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Old 09-03-2023, 18:32   #1
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Sail Cloth: how to compare?

I'm buying a new mainsail, and I've gotten a couple of quotes from reputable makers. The prices are quite different. One thing that is particularly hard to compare is the different sail cloths. Each quote specifies a cloth with a manufacturer specific name. Is there a good reference to figure out which types are comparable?


I'm assuming it's bad form to show one loft a competitors quote, but what about asking how does your sail compare to loft X with cloth Y?
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Old 09-03-2023, 18:50   #2
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

Comparing the cloths and their different qualities is exactly what you have to do. Each loft will tell you the problems inherent in the others' material, and why theirs is better. You make the choice based on what you need and can afford. A lot depends upon what YOU want to do with the boat. What's needed for weekend outings in SoCal will be different from what's needed for racing, which will be different from what's needed for long-distance cruising. Each loft will have something - or a range of somethings - that they think will work to meet what you need. You have to decide based on what suits your needs and makes sense monetarily. The process is quite circular, but eventually you determine the best option.
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Old 18-03-2023, 22:19   #3
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

Let my try asking this a different way.


I've now gotten quotes from the majors (North, Doyle, Quantum, Mack), and from some lower-priced options (Precision, National, FX). As best I can tell, the former are only offering me a single, higher-priced option (around $2,500). The latter give a range of options, $1,200-$2,500.


Again, it's hard to compare all the different cloths and options, but I'm suspecting that the higher-priced lofts are only about 10% more if you compare similar options. The difference is the lower-priced lofts have lower-tier options. But I've seen good reviews.


So, the question is, for a weekend sailor with a few seasons experience, is the performance of a top of the line sail (e.g., North, or Precision's 500 Series) going to be that noticeably different from one of Precision's lower end offerings?
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Old 19-03-2023, 00:44   #4
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

Daniel,

We had the same problem trying to sort out the quality fabrics and reading through the manufacturers blurb with each of them saying theirs is the best thing since sliced bread.

However, I found this website from a well respected UK loft useful. Okay, you are not going to be buying from them, but they have updated the list over the years as better fabrics come along. I think Mack Sails in the US also had a similar page a while back.

We opted for the C-Breeze for coastal sailing and it seems to be holding up well. Worth noting Dimension Polyant don't do a basic fabric. Its a European thing, they prefer quality over quantity or low prices. Their next higher quality is the AP or SF and we may chose those next time around.

https://www.sanders-sails.co.uk/materials.html
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Old 19-03-2023, 05:33   #5
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

There are three parts to a sail’s quality. The design of the sail, the materials it is made of, and the workmanship.

Many of the lower cost lofts do not actually sew sails, but contract that out to the lofts in China or Siri Lanka. Since these are also suppliers to the major brands, the workmanship is pretty much the same. We have been using one of these “virtual lofts” of years and have been really happy with both customer service and product quality.

If you are dealing with a good sailmaker, they should be giving you good advice about what makes sense for you on the fabric. If you are a small cruising boat, and your sailmaker is always recommending the highest cost materials, it is time for a new sailmaker who can be honest with you. What’s best for you depends a huge amount on how you sail, how you use your boat and your own cost vs performance trade off. The idea that the lowest cost sail from one vendor will work as well and last as long as a premium product from another is more than a bit of wishful thinking.

Most of the smaller lofts use the same design software, so given correct input data they will have similar product. The major’s will use proprietary in-house software that they can tweak with the latest research results, and arguably give better results, but the typical cruiser is extremely unlikely to notice such refinements.
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Old 19-03-2023, 06:21   #6
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielI View Post
Let my try asking this a different way.


I've now gotten quotes from the majors (North, Doyle, Quantum, Mack), and from some lower-priced options (Precision, National, FX). As best I can tell, the former are only offering me a single, higher-priced option (around $2,500). The latter give a range of options, $1,200-$2,500.


Again, it's hard to compare all the different cloths and options, but I'm suspecting that the higher-priced lofts are only about 10% more if you compare similar options. The difference is the lower-priced lofts have lower-tier options. But I've seen good reviews.


So, the question is, for a weekend sailor with a few seasons experience, is the performance of a top of the line sail (e.g., North, or Precision's 500 Series) going to be that noticeably different from one of Precision's lower end offerings?
No, you will notice very little difference and if you aren't racing even less.

You may what to check out Sail Warehouse.

They have 3 Catalina 30 Dacron Mains ready to ship from $1667-$2132. Full battens or standard battens.

I just got a new main from them for around $1400. It's a power head with the top two battens being full.

You can also order a new main from them the way you want it

Rolly Tasker makes their sails.

https://thesailwarehouse.com/cgi-bin....html&cart_id=
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Old 19-03-2023, 06:32   #7
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

Daniel,
Not certain where you are located, but saw this sail loft (Somerset Sails https://somersetsails.com/somerset-sails) advertise on ebay for Catalina sails. Their prices were very reasonable. Here is an example of a sail they advertise. https://www.ebay.com/itm/20244793591...p2047675.l2557

Would call them to see what "American made" cloth they use. Most likely it's Challenge sailcloth which many manufacturers use.

Another thought would be to wait until the fall to purchase your new sail. Many lofts are slow during the winter and offer good prices (~25% off) at the fall boat shows.
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Old 19-03-2023, 08:09   #8
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

Even the high end sailmakers have most of their sails made by other companies in Asia. Sometimes they make the bag in the US to claim itís made at their US loft.

Today all sailmakers use sophisticated software where you put in a few basic dimensions (or the model of the boat) and it designs the sail and sends commands to the cloth cutting machine to cut the panels. Hereís one https://www.prosailcutter.com/3d-sail-design.html

You are right that the cloth is important but price isnít a good guide. Fancy laminates have very little stretch but rarely last more than 3 years. They also sometimes grow black mildew between the layers that canít be cleaned off.

So for the sailing you describe you want a classic woven Dacron cloth. Itís relatively inexpensive and lasts a long time. There are different grades and quality of Dacron cloth at different price points. Ask the sailmakers how much it would cost to go up a grade (or how much would you save going down a grade). Compare the names of the cloth across sailmakers (some like North have their own names so you canít compare)

The primary reason to go with a more expensive cloth is less stretch. Once a sail stretches it loses its wing shape. More expensive cloth stretches less but so does heavier cloth. For a cruiser itís often better to go with a slightly heavier cloth than a racer might choose. Again, ask the sailmaker what cloth weight options you should consider.

Finally, one thing often not discussed is the UV protection on the roller jib. Often this strip is the first thing to fail and putting in a new one is expensive. Sunbrella last the longest but also insist that the UV strip be sewn on with UV resistant thread. This costs a bit more but will save you money 3-4 years later.
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Old 19-03-2023, 10:41   #9
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

Here's what I would recommend.

For a cruising mainsail you want heavy Dacron/polyester, with minimal resin fill (so a higher end manufacturer with a tighter weave) in a cross cut rather than radial construction sewn with PTFE thread.

Dacron rather than laminate.
Laminate holds it's shape better over time which is an advantage, but tends to fail catastrophically much earlier than dacron. Dacron tends to lose its shape earlier but lasts much longer.

In a cross cut construction you can have the sail recut/resewn to give it years more life with a decent shape. Whether this is cost effective will depend on age, construction details and local costs.

PTFE thread is the most UV resistant available. Sail failure usually begins with thread failure, which is the result of UV degradation and chafe. https://www.sailrite.com/Notions/Thr...hoCAusQAvD_BwE

For coastal cruising double stitching seams is probably adequate. For offshore cruising, triple stitch. I would consider ponying up for extra-wide seams so that repairs and recutting later are a more viable option.

For coastal cruising 2 reef points is probably adequate. For offshore cruising, 3 reef points at least. If you have a large boat and don't have a trysail, perhaps 4 reefs.

For cruising you absolutely don't want a main with a maxi-roach that overlaps the backstay and hits the backstay every tack or gybe, chafe kills.

Given that you don't want to have a maxi-roach, a regular roach supported will get you an extra 5-10% mainsail area, which is going to be 3-7% extra Main & Foretriangle area which is 1-3% light wind sail area. Light wind is the only time the extra area is an advantage. If you had no battens at all there would be no roach and the main would be cut slightly hollow losing another 2-3% mainsail area, or about 1% light wind sail area. Normal roach vs batten less main costs 2-4% of light air sail area, not nothing, but not that large either.

There is a significant contingent of long-term offshore cruisers that have elected to have no battens in their main. Partial battens create added wear and fatigue areas in the sail, especially at the inboard ends of the battens. Tapered battens help but are not a total solution and incur their own costs.

Full battens help a main hold it's shape over a longer portion of it's life and help support a roach which increases sail area. Given the cost of a full batten system it's probably better to use the money to replace your main a bit more often and perhaps spend the money on better light air foresails.

I would use adhesive cloth to install wear strips on both faces of the main where it lays against the rigging and spreaders. Chafe kills.

I would consider using Orange sail cloth for all panels above the deepest reef, mast the vessel easier to see in storm conditions.

https://ptshipwrights.com/ptsails/wp...-mainsails.pdf
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Old 19-03-2023, 12:09   #10
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

To distill what Adelie said in the form of a recommendation, National Sail and ask Dirk to have the sail made with Marblehead cloth, triple stitched with double leech tabling. Options like reefs, numbers, and such are up to you. Rolly Tasker sails are tough to beat in the value proposition.

Also, it's important to tell the designer the wind conditions you normally sail in otherwise the cut of the sail will be a middle-of-the-road daily driver.

The accuracy of your measurements will be important so take your time and follow the instructions.
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Old 19-03-2023, 20:43   #11
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

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Originally Posted by SailingHarmonie View Post
The idea that the lowest cost sail from one vendor will work as well and last as long as a premium product from another is more than a bit of wishful thinking.
To be clear, the question was not is there a difference, the question is whether the difference between a midrange and a high-end sail will be something a weekend sailor, not racer, with basic skills is going to actually benefit from.

To give a concrete example: Mack is offering a Challenge Marblehead fabric. Precisionís midrange sail is Challenge Fastnet. How big a difference is that for a sailor like me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thomm225 View Post
They have 3 Catalina 30 Dacron Mains ready to ship from $1667-$2132. Full battens or standard battens.

I just got a new main from them for around $1400. It's a power head with the top two battens being full.
Was that a ready made or custom? At $2,100 I can get a North, Doyle, Mack, or Quantum for slightly more. My feeling is that once Iím in that price range, I might as well go for one of the majors, Iím just skeptical I need that tier of sail.
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Old 19-03-2023, 20:48   #12
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

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Finally, one thing often not discussed is the UV protection on the roller jib. Often this strip is the first thing to fail and putting in a new one is expensive. Sunbrella last the longest but also insist that the UV strip be sewn on with UV resistant thread. This costs a bit more but will save you money 3-4 years later.
So Iíve been talking about a mainsail. As it happens, the same weather event that convinced me to get a better mainsail also shredded by UV strip on the genoa. We were originally thinking my wife, who is an experienced seamstress and just obtained a Bernina sewing machine, would be able to do the replacement herself. But after looking it over, sheís concerned that it is too big a job, and will require additional equipment to put in the grommets and such. I think weíll be shipping it off, so thanks for that heads up.
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Old 19-03-2023, 21:43   #13
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

For cloth, there are basically 2 factors that will differentiate them. How they stretch, and UV resistance.

Dacron stretches. If you leave too much sail out in high winds, or start out with too light of a cloth, stretch will drastically reduce the life of the sail, at least the life where it works very well, but it will still hold together and work. But your boat will not point as high as when the sail was new. More expensive cloths weave in fibers of other materials to create a cloth that will not stretch as much, and allow the use of a lighter sail and have a longer life, while the majority of the thread is still Dacron.

UV will destroy Dacron in a fairly short time if it is not protected. More expensive cloths have additives in the thread to protect from UV. It will still decay in sunlight, but will take longer. If you are a weekend sailor that keeps the sail cover on when not in use, this probably isn't a huge deal. If you are a full time cruiser where the sail is up and in the sun day after day for months at a time, the difference is significant.

If you ask a loft about these two qualities, they should be able to talk to you about what in their cloth makes their cloth better than others, what other threads are used, percentages, etc.
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Old 20-03-2023, 03:28   #14
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Re: Sail Cloth: how to compare?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielI View Post
To be clear, the question was not is there a difference, the question is whether the difference between a midrange and a high-end sail will be something a weekend sailor, not racer, with basic skills is going to actually benefit from.

To give a concrete example: Mack is offering a Challenge Marblehead fabric. Precision’s midrange sail is Challenge Fastnet. How big a difference is that for a sailor like me.



Was that a ready made or custom? At $2,100 I can get a North, Doyle, Mack, or Quantum for slightly more. My feeling is that once I’m in that price range, I might as well go for one of the majors, I’m just skeptical I need that tier of sail.
The one I bought from Sail Warehouse was custom made 6.5 oz. Dacron, Powerhead, 3 sets of reef points, sail number, battens, (two full, two std) std roach. $1391.00

Jib was ready made. Around $850. 6 oz. White UV cover, #6 tape for furler.

I bought my last mainsail new in 2012. Custom made locally 8 oz. Dacron, 1 set of reef points. $1600
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