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Old 06-08-2015, 15:40   #31
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
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.
There's some stuff from the 60's that you really cannot get anymore -- it was a bit stretchy so you'd not want it. The sailcloth from the 70's that is on our sails is, most of it, very nice stuff with quite a bit of heft to it but still softer than the new plastic-y sails. Our (not including light air) sails range from 8 oz cloth to 13 oz cloth so they're all pretty heavy. A sailmaker gave us some new sailcloth to use for patches (if needed) that pretty much matches our old sails so there must be some available besides the stuff for tallships
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Old 07-08-2015, 06:14   #32
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Some sailcloth is soft and some fairly firm when new. Being soft doesn't mean the cloth is bad. I typically tell clients there are two lifes to a sail, the life of the material, before rotting from the sun or de laminating, and the performance life. The "performance" life is how long the sail will maintain it's designed shape. In dacron sails this can be short. There is no danger if the sail's shape is blown out and upwind performance is affected but, if the cloth becomes sun rotted, if could cause serious problems when one needs to rely on the sails in a blow. When we look over old sails, to evaluate the cloth condition, we look for parts of the sail that show softer and have a kind of "fuzzy" feeling. This will show first in high load areas and those parts most often in the sun like, the head and clew areas as well as the entire leech. When mainsails are flaked on the boom, these areas are most exposed. Also, these are the most highly loaded areas and most important to be strong enough for the high loads of upwind sailing.
Tests made on 7 oz dacron sailcloth by Bainbridge Sailcloth, in the tropic sun of south Florida, showed up to a 60% loss in strength over 6 months of continuous exposure. When we found sails to have advanced sun rot, we could fold the material in half, by the leech tabling, and tear by hand. This is well past replacement time.

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Old 07-08-2015, 06:55   #33
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Originally Posted by davecalvert View Post
Tests made on 7 oz dacron sailcloth by Bainbridge Sailcloth, in the tropic sun of south Florida, showed up to a 60% loss in strength over 6 months of continuous exposure.
That's interesting. For my sailing in the Northeast mostly on weekends that works out to 4-5 years. Yet my sails are already 3 times older than that and seem OK. So it doesn't appear this loss in strength is common/realistic in real life.
stop blowing smoke up my rear, blow it at the sails instead
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Old 07-08-2015, 07:12   #34
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
How do cruisers decide it is time to replace their sails? My sails are 14 years old, but only get used about 40 days and year and at the worst only in conditions needing the first reef. They really aren't torn up even though they do have some patching on the edges. They seem to still sail fine and even though I'm no super sail trimmer other boats aren't catching and passing me.

So just how does a cruiser type decide it is time for new sails???
It's always time for new sails. Just like a bridge, you start at one end (of the boat/bridge) and work to the other end. When that's done you start all over again. If you don't have a sail in the loft for repair or replacement at all times then your slacking. Otherwise those sail makers will have time to go cruising and you have to share an anchorage with them....their boat will always be bristol and best equiped....and beat you to windward....just sayin.
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:05   #35
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Posting some pics of them underway will help the quality of the responses on this immensely.
That said, if they still have decent shape, & stitching integrity, you could see about sending them to be cleaned (laundered) & re-resined. Such would add a fair bit to their longevity, knock on wood.

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Old 18-08-2015, 16:05   #36
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

We replaced our sails waaaay to late -- when they physically ripped apart.

The improvement the new sails made in our boat's performance was truly amazing:
She pointed much better.
She heeled much less.
Weather helm essentially disappeared.
Small changes in trim actually made a difference.

So, in retrospect if you would enjoy the above, or complain about the above, it is probably time for new sails.
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Old 18-08-2015, 22:55   #37
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/


It really depends on the sailmaker. We've known them that when you told them you want to eke out their life, would re-stitch bits, and keep on doing that till the sails get to the finger-through-the-cloth stage.

Big name lofts often want to sell you a new sail. It's the small independents that care more about working with the customer.

Any sail fabric, whether spinnaker cloth or dacron that is rotten, you can grab and tear easily, probably should have been replaced 5 yrs. ago, at the very least.

Part of the pleasure of sailing is to sail well, and new sails will do it better. There is a spectrum among cruisers ranging from those who really don't care very much at all to those who are particular about sail shape. Figure out where you are along that line and make your decision. My personal opinion is that if you are heading out on an open ended cruise, it's nice to start with new sails. It's also nice to buy new sails in foreign countries and once again, improve the boat's performance, possibly taking advantage of the exchange rate.

Next time you go out for a sail, look and see where the draft in that genoa is. Crank on some more halyard tension. If it is still more than 1/2 way back, it would leave our sail inventory, for all the reasons mentioned in jamhass' post. YMMV


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