are your engine
and short hoist headsails hobble performance, I'd advocate for a proper sail. Working sails
should be properly sized and built for the boat. Infrequently used sails are the best candidates for when someone wants to try and save some money
. For instance, a San Francisco
Bay sailor who wants a large genoa
for the 3 or 4 times he goes out sailing in the winter months might find happiness with a used sail.
Used sails are often false economy. Here's why:
1. Life cycle cost. Often the sail is well used up. Divide cost of the sail by seasons of expected use to determine cost per season. I've seen people buy a "sail to get by with" that costs 3-5 times as much as a new sail when life cycle costing is used to analyze true cost.
2. Inappropriate material or construction - Often we see a cruiser with a big heavy boat buying
a sail from a smaller boat with a much higher SA/D. That #1 or #2 genoa
from a race
boat will be significantly under-specced for a cruising and likely stretch or fail in short order.
3. Compromises like having a short hoist headsail as in this thread. The only headsails that should not be full hoist are heavy air sails. A shorter sail produces far less power than a sail with a full hoist. That means getting bogged down by chop. Modern sail design calls for keeping the hoist fairly full and reducing LP (luff perpendicular) for higher wind
ranges as reducing LP is how we limit heeling moment. We don't start shortening the luff appreciably until we get into the heavy air sails like a #4.
4. Retrofit costs. I've seen on many occasions a customer spend as much on a used sail as they would have on a perfectly fitted new sail. If modifications to the sail are required, it can get expensive and performance impaired. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's easy to lop a foot off the luff a sail. If it's a furling
headsail, luff tape will cost $2-3 / foot to replace. Suncovers will cost $7-9 a foot to properly replace. Mainsail
luff slides will typically run $5-$10 each to replace.
5. Sheeting angles. When we design a headsail, part of the process is determining sheeting angles. It's a bit of a balancing between LP (overlap ratio), clew height, visibility, and a few other considerations. Race
boats are usually blessed with plenty of track and sheeting options. Not so with cruising boats. When people buy used genoas, they often discover they need to install new fairlead track in order for the sail to sheet properly. If that work gets done by a boatyard, that used genoa won't be the bargain you hoped for. Sometimes a furling genoa will sheet but as soon as you reef you run out of track.
If you really want to know if a headsail will fit, you can mock it up with tape measures. Or hire a sailmaker
to measure your rig and plug
the proposed measurements into his or her design software
. Then you can get a pretty good feel for how the sails will sheet. The design software
allows the user to specify a percentage of the luff to sheet to so I can pick a point like 60% up and see if the sheet will hit the track or not. The point we pick varies according to the aspect ratio of the sail.
6. No warranty or support. We've seen people buy a sail on ebay only to find out it won't work. Most of the time people overpay on sites like ebay due to the herd/auction mentality. I've seen sails sell for 3 or 4 times what they should. In some cases I've seen a used sail go for as much as a brand new one because someone didn't bother researching before they bid.