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Old 02-07-2014, 21:15   #1
Jd1
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Sail Life

How do you know when a sail is past it's prime and not worth patching any more?

My 135% genoa was just fixed a couple of weeks ago - it had a rip in the luff, parallel to the leach line and about 4 or so inches into the sail. The sail is the original sail and is about 9 years old. It is a furling sail.
The original rip was maybe 3 feet long and was patched.
Today I managed to rip possibly 10 or more feet of the unpatched section - the patch that was just installed held ok.

Now I must confess that I am quite guilty as far as the rip is concerned. I was single handing, 35 knts apparent going as hard on the wind as possible, the wind was blowing over the tide so the sea state was quite bad, the autopilot was not able to handle things and by the time I had managed to do a tack to head for more sheltered waters I noticed the ripped sail. There was considerable flogging going on during the tack.
The sail was out completely (yes, I know it was too windy for that much sail but the wind came on rather quickly and heading for sheltered water was step one to furl the sail), The main was furled to somewhere in the 30 - 40% of full sail area range.

My question is really a two part question - how do you know when to replace the sail instead of fixing and the second part of the question is 'would a good sail have shredded/ripped in this kind of situation'? I am assuming the sail is made from 8 oz dacron and has a Sunbrella UV covering on the foot and leach. I believe the rip is in the section that is covered by the Sunbrella but to be honest it was too windy at the dock to try and examine things.
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Old 02-07-2014, 21:42   #2
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Re: Sail life

The practical answer to your question is to ask a local sailmaker to come to the boat to discuss a new genoa. When he is on board, he can do an evaluation of the condition of the cloth in your sail. If you ask he will likely be able to show you simple tests that will give some idea of the condition of the cloth. The folks at Bacon (used sail dealer in Annapolis) have one do a poke test with a sharp pencil... I don't know how authoritative this is!

From your description, it sounds like UV damage to the Dacron, and would indicate that the sail is pretty well stuffed. There is some evidence that some colors of Sunbrella are not so good at UV blocking, and thus possibly only the area immediately protected by the UV strip is shot. It MIGHT be possible to cut down the sail and continue to use it, but that is likely not a good use of your money!

Now, as to whether a good sail would have ripped in this situation... probably not, but it might well have been seriously stretched out of shape and forever doomed to poor performance. Reaction to overloads depends in part to the type of cloth,its age and the cut of the sail... lots of variables, so hard to predict.

I'm wondering why you couldn't just roll it up ASAP rather than needing to get to shelter to accomplish the task? For most of us, the real joy of roller sails is being able to do just that: get rid of it quickly when conditions degenerate rapidly. You might want to consider changes in your practices in reefing/furling... it should have been do-able!

Hope that you have a good outcome from this adventure!

Jim
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Old 02-07-2014, 22:29   #3
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Re: Sail life

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Originally Posted by Jd1 View Post
How do you know when a sail is past it's prime and not worth patching any more?
Depends on what you want the sail to do.

World champions replace sails after every regatta
Not so world champions replace sails every season

A sail loses performance the first time it is used.

In terms of durability - The sail should not rip or blow out. The boat should pretty much incur a knockdown or broach before the sail rips. With the exception probably of very big boats with huge sail loads that have not been reefed at the appropriate time.

Now - If you just want to make the boat go, budget cruisers probably replace their sails when 50% of the sail material is patch...
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Old 02-07-2014, 23:27   #4
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Re: Sail life

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
The practical answer to your question is to ask a local sailmaker to come to the boat to discuss a new genoa.

<snip>

From your description, it sounds like UV damage to the Dacron, and would indicate that the sail is pretty well stuffed. There is some evidence that some colors of Sunbrella are not so good at UV blocking, and thus possibly only the area immediately protected by the UV strip is shot.

<snip>

I'm wondering why you couldn't just roll it up ASAP rather than needing to get to shelter to accomplish the task? For most of us, the real joy of roller sails is being able to do just that: get rid of it quickly when conditions degenerate rapidly. You might want to consider changes in your practices in reefing/furling... it should have been do-able!

Hope that you have a good outcome from this adventure!

Jim
Thanks for your comments Jim.
I should have explained more in my initial post but I didn't want it to turn into a real long post. When the first rip occurred, I took the sail to my local sail maker to get it repaired and to check the entire sail over. The fellow did a (rather timid) rip test on the cloth next to the rip to test for UV degradation but he obviously thought it was still serviceable.
When I picked up the repaired sail, it was mentioned that white is not the best color for the sunbrella strip but it is major money to replace that without guarantee that the sail is still good. At that point it would make more sense to replace the sail at about three times the cost of just doing the sunbrella.

As far as reefing - I had a heck of a time reefing the main but the genoa was well beyond 'reefable'. With the autopilot not being able to handle the conditions and single handing, I had two options - I could turn downwind hoping to take enough stress off the sail to be able to reef (I decided at the time that going on a downwind run at those winds would likely not relief enough stress) or I could get my behind into an area of lower wind forces and THEN do a short run to reef the sail. As it turned out, it would appear that I made the wrong decision
In retrospect, I am not 100% certain it was the wrong decision. At the time I could not have known that it would take three (!!!) goes at getting the bow through the wind while hanging on to both genoa sheets and trying to steer with my third hand all while not being able to see any instruments and while trying to hang on and not get thrown across the cockpit It was pretty hairy! It would not have been an issue at all if there had been one additional crew.

Last but not least, although the situation ruined my trip plans, I think I learned all kinds of stuff from this episode. Hopefully some of what I have learned will make me a better sailor down the line
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Old 02-07-2014, 23:33   #5
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Re: Sail life

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Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
Now - If you just want to make the boat go, budget cruisers probably replace their sails when 50% of the sail material is patch...
Oh good, I got a bit of life left then Problem is, it's a heck of a job to get the sail down, to the sailmaker, wait two weeks and get it back up. Also, after a few trips to the sail maker, one wonders if it makes more sense to get the entire thing replaced rather than getting it replaced one section at a time I guess that is really the underlying question - at what point does it make sense to just replace the thing.
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Old 03-07-2014, 00:10   #6
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Re: Sail life

One of the better days on our boat was when we hoisted the new 150 genny.

We didn't comprehend how saggy and blown out the original one was until we saw the new one.
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Old 03-07-2014, 00:50   #7
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Re: Sail life

Flogging an overlapping headsail in 35 knots could very well have caused a tear, without the cloth necessarily being at the must replace stage. Knock downs and broaches have little to do with it – high velocity impacts against rigging though, can take the life out of a sail in no time.

Test cloth: from the end of existing tear, if you can easily tear it the cloth is rotten. If you can tear it but it takes some effort, it is suffering UV damage. 8oz Daron should be really difficult to tear. Look and feel the cloth for areas that are softer, abraded, or show more light through (pin holes) – all signs of cloth that is at the back end of life.

Test stitching: scrape thumb nail across stitching on seams, UV cover, edge tapes, webbing stitches. If stitches break or fray noticeably, it’s rotten. If it frays a little, it’s still ok, though has some UV damage.

If stitching is rotten and cloth is not, it may well be worth having it resewn. UV cover can be replaced if base cloth is sound. If base cloth is UV damaged it may be worth cutting down, as Jim said, if only along the leech (sail shape is compromised though); otherwise repairs quickly become a waste of time and money. If the basic tests above don’t yield an obvious answer, then consult a sailmaker.
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:38   #8
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Re: Sail life

Totem, thanks for that... much better stated than my efforts, and the tear test makes lots of sense to me. Better than a puncture test for sure.

And back to the OP: JD, just why could you not roll up the sail? If it was flogging anyway, dumping the sheet and pulling like mad on the furling line will normally bring in a genoa on a boat your size. If you can't exert enough pull, use a winch... I know that many say that is a no-no, but we have found that it is sometimes necessary, even on 36 footers (like our previous boat). I wouldn't worry about the strength of the furling gear, for after all, the stress is a lot less than that generated by winching in the sheet when partly furled. Again, the whole point of jib furlers is to take care of just this sort of situation.

Cheers,

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Old 03-07-2014, 06:07   #9
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Re: Sail life

Thanks Totem! Great explanation. I will do those tests when I take the sail down later today.
Jim, I have never used the winch because I am afraid of busting things. I will test to see if I can run the furling line to the opposite side winch (the winch on the side of the furling line had the genoa sheet in it). It will be interesting just to see how that all works as I am not sure the current hardware (fairleads of the furling line) are up to the stress. I am still concerned about busting things but breaking sails isn't that much fun either
Actually, the more I think about it the better I like it. I start to furl at about 20 knts and at that point I use the winch on the main sail furler so it seems silly to not use a winch on the foresail as long as it's done with some feel (on occasion I have to let out a bit of sail because things feel like they are hung up and doing a let-out followed by a take-in will fix that). At 20 knts I can not furl the genoa without turning downwind to take load off the sail. If winching works it would make the process of furling a lot easier in high wind situations which probably means it would be done sooner too.
Anyway, I will explore this technique which up til now has been a no-no - thanks!
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Old 03-07-2014, 12:31   #10
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Re: Sail life

Update: Sail is with the sail maker and should be fixed in a week or so. They will cut the leach hollow to cut out sun damaged sail material.
Testing the sail material was interesting - I was not able to rip the dacron going one direction but the other direction tore real easy. Anybody know why only one direction would be weak? How do you tell what is warp and what is weft? One would think that the same yarn and same strands/inch would be used in both directions.
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Old 03-07-2014, 14:45   #11
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Re: Sail life

In a sail, the tension parallel to the leech (from clew to head) is much higher than across. So, it makes sense to use cloth optimized for this situation, with stronger vertical yarns and weaker horizontal ones.

Having horizontal warp and vertical weft (or fill) or vice-versa depends on the cut of your sail: a "horizontal" cut sail will have horizontal seams, horizontal, "weak" warp and vertical, "strong", weft.

Another remark: when you can't tack because of the wind or waves, then gybe. It takes longer, wastes some ground but success is assured, provided you control the mainsail. It shouldn't be a problem when the main is partially furled.

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Old 03-07-2014, 15:24   #12
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Re: Sail life

JD1, what type of furler do you have? Does it have sealed bearings in it? This sound much like when I first bought my Peterson 44, with 70s vintage Hood Seafurl. It worked fine until we were hit by a nasty squall, and it would not roll, even with using the winch. Turned down wind, and it rolled right up. With some advice from other Seafurl owners, I replaced the bearings(from an auto parts store, Not from Hood) and everything worked perfect. Over an 8 year period of lots of sailing, I replaced the bearings 2 or 3 times. If I thought it was getting sticky, I replaced them. If I remember correctly Hood wanted 5 or 6 times as much for the same bearings that you get from a good auto parts store. ____Just a thought. _____Grant.
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Old 03-07-2014, 15:57   #13
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Re: Sail life

Old dacron sails always start by tearing in one direction only along the straight fill threads because the crimped (S-shaped) warp threads are much more exposed to UVs during the life of the sail than the fill, which is "inside".
On top of this, some sail cloth is designed "unbalanced" with stronger fill threads to be able to carry higher loads in this direction, and then it accentuates the problem at the end-of-life point.

Once you can keep tearing the warp threads by just pulling from an existing rip, the sail is essentially cooked. I have kept using sails in this condition to "finish them off" on downwind ocean passage in the easy latitudes, saving the new ones from getting baked, and changed back to strong canvas when approaching land on the other side, but they are absolutely no option for strong winds and upwind work.
Tearing along the leech cord only is quite common with headsails and this doesn't automatically mean a new sail right away. Leeches tend to flap a little and this also fatigues the cloth.
Multiple small tears appearing in the body of the sail just outside the layered patches (at the tack of a headsail or the clew of a mainsail usually) after a good beat upwind means it is more than ready to be stowed into a rubbish bin. This is usually the fill thread starting to fail under load.

Sails on furlers usually go bad from the leech, always more exposed, and the rest of the sail can surprisingly sound while the leech falls apart. Unfortunately, the cost of repairing vs making a new one usually doesn't warrant repairing unless you do it yourself. Recutting the leech with more hollow (like you are doing) is an easy way out sometimes when the problem isn't too bad. It is the price you pay for convenience (and abysmal performance in fresh winds) with the senseless one-sail-for-all approach.
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Old 03-07-2014, 18:36   #14
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Re: Sail life

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JD1, what type of furler do you have? Does it have sealed bearings in it?
I believe it is Selden but not positive. I also believe they say to hose the furler down so the bearings likely are not sealed. I am not at the boat so can't check the manual but I will definitely check that. Thanks !
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Old 03-07-2014, 18:42   #15
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Re: Sail life

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Old dacron sails always start by tearing in one direction only along the straight fill threads because the crimped (S-shaped) warp threads are much more exposed to UVs during the life of the sail than the fill, which is "inside".
On top of this, some sail cloth is designed "unbalanced" with stronger fill threads to be able to carry higher loads in this direction, and then it accentuates the problem at the end-of-life point.

Once you can keep tearing the warp threads by just pulling from an existing rip, the sail is essentially cooked. I have kept using sails in this condition to "finish them off" on downwind ocean passage in the easy latitudes, saving the new ones from getting baked, and changed back to strong canvas when approaching land on the other side, but they are absolutely no option for strong winds and upwind work.
Tearing along the leech cord only is quite common with headsails and this doesn't automatically mean a new sail right away. Leeches tend to flap a little and this also fatigues the cloth.
Multiple small tears appearing in the body of the sail just outside the layered patches (at the tack of a headsail or the clew of a mainsail usually) after a good beat upwind means it is more than ready to be stowed into a rubbish bin. This is usually the fill thread starting to fail under load.

Sails on furlers usually go bad from the leech, always more exposed, and the rest of the sail can surprisingly sound while the leech falls apart. Unfortunately, the cost of repairing vs making a new one usually doesn't warrant repairing unless you do it yourself. Recutting the leech with more hollow (like you are doing) is an easy way out sometimes when the problem isn't too bad. It is the price you pay for convenience (and abysmal performance in fresh winds) with the senseless one-sail-for-all approach.
Interesting !!
What is wrong with the 'one sail for all' approach as long as you don't want a sail for racing ? Could you elaborate a bit on this since I did ask for a quote on a new sail and it would be nice to incorporate any changes.
BTW, although I forgot to mention it for the new quote, I will probably ask for luff foam because sail shape really is terrible when partially furled.
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