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Old 08-07-2009, 21:26   #1
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Sail Specifications

This is a topic that I find most neglected by us sailors.

We sail boats, so we buy sails. But most of the time the sail will be specified by the sailmaker, and we just get what they give us.

With this thread I wish to seek your contribution based on your cruising experience in building a full sail specification. What I mean is how can we list the specifications for the sailmaker to quote, so that we get a good cruising sail that will last.

For example, let me start with material. After searching materials from a few material manufacturers, I have decided that Hood is onto a good thing. A Woven Kevlar material. But they do not supply that material to others, and a Hood sail cost much more than others. Luckily Dimension Polyant have come up with something similar. The material is called Hydra-Net, it is a woven polyester with Dyneema in it. In my view this is a good compromise in order to hold its shape longer.

2- Cut:
The choices are two, Cross cut or Radial cut. Most sailmakers nowadays prefer Cross Cut, because it will be less labour involved. They would charge more for a Radial Cut, but profit to value of sales will reduce in percentage terms. IE not as good for business.

What should cruisers want? Simplicity of Cross Cut, less stitches to go wrong? Or better shape longetivity of Radial Cut?

3- Stitch:
Double Stitch or triple Stitch? Most cruisers book recommend triple stitched.

ETC. A simple draft of choices is attached on an Excel spreadsheet.

Can you please add your cruising experience in building my sail specifications.

Thank you


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Old 08-07-2009, 21:43   #2
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IMO, kevlar and other exotic materials are ill-suited for cruising sails. But I have not read anything on the subject for a few years, so my knowledge could easily be dated.

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Old 08-07-2009, 23:19   #3
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I have a tendency to agree with speedoo. I know that kevlar is stronger but always believed the fibers were sensitive to shaking as in a flogging sail, and can be damaged by hard creasing, such as happens when you douse shorthanded, and flake or furl mains, or gather and stuff head-sails. If everything is on a furler then some of these problems are diminished.

Most cruisers only use dacron sails because they give reasonable life for reasonable cost and can be adjusted, and readily repaired over their life. Storm sails and any others you might not expect to have tweaked during the course of their life, can be glued on the seams before stitching. Leather on the corners is a plus. You also have to specify the number of reefs you want and maybe the amount of reinforcing.

If you want a cruising main to last you will also have some Baggy-wrinkles on your shrouds to minimize chafe when sailing downwind (the cruisers favorite direction). Furling head-sails should have ample UV protection sewn into the leach and assemetrical (sp) spinnakers should have a sock also to protect from UV. Full battens save a lot of wear on a main and give much better sail shape. Unfortunately they don't work to well with furlers. You may however want to specify how you want to have the battens secured at the leach, and what kind of batcars you want at the luff.
Sail cloth comes in many different thread counts, and stretch in the woof, the warp, and the bias. You can get good quality material from most reputable sailmakers. Hood originally made his reputation by making his own cloth but it was narrower than standard widths because he had narrow looms.

Most cruising sailors give only general directions to sailmakers because most reputable sailmakers will give you a good product

Most people would get themselves in a lot of trouble believing they know more than the sailmaker. It would be far better to sit down with your sailmaker and discuss these variables rather than prepare specs before hand. Then you could mutually agree on what you should expect to get.

Joe S
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Old 09-07-2009, 04:07   #4
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- long lasting and relatively cheap, but performance suffers in relatively short term especially for genoas due to stretch


- sail shape remains for significantly longer than Dacron, but overall age is much less, and failure is much more spectacular.

My optimum - Dacron with spectra reinforcement

- long lasting and retains its shape - but more expensive.

Triple stitch - yes please

At least 3 reef points, preferably four.

full length battens - better sail performance and less damage due to flogging.

cross cut - if dacron only - it is gong to stretch anyway so may as well go for the cheaper cut

Tri-radial - if using laminate or dacron with spectra reinforcement.

deep UV strip on genoa

seperate leechline pocket, with ability to secure at each reef point on the mainsail.

heavy reinforcement at all three corners of the sails

dirt cheap!
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Old 09-07-2009, 04:29   #5
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If you want the best cruisng sails that you can bash the #$$%%^ ou of for longer than anything else, why don't you are Moorings and Sunsail what they use? Doyle do much of their work and I think its all dacron and full length battons

I just want those clear exotics so I can scare the other cruisers

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Old 09-07-2009, 06:00   #6
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When I got a new headsail I looked at the laminates but in the end I got old tried and tested Dacron. Partly because of price, partly because of worries regarding durability of laminates. Triple stitched, leather on the clew etc., etc. I think the fabrication part is as important if not more so than the material.
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Old 09-07-2009, 06:39   #7
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might as well give my 0.02
Cloth- Dacron, contender or challenger cross cut. Triple stiched, with the center stich being slightly raised. leather patches on all three corners. Extra wide UV cover on furling Genoas. Leech and foot lines. Flattening reef. top two battens full on the main. Almost all the major lofts build their sails ( at least partially) offshore ( if not all of them). So I would go direct to the lofts that build the sails, HK sails, or Lee, etc.
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Old 12-07-2009, 15:10   #8
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I did get a quote from Lee and compared the material they used, and it was a grade lighter than others. When you want to customize with them is it harder. They are used to just cranking them up to order. Not to discuss the order in the first place.

That was comparing Darcon against Dacron. Have not started comparing Hydra-Net against Dacron. May be I will fall over my chair when I see the price.

Thank you everyone for your input.

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