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Old 05-08-2015, 12:59   #1
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Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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???
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Old 05-08-2015, 13:10   #2
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

I replaced my sails when they were 9 years old. I knew it was time when I put my thumb through the main when stacking it. Regular visits to the sail makers or my sewing skills was also a good indication.
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Old 05-08-2015, 13:14   #3
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Main - when it starts ripping as i handle it when flaking, or when it blows out. Spinnakers - when they blow up because i've done something silly. Headsail - I keep a good, strong 110% working jib for passages through the horse latitudes and have two old bagged-out genoas for trade winds passages. They get replaced with second-hand, also old ones when they blow out and can't be sewn back together again because the fabric is too rotten. Then they get made into sail bags, covers for stuff, storage pockets and anything else i can think of. When the working jib bags out from age i might try removing some fabric from the luff to flatten it again for upwind performance..............

I think you might get a lot of different answers to your question.................

Sounds to me like it aint broke, so don't fix it in your case!
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Old 05-08-2015, 13:18   #4
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

I feel that if my sails where tearing or anywhere close to my being able to stick a finger though it I would long ago replaced them.
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Old 05-08-2015, 13:44   #5
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
I feel that if my sails where tearing or anywhere close to my being able to stick a finger though it I would long ago replaced them.
It was my first season with the boat. I bought it knowing they were on their last legs and hoped to survive that first summer which by the end I'd hope I'd be able to make a more informed choice. It was only after about 10 weeks of sailing that the thumb went through and by then the season was nearly over
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Old 05-08-2015, 13:49   #6
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Are they very limp?
Do they have a good shape when trimmed?
or belly out too full when the wind blows?
Is the stitching worn thru in spots?
Excessive wear on the chafe points?
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Old 05-08-2015, 13:55   #7
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Sun cover and stitching repairs will give a you a heads up when the time is near.
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Old 05-08-2015, 14:20   #8
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
Are they very limp? Compared to want, how do measure/tell?
Do they have a good shape when trimmed? seem to, but the only way I have to judge is that I can trim to make the tell tails stream
or belly out too full when the wind blows? what the heck does "belly out too much" mean
Is the stitching worn thru in spots? no
Excessive wear on the chafe points? couple of places mainly due to the Dutchman lines and I'm had those patched (sail shop didn't try to tell me the sail was shot)
Guess I could take the sail to a shop and ask them, wonder what they would say?
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Old 05-08-2015, 16:25   #9
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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Guess I could take the sail to a shop and ask them, wonder what they would say?

It's far better to have a sailmaker evaluate the sails on the boat underway. Ask for a price for an evaluation. Get referrals from other sailors or ask around at a yacht club.


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Old 05-08-2015, 16:44   #10
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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Guess I could take the sail to a shop and ask them, wonder what they would say?
BTW - that was kind of a joke as I would expect a sail loft to of course say the sails need replacement.
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Old 05-08-2015, 16:57   #11
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Originally Posted by Cheechako Are they very limp? Compared to want, how do measure/tell? Use your hands, soft and supple or stiff?
Do they have a good shape when trimmed? seem to, but the only way I have to judge is that I can trim to make the tell tails stream
or belly out too full when the wind blows? what the heck does "belly out too much" mean too much shape, will not flatten out with adjustments.
Is the stitching worn thru in spots? no
Excessive wear on the chafe points? couple of places mainly due to the Dutchman lines and I'm had those patched (sail shop didn't try to tell me the sail was shot)



a sailmaker should be able to look and physically show you any issues and what they think. Find one that has a loft locally and does their own making though.
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Old 05-08-2015, 17:02   #12
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

Sailorboy1, I'm by no means a sail expert, nor do I spend much time offshore or race. But if it ain't broke, why fix it?

Having said that, if you are going off shore, I think a professional assessment is worth the $$$.

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Old 05-08-2015, 17:41   #13
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

How do they work upwind? That is the tell for sails because bedsheets will work fine off the wind. If they still work upwind and you can't push your finger through them, they are fine.

You will know when your sails need replacing. You will wake up one day and need to go to windward and notice that you just can't get any closer than 60*.

That's when they need replacing.

Unless you are planning a down-wind cruise (and you should).

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Old 05-08-2015, 23:51   #14
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

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.
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Old 06-08-2015, 00:07   #15
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Re: Sail Replacement, how do you know when/

When you decide to convert your boat from a schooner to a sloop.....

Seriously, Panope's first set of sails were used between 1982 and 2000 and were in great shape when I sold them. I would not be surprised if they were still usable. That was 18 years of very frequent day-sailing and 1 year trip to Mexico. The sails were bent 100% of the time, and covered when not sailing.

I recently asked my sail-maker (same lady that built the first sails) how long my new sails will last. She gave a number that was much smaller that our first sails lasted - something like 12 years IIRC. I mentioned our experience with the first set of sails and she said that the Dacron that is available today is not as good as it was back in the day.

I would have thought that plastic and other man made fiber technology would have improved, not worsened.

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