo each other.
The production lofts in Asia can afford to put many more hours in than the small loft in the first world so you'll likely see more detailing. European design and engineering coupled with a cheap asian labor is a hard combination to beat.
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Old 28-08-2014, 17:34   #14
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

Hi , I agree with "Sapient Sue" We had Carol Hasse from Pt Townsend Sails do some of our last cruising set for "Candlewin" our Herrshoff 48. She travelled an entire day to come measure, then constructed sails that lasted us for our entire last 20,000 mi cruise to Easter Island and back. When we sold the boat, the new owners were amazed at how good the condition of the sails were.Those same sails then took the boat to Nova Scotia, another huge cruise.
I honestly believe that to get a good service life out of such an expensive purchase , it pays to start with the best design and construction process as possible. I also think that a good reputation speaks for itself.My first suit of off-shore sails were basically throw aways after the same length of cruise at an earlier time.
Greg Janes, Comox Valley
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Old 28-08-2014, 18:53   #15
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Re: Offshore Sails - Are High-end Worth the $$

North Sails in Seattle was great to work with a produced six wonderful and very long lasting sails for us in the spring of 1999.

- extra sized Main
- 120% RF genoa
- Code 0 drifter/reacher
- Big staysail
- storm jib
- trysail

We were embarking on an extended blue water cruise in our Caliber 40 cutter. We wanted sails that would last at sea and when abused. We wanted sails that were easy to handle and safe for rough conditions on a forty foot boat and a single handed crew.

Brad Baker, the North Sail designer and now owner of Swiftsure Yacht Sales, sailed with us several times in various wind conditions to determine how to design the sails. Brad then sailed with us three more times with the new sails and fine tuned the shapes as needed.

At that time Brad had been the winning navigator on several Vic-Maui races and had done many Swiftsure races so he knew what conditions to plan for.

The sails delivered by North were about 40% more expensive than plain Dacron or any "off the shelf" sails we considered. But, our new Main made the boat so much easier to handle in heavy upwind sailing and greatly reduced the heel and weather helm when pounding into 25 - 30 knots. The North Spectra main replaced a Doyle Offshore sail that was custom built by Doyle for Caliber Yachts. The main had been twice recut but still did not perform as I wished it to.

After almost 15 years of usage:

The North genoa was just reconditioned at the cost of $350 and the sailmaker here in San Diego says it will last many more years.

The North main was in poor shape but still functional in November 2013 when we replaced it.

The Code 0 is still perfect.

The Main and 120% high cut genoa are Spectra sails. The Roller Furling genoa has a big band of UV cover sewn into the head-clew edge.

The Code 0 is 2.5 oz nylon ( heavier than a normal Code 0 but we wanted it to be bullet and fool-proof) on it's own furling drum and we only have it hoisted when it use.

The main, genoa, and Code 0 have the following miles on them:

- Tacoma - Neah Bay - Cape Scott (on the outside) and back
- Several dozen trips from Tacoma thru the San Juans and Gulf Island
- Two trips Tacoma - San Diego
- San Diego to La Paz
- La Paz to Zihuatenejo and back
- three summers in the North Sea of Cortez

I think the money we spent on the North Sails was one of the best investments we made in the 20 years we have owned our Caliber 40. We have sailed in quite a few heavy weather conditions, at sea and in protected waters and the sails always performed just as we wanted.

Additionally, the Code 0 lowered our practical light wind sailing ability to about 5 knots True. The Code 0 was our go-to sail about 50% of the time sailing south to Mexico and about 60% of the time in the Sea of Cortez.

Carol Hasse also makes great sails. She built a set of sails for our best friends to use on their Columbia 38. They left Seattle in 1999 and have done the following using those sails while living aboard full time
- Seattle - La Paz
- a year in the Sea of Cortez
- two years Mexico - western Panama
- a year Western Panama - thru the canal - Columbia and Central America
- a year in the Caribbean
- two trips Florida - Bermuda and back
- nine years cruising the Mediterranean, Aegean, Adriatic seas

Both folks on the Columba were trained by Carol to work on sails and do all their own repairs. They built a mini-sail loft that could be used in their cabin and have rebuilt the sails several times but they are still using the same basic sails.
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