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Old 05-04-2009, 15:10   #1
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So Im new to the game and trying to learn as much as posible. I am curious about sail types and makers, and coast. Whats good and the best/wrost.

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Old 05-04-2009, 17:46   #2
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I've found over the years that I get pretty much what I pay for in cruising sails. Lots of people make good cruising sails all over the world.

My mainsail lasted 11 years before the dacron cloth rotted, but the stitching never failed. I still use my original genoa for running downwind, but it is stretched out of shape and isn't good for windward sailing. After sailing downwind in the trades across the Pacific, the panels on the genoa were stretched. I had Simon Willis in the Bay of Islands make me a new genoa which was cut differently and did a better job of maintaining its shape in the boisterous trade winds.

Fancy composite sails tend to have a fancy price tag. Many of the exotic materials will give you perfect go fast shape, but the sails won't last as long. The exotic materials may not like repeated stresses in the fabric which may break down the fabric.

As a cruiser I wanted durability and affordabilitiy first, and perfect shape second. If I was a racer with deep pockets, I would want perfect shape, and I would change my sails at least once a year.

There is no single answer to your question. You have to decide what you want from your sails and how much you are willing to spend. When you answer those two questions, it should be easy to find someone to create what you want.

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Old 05-04-2009, 20:05   #3
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High performance is light weight, strong, and has a short lifespan. Of course they cost the most. Heavier Dacron weighs more and takes more UV and abuse and lasts a good long time. You might not win the race but you'll be out on the course every day.

Modern sails are computer designed and cut to high precision. "Best" is a poor way to specify sails since the objectives are not all the same. You can optimize for any number of goals and match several price points.
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Old 05-04-2009, 21:29   #4
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OK related question. Battens or no battens for cruising and cost. Do you lose that much sail shape and could a larger genoa make up for it. Also is the cost of ditching them going to make that much of a diffrence.
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Old 05-04-2009, 22:02   #5
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Most likely you're talking about types of sail construction for a Bermudan (three-sided) sail.

There are three basic types of modern sail material - dacron/terrylene woven fabric, nylon woven fabric, and sandwich material (there are many different kinds, most of which are layers of mylar with something in between.)
  • Nylon woven material is very light but somewhat stretchy, and is used for very light air headsails such as spinakers.
  • Dacron/terrylene is what most sails use. There are many treatments applied to this kind of material to improve different variables - like its air permeability, the resistance of the weave to distortion, or it vulnerability to UV. Generally speaking the 'harder' the fabric is, the better it will hold the perfect shape for sailing fast, and the more unpleasant it is to work with when reefing, flaking, or stowing.
  • Sandwich material can be very exotic, with single threads of kevlar or carbon fiber or other high tech material being computer placed into the sail. These sails tend to be the stiffest, lightest, and most expensive, but there are some cruisers who are using these to go long distances.
When it comes to construction technique, modern sails are computer designed and cut and the primary differences today tend to be battens.
  • Some cruisers prefer simple sails with no headboard or battens, and a hollow leach with no roach. The hollow leach means between the clew and the head cringle is not a straight line, but actually a concave curve to keep the leach from fluttering or 'machine-gunning', similar to the construction of a jib sail. Such simple sails have fewer issues with chafe, and may be cheaper to build as well.
  • Most sails are cut with headboards and a slight roach - a convex curve between the clew and head cringle. This extra area is held out from the sail with short stiffeners called battens at right angles to the leech, and provides a bit more area than is actually calculated in sail area when handicaping a boat for racing.
  • Some sails have full-length battens which run from the luff of the sail to the leech, usually installed parallel to the boom except in some sport sails the topmost batten will be arranged like a gaff, holding up the peak of the sail. These full-length battens also allow the sail to carry roach, sometimes a very extreme round, but they also enforce a shape to the sail as well as prevent the sail from flogging when luffing head to wind, and a few other benefits.
Beyond these there are still many more variations, but they become more rare. How the sail is attached to the boat is mostly determined by the boat, except that most mainsails could be set with a loose foot. Some sails, especially storm sails, might have roping on all sides of the sail. How much handwork (details of the sail which are sewn by hand) is in the finished product will greatly influence the price of the sail; most handwork is important anti-chafe items which can make the sail last much longer.

That said, the average sail shape is only good for about 4000 hours of active sailing. If you sail 20 hours every summer weekend, that's 240 hours a year and your sail's shape will last 16 years. Your sail might still be good at 20 years, but it's probably not going to have a very good shape so it won't sail as efficiently, especially upwind.

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Old 06-04-2009, 03:24   #6
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Asymetric spinnaker is a sail many cruising boats do not carry but I would suggest it is worth the money.

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