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Old 15-09-2020, 18:35   #1
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Help me with new sails

Hi all,

First, let me start by saying I have searched the forums and didn't particulary find answers to my dilemma. I have also done hours of research on google and youtube about various sailcloths, sail construction, etc. and now I have more questions than before. I talked to 3 sailmakers and they confused me even more. Now, I have reached a point where I need real world help in deciding what kind of sails to purchase.

I am mostly a cruiser however wanna get into racing - have crewed on a friend's boat for weekly races and used to race one-design Sonar 23s a few years ago. We do 1 or 2 week long cruise, a few weekend cruises and lots of daysailing during a typical summer.

So far I have talked to Doyle, NP and North reps and they all have given me different suggestions. Doyle suggests carbon sport, NP dacron and North somewhere in between (NPL Norlam). The sailmaker that I use for winter servicing says I should stick with dacron since my primary objective is cruising and laminate requires a lot of care, it also doesn't last as long. I have also heard that Doyle, NP and UK use the same cloth (dacron) and that North uses their own dacron which may not be as durable as challenge, Bainbridge etc. Carbon may not be suitable for my "smallish" boat with limited racing.

I am sure choosing a sail is very personal and sails are not something that we change often so one may have experience with only 1 or 2 sails/companies. I want to hear from members who do sailing like I do and are very satisfied with your sails. Please tell me why I should choose one over the other (pros and cons). I am primarily a crusier however if a laminate provides me longer overall performance with slightly limited shelf life compared to dacron do tell me, I don't mind spending extra. I don't want to be a sailing dud afterall, but I also don't want to purchase new sails in 2-3 years.

Other things that I will appreciate comments on are:
-pros and cons of 4 full battens vs 2 full and 2 leech battens
-loose footed main vs slide track (have slide track currently)
-radial vs cross-cut

Thanks a lot in advance.

-Dan
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Old 15-09-2020, 19:11   #2
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Re: Help me with new sails

You'll get different answers (within reason) from different sail makers. Its no different than going to Ford, Chevy and Ram and asking about pickup trucks. There are lots of options. I've had both laminate and regular dacron. I loved the laminate for the performance and sheer "cool" factor, but they are more delicate (some can't be folded regularly without causing premature failure) Cruising dacron is a durable choice. Batten choices adepend on what your goal is? full battens are great as the boat gets bigger, extend the life of the sail but add weight and expense to the setup. I went with Precision sails out of B.C. the pricing for me was better than most other lofts and the details they wanted in terms of measurements was amazing. Their detail (I don;t have the sails yet) is amazing compared to other sailmakers I've worked with.
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Old 15-09-2020, 19:13   #3
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Re: Help me with new sails

Keep talking to sailmakers until you find one who talks sense (as you understand it)

Laminates will hold their shape until the self destruct.
Dacron will survive well past the time it has lost shape and becomes inefficient.

The peak working life is longer with laminate.
The useful working life is greater with dacron.

Radial cuts are faster and hold shape better.
Radial requires a directional fabric to achieve best results.
There are Dacron cloths woven with a bias suitable for radial cuts at a premium.
More labour assembling a radial cut.

Full battens will extend the life of the sail by reducing flapping.
Also easier to flake.
The performance advantage of full battens is reflected in the boats rating as is the use of exotic sailcloth e.g. carbon.

Loose footed allows for good sail shapping and allows more design options with the shelf (baggy part of the sail along the boom that doesn't do much.
Loose foot is easier to remove from the boat when you swap your cruising main for the limited life race sail.
Also good if your insurance company requires evidence of bare poles if weathering a named storm in safe harbour.

If you go for exotic sail cloth is your running rigging up to standard to get the best out of it?
A low stretch carbon sail will not like polyester double braid sheets and halyards.

If you are still considering exotic cloths consider a nice flat headsail to improve your close hauled performance.
A properly cut and set headsail with an efficient slot shape will improve the performance of whatever main you have set.

I went for a budget loose footed cross cut Dacron with a 12% reduction in foot length.
A radial cut would have been nice (25-30% premium) but there is a kevlar main in the wardrobe.
When it blows out, maybe next time I use it, a less hard to live with carbon sail is a likely replacement.
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Old 15-09-2020, 19:57   #4
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Re: Help me with new sails

We like the options and explanations that Z Sails gives in Stamford. We used our Pentex main, which we got from them, to win our club championship again last year. It is about 10 years old, so it has held up pretty well between regular Wednesday night and local LIS racing and cruises to Narragansett Bay, the Elizabeth Islands and Maine.
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Old 16-09-2020, 02:46   #5
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Re: Help me with new sails

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Originally Posted by psk125 View Post
We like the options and explanations that Z Sails gives in Stamford. We used our Pentex main, which we got from them, to win our club championship again last year. It is about 10 years old, so it has held up pretty well between regular Wednesday night and local LIS racing and cruises to Narragansett Bay, the Elizabeth Islands and Maine.
I was wondering if you were going to chime in, psk!

Knotical, psk is an avid racer and cruiser and wouldn't steer you wrong. I would get in touch with Z Sails...

I can tell you from my own high-end racing experience, for those carbon and laminates (and all the variations in between) we used to take all the sails off the boat after every race and ROLL them in order to preserve the performance - if you can imagine. And these were huge 40, 50 and 60' boats!

If you would like some cruiser/racer sails, those high-end fussy "fabrics" (they're more like a specialized form of plastic) are just not worth the bother. Psk's Pentex suggestion sounds interesting. If it were me, I would definitely look into it.

Warmly,
LittleWing77
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Old 16-09-2020, 03:24   #6
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Re: Help me with new sails

If you haven't read Mack Sails discussion below on sail cloth it's worth a moment. Sails of the very top Dacrons (such as Challenge Marblehead) may fit your bill. I had them build a set of sails with it six years ago and the shape is as good as day 1. Before laminate sails, this was what top racing cloth was like.

Another problem with laminate sales is that when they fail it's catastrophic, you need a new sail right away. Which can easily mean missing the rest of a short season. With Dacron sails you can tolerate a bit of stretch and order during the winter.

I expect my Mack Sails to last with good shape for 10 years in coastal cruising and trips to The Bahamas. For fun, ask a sailmaker if you can expect the laminate sails to last 10 years. The answer will have a lot of caveats.

If you go the laminate route you also get to worry about mildew making ugly big black splotches in your sails. This is less of a problem than it used to be but still happens. Sails should not be furled when they are the least bit damp. Once the mildew gets in, it generally can't be removed. A boat that's left on a mooring all week after weekend sailing is especially prone to this.

A lot of this is about sailmaker business models. Did the sailmakers insist on giving your a "good/better/best" quote that had Dacron as the "good"? It's a business model designed to get people to move up to the more expensive (and higher profit) "better". To make this business approach work "good" can't have very good performance and needs really cheap cloth to be profitable. So there's very little incentive to quote the high quality and more expensive Dacrons.

The other reason they like to get you to a "better" laminate is that you're likely to be back for new sails in less than 5 years.

Pentex is worth looking into. It's been around a long time. It it stretches much more than the high end laminates so I'm not sure it performs significantly better than something like Marblehead woven Dacron.

http://macksails.com/sail-cloth/

Definitely get full length battens. It makes the mainsail much easier to set correctly and makes sail handling much calmer - no flogging and almost no luffing.

If you go with woven Dacron, consider a miter-cut Genoa. It's what every racing boat used in the '80s as it works well with woven Dacron. The Mack site has a page on the cut. Radial cut Dacron mainsails don't really make sense. And even if you go with a laminate, talk to the sailmaker about how well the radial mainsail will set when reefed.

http://macksails.com/sails/
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Old 16-09-2020, 03:57   #7
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Re: Help me with new sails

Like the link to Mack, I always found Sanders Sails website in the UK useful. You're not going to buy from them, but the advice is free and has been updated a few times since I have been following it:

https://www.sanders-sails.co.uk/materials.html

Is the boat masthead, so large genoa and small main?

Pete
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Old 16-09-2020, 05:21   #8
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Re: Help me with new sails

Quote:
Originally Posted by pcmm View Post
You'll get different answers (within reason) from different sail makers. Its no different than going to Ford, Chevy and Ram and asking about pickup trucks. There are lots of options. I've had both laminate and regular dacron. I loved the laminate for the performance and sheer "cool" factor, but they are more delicate (some can't be folded regularly without causing premature failure) Cruising dacron is a durable choice. Batten choices adepend on what your goal is? full battens are great as the boat gets bigger, extend the life of the sail but add weight and expense to the setup. I went with Precision sails out of B.C. the pricing for me was better than most other lofts and the details they wanted in terms of measurements was amazing. Their detail (I don;t have the sails yet) is amazing compared to other sailmakers I've worked with.
Very true, pccm. One sailmaker mentioned the same thing - that every time I fold a laminate sail it harms it a little.
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Old 16-09-2020, 05:26   #9
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Re: Help me with new sails

What kind of boat are you talking about? If the boat can't really take advantage of higher performance sails, in the form of noticeable improvements in speed or pointing, then that will suggest going with good performance, more durable, less expensive, sails, no?
oh wait, sorry, now I see, the Sabre 34... doh!
I happened to find a like-new used full battened main for my old boat, and it does perform well with it, but if I were head-to-head with an identical boat with a main with two full battens and two leech battens would I be faster? I am not so sure. My hull is probably just not going to let much more happen, BUT if I were racing and I needed all the advantages I could find... well... there may be no bank account big enough...
And full battens make the sail easier to handle when you have lazy jacks, but I don't so I am still gathering up a big wad to flake.
One thing though, it sure is a lot harder for me to sail into my slip! This full battened sail just won't luff!
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Old 16-09-2020, 05:42   #10
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Re: Help me with new sails

Thanks, folks, for responding with helpful comments.

Rucksta - North told me he has not sold anything other than loose footed main in the last 20 years and I find your rigging point interesting as NP mentioned if I am not up to using a laminate appropriately it can bring down the mast

psk - I will definitely look at Z sails, a friend who sails out of Little Neck bay has them on his Sabre and he recommended them too, told me the RI based sailmakers are 2 brothers with racing experience

Carl and Pete - will look into Mack sails, I know they are based in Florida, do they have someone local to do measurements?

Littlewing - thank you, the sailmaker with NP said the same thing, if I am not racing most of the time I go out then I am damaging the laminate.
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Old 16-09-2020, 05:44   #11
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Re: Help me with new sails

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Originally Posted by Pete7 View Post
Like the link to Mack, I always found Sanders Sails website in the UK useful. You're not going to buy from them, but the advice is free and has been updated a few times since I have been following it:

https://www.sanders-sails.co.uk/materials.html

Is the boat masthead, so large genoa and small main?

Pete
Yes, masthead rig with a big genoa and a small main.
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Old 16-09-2020, 05:46   #12
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Re: Help me with new sails

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don C L View Post
What kind of boat are you talking about? If the boat can't really take advantage of higher performance sails, in the form of noticeable improvements in speed or pointing, then that will suggest going with good performance, more durable, less expensive, sails, no?
oh wait, sorry, now I see, the Sabre 34... doh!
I happened to find a like-new used full battened main for my old boat, and it does perform well with it, but if I were head-to-head with an identical boat with a main with two full battens and two leech battens would I be faster? I am not so sure. My hull is probably just not going to let much more happen, BUT if I were racing and I needed all the advantages I could find... well... there may be no bank account big enough...
And full battens make the sail easier to handle when you have lazy jacks, but I don't so I am still gathering up a big wad to flake.
One thing though, it sure is a lot harder for me to sail into my slip! This full battened sail just won't luff!
Don, personally, I love all full battens, its an amazing sight with perfectly trimmed full main and flying leech telltales.
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Old 16-09-2020, 06:36   #13
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Re: Help me with new sails

For someone that primarily cruises and wants to do a little racing, it's hard to argue against a good quality dacron sail. Pay a bit more to get top quality cloth and construction. I have to disagree with those recommending a full batten main. Club race mains will almost always have one or two full battens. The reason is to allow control of sail shape in different wind strengths and points of sail.
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Old 16-09-2020, 08:04   #14
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Re: Help me with new sails

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Yes, masthead rig with a big genoa and a small main.
So the power all comes from the Genoa and the main is really along for the ride and to look nice.

So how about something like Vectron / Hydranet / Marblehead for the main. Its a small sail and a good quality cloth will retain the shape long term so should need replacing for years. Being small it may also be cost effective. For a cross cut main Vectron rather than hydranet, as it's more suitable.

Then a laminate for the genoa. If the current genoa is okay, keep it for cruising and poor conditions and use the laminate when you want to race or impress. This would keep the cost down assuming the existing genoa is okay.

Of course the real problem is its easy to suggest stuff and spend someone else's money, I didn't have to earn it. We are 9 years into an okay cross cut genoa with an okay fabric but what to replace it with? no idea at the moment and the problem just gets worse with more products coming to the market. I hear what you say about confusing. Spent a day at a boat show talking to the sailmakers and still didn't have a clear winner.

Pete
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Old 16-09-2020, 08:32   #15
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Re: Help me with new sails

Laminates are used to keep weight aloft down and elsewhere.. and we found about this in a big way but also in something of a rush to buy a new more durable sail. We is my client and me. The old laminate sail fell apart all at once and the new dacron sail -- and I don't recall trade name of the cloth -- is soft, grey and sturdy. However, with the apparatus for a square top and 4 or 5 full battens, the whole affair is HEAVY and so much so that it required a stronger lift vang -- the strongest we could find. The new sail without battens is quite nearly the limit that UPS will ship. So . I'd say that ought to get out a spreadsheet and put all of the data on it.. taking your time.. and then make the choice. The boat involved is 33'.
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