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Old 06-08-2015, 00:27   #16
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Has the draft position moved aft from the initial 40% ish point?
What does your main look like if you were to take a picture looking up from the cockpit sole while sailing, and if someone behind your boat took a picture showing the aft edge looking forward?
How well to your sail controls work for flattening sail and reducing heel in a good breeze?
Where has the sail been stored?
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:07   #17
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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Originally Posted by Stumble View Post
Realistically any sail that's 14 years old probably needs replacing. Unless it was stored flat (not folded) in air conditioning its entire line it's likely done.

A good sail should actually crinkle like cellophane when it bends. And the fabric should be very stiff and slippery. Around here a sailmaker would likely inspect the sails for free, even on the boat, but the likelihood of them telling you anything other than its time for new ones is remote.
Ha Stumble, we are about as far apart on this as it's possible to be, I think a sail is just starting to get broken in when it loses its cellophane feelmy old sails on Snowpetrel 1 were at least 14 years old and had 3 south pacific loops on them before I sailed her to Antarctica. I gave them a very good look over, and had replaced the leech on the genoa when I had the suncover replaced. I carried a spare main, and a set of headsails, but my old sails were fine.

I guess for me age itself doest matter, I regularly buy old neglected and stained 30 year old sails. replace the coroded hanks and they are fine.

The only real problem is sunlight. Stitching can be restiched, chafe can be patched, and an old baggy sail makes a perfect ocean crossing sail as long as it is sound. But sun damage is fatal. One year with no cover on would probably do more damage to a sail than 10 years of sporadic weekend sailing. And I would far rather own a 30 year old sail that's been sitting below going mouldy than a ten year old one that's been used weekly.

I always check out the leech. That's where a sail shows it age, and where they will normally catastrophically fail. Of course batten pockets are another big problem, and corner hardware needs to be sound, but a bit of heavy webbing reinforcing really strengthens them easily. Stitching around the chafe points can go, but it's easy to fix.

If you look after sails they last a long time. The shape will go to pieces long before they are structurally weak, and they usually give plenty of warning before they are about to totally fail. The exception to this is sun damage. its not as obvious, and it can weaken some sails only in a few exposed bits, and an otherwise good sail can be dangerously weak.

So for me if the sail cloth hasn't been sun damaged too badly I'll keep patching them up. But I guess if I had a very large disposable income I might think differently!
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:42   #18
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Your sails will tell you when they need replacing

Usage has a lot to do with it... the main my boat came with was shot at 8yo. However 4 years of that had been as a sailing school boat in Northern Europe and the next 4 spent in the tropics.... my next main was still good at 10 and seriously shot at 12 yo. Present one is now about 8 year old so I am budgeting on new in about 2 years of which 1 year out and about/9000 miles.

My genoa was totally stuffed when I binned it last year at 20 yo but it had not seen a lot of work for the last 10 years.... usually use the #2.

Sun seems to be the biggest killer... most other wear can be fixed.

If I lay up for very long all sails are sent below.
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Old 06-08-2015, 05:22   #19
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post

Sun seems to be the biggest killer... most other wear can be fixed.
I mostly believe this also far as cruiser sails. But when the sails have gotten to the point of this being apparent is when the material just tears etc. and there has to be better guidelines.
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Old 06-08-2015, 05:33   #20
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
I mostly believe this also far as cruiser sails. But when the sails have gotten to the point of this being apparent is when the material just tears etc. and there has to be better guidelines.
Really it depends on your own expectations. Some people will be happy to stick with old sails until it's no longer economical to keep repairing the sail ant not give two hoots about sailing performance. Others will me conscious that the sails are losing shape resulting in less pointing ability and more healing over.

I will not keep my current sails until I start pushing my thumb through them.

There is no right answers that suit everyone. You need to decide your own limit 😝


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Old 06-08-2015, 12:09   #21
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

A couple of posts (#11 Cheechako, #14 Stumble) here make me think that folks haven't seen the good older dacrons so they don't recognize them when they see (or hear?) the fabric -- older dacron had a lot more thread and a lot less plastic. If you read the Sailmaker's Apprentice on sail materials there is a discussion of this. One of the softest sailcloths out there, new, today is North Sails Oceanus a very heavy cloth made for tallships -- it looks just like natural fiber cotton duck but it is dacron and wears wonderfully long.

It is less costly to fabricate dacron the modern way with lots of plastic--and it performs well but not for as many seasons. Again, consumers paying more for less. Ask cruising sailmaker Carol Hasse of Port Townsend Sails how long good cruising sails will last and she'll tell you that a good set of cruising sails can last 30 years. Even the sails made today (by her) have long lives which indicates to me that some of the new sailcloths are of similar quality/construction to the older dacrons, too.

Our sails are all old, some we've replaced, some we keep using.

The previous owner to us had all the sails inspected, cleaned, and repaired by a reputable sail loft in 2003. They sat unused from 2003 until we bought the boat in late 2006 and relaunched the boat in 2009.

The various sails in the inventory date from 1970 through 1982 and were used alot during that timeframe. They hadn't been used outside the mild winds of San Diego harbor from 1984-1996 and had not been used after 1996 at all. We thought we were going to have to replace them but the previous owner said "no, wait on that until you see how they perform." We waited and were glad we did. They had and have a lot of (upwind) life in them. When we bought the boat, he handed over all his files and receipts and I noted that he'd paid over $6K in cleaning and sail repairs in 2003--and never used them after. This was for mainsail, foresail, staysail, yankee jib, regular jib, genoa, balloon-footed jib, fisherman, gollywobbler cleaning and repairs. Aside from a couple rust stains, they looked like new when we opened up the bags.

Since 2009, we've sailed less than 2000 nm/year. All cloth is strong. We've managed to damage a bit here or there with spreader chafe and blew out a jib clew in a slog to windward during a stiff breeze (diagnosis was uv damaged stitching around the hand-pressed ring). I do the repairs as needed.

The sails have performed wonderfully except the stitching on the foresail's external bolt rope has UV damage to the point that I hand-restitch a 6ft or so section every once in a while. I didn't like the cut of the mainsail, so did my own hack job recutting the foot and quite by accident now have a much better performing sail (that's what happens when you have old sails, you're not afraid to experiment on them). I also tightened up all the seams on the staysail to move the draft a bit forward. The cloth is strong, so I figured WTH and did it. Another sailor might just take it in to the sailmaker for the same work.

Finally, in Newport Beach at Minney's we came across an old, mostly hand-sewn boomed (main or mizzen) sail that looked to be in absolutely great shape and close to the size and cut of our mainsail. We dragged it into a reputable sailmaker for inspection and estimate for recutting and putting in reef points where we wanted them. It was a treat -- the sailmaker took a look in the bag and before ever removing the sail cited which sailmaker had built the sail (he could tell by the style and quality of the hand stitching), the sails that guy had made, the races won, yadayda... and when he saw the number on the sail he cited the boat it had come off of, said the sail had never been used, ever, and that he'd inspected the sail inventory of that boat himself as part of a pre-Transpac inspection and another pre-race inspection. He said the sail was built in the 60's, it might stretch out more than good sailcloth of the 70's or later but we should expect anywhere from a season to many seasons with this sail. We did buy the sail and have the mods done to it. Cost...about 10% of what a new mainsail by Hasse or another good cruising sailmaker would be...about 40% of what a bottom of the line new high plastic, low thread Asian-made sail would have been. By design, the sail is not as flat as our other mainsail and we've only used it downwind so far so the jury is still out on it's upwind performance.

And that brings me to the comments above about whether the sail is baggy. It's all relative. Some sails are cut with a lot of curve, shape, belly while others are pretty flat. All depends on the winds they're expected to be used in. That new-to-us mainsail was expected to be used in mostly tradewinds ocean racing (decades ago) and has more shape because of it. The old mainsail that I re-cut was already pretty flat (it was a SoCal light winds mainsail) and I made it even flatter with my mods to the foot. Very different performance from each of these sails.

If an area of a sail has UV damage to the extent that the fabric is weak, a large patch may be in order. If the entire sail is that way -- maybe a new sail is needed. I've enjoyed working on/repairing our sails because it allows me to learn how to do things myself. I also am glad there are plenty of good sailmakers out there that we can hire if I decide I don't want to take on a big repair or mod-job myself. I hope other sailors here will also enjoy taking on some repairs themselves, too!

Fair winds. Brenda
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Old 06-08-2015, 12:20   #22
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Very informative post Brenda!

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Old 06-08-2015, 12:45   #23
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

In the early 80's I bought a compete set of sails for a boat I had just completed. They had a cloth similar to what Brenda talks about, it was soft finish type and not stiff like most cloth sold. Pretty cool stuff actually. Didnt use it long enough to know the downside if there was one. The next boat I bought new sails for I tried to get it but was no longer available.
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Old 06-08-2015, 13:33   #24
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

I remember a NZ Tornado Olympic team here years ago evaluating as many sets of sails as they could find building up to the games. They found that the oldest set was the fastest, so they made new sails identical to those old ones except of course with new cloth so they would hold together.
As I remember they won gold with them.


So old sails are not necessarily slower than new sails you might decide to buy.


I took my fairly old main to the local Doyles loft because I wanted it reassessed by a different loft from where it was made. However the sailmaker who had made it was now working for Doyles. He gave it a professional going over and said it was still fine apart from some chafe where the full length battens had rubbed on my swept back spreader ends. Only a small bill for those repairs. He didn't try to sell me a new sail.
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Old 06-08-2015, 15:18   #25
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

A factor to consider is that "new" sails amount to a significant selling point in an older boat.
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Old 06-08-2015, 15:52   #26
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Jack, So buy new sails just before you sell??
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Old 06-08-2015, 16:13   #27
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

On "new sails" they may not generate a higher sales price but may lead to a quicker sale.
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Old 06-08-2015, 16:17   #28
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

If I were to buy another yacht, I'd rather have old sails so I could get made the sails I want rather that some that were made to sell the boat. That's just me but I'm sure you are right about that.
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Old 06-08-2015, 16:18   #29
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

not interested in selling my boat and if I was I wouldn't be interested in buying new sails for someone else

meanwhile back to when/how cruisers decide when it is time to get new new sails
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Old 06-08-2015, 16:29   #30
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

If I was just daysailing and suchlike I would keep my sails until they either ceased to work or fell to bits... or very close to it... 'breakdown maintenance'

If passage making I would go for preventive maintenance and replace them a lot sooner.

The photo I posted above was of the main on a boat that had just arrived in Papeete from Mexico/Galapagos or where-ever. Owner reckoned it just need a bit of stitching and it would be good to go again
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