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Old 06-05-2022, 07:42   #1
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Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

I have read that "Laminated sails" are much more durable than "Dacron sails".
Since the chances are very likely to find them on a new or used sailboat, what can be expected as durability for each type of sail.
Some have stated deformation after only one year with Dacron, is this an exaggeration?
Has anyone had experience with both types of sails to confirm durability?
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Old 06-05-2022, 09:08   #2
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

While that is true as a generalization, much depends on the quality and age of the sail. I expect to get 10,000 miles from a well made dacron sail. A North top of the line laminate will last 50,000 or more.
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Old 06-05-2022, 09:31   #3
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

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Originally Posted by TheOffice View Post
While that is true as a generalization, much depends on the quality and age of the sail. I expect to get 10,000 miles from a well made dacron sail. A North top of the line laminate will last 50,000 or more.

Thank you for your reply.
So I guess, comparable quality will be about five times more durable.
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Old 06-05-2022, 10:43   #4
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drek4 View Post
I have read that "Laminated sails" are much more durable than "Dacron sails".
Since the chances are very likely to find them on a new or used sailboat, what can be expected as durability for each type of sail.
Some have stated deformation after only one year with Dacron, is this an exaggeration?
Has anyone had experience with both types of sails to confirm durability?


Depends on what you are expecting. You will get more peak performance from a laminate but more useful life from Dacron.

Dacron sails will stretch over time so shape will slowly degrade. At some point you can resew a crosscut sail, yourself or a loft, and get better shape again for a while until it stretches to much again. Even greatly blown out sails can propel the boat albeit with a significant performance hit.

Laminates don’t tend to stretch much but tend to fail catastrophically at end of life which is not necessarily very predictable. Generally a major failure would be beyond repair in the field.

If you carry a backup such a failure is not a serious issue. Same if you are near shore in a developed country and the laminate main or working job failed without a backup.

In the developing world failing a laminate without a backup could cause serious problems. If you order a replacement there will be delays for measuring, ordering, & constructing the new sail, for shipping it and for getting it thru customs. And there are customs duties which may add significantly to the cost. If you are under a time crunch to get the boat out a hurricane zone before hurricane season such a delay puts the boat at risk.

This is a moderately low odds event with a potentially high cost so the total risk is moderate.

If I was going offshore and/or into the developing world and I wanted laminates and the boat came with Dacron, I would keep the Dacron primary sails as backups and carry a sewing machine.
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Old 06-05-2022, 10:55   #5
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

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Originally Posted by Adelie View Post
Depends on what you are expecting. You will get more peak performance from a laminate but more useful life from Dacron.

Dacron sails will stretch over time so shape will slowly degrade. At some point you can resew a crosscut sail, yourself or a loft, and get better shape again for a while until it stretches to much again. Even greatly blown out sails can propel the boat albeit with a significant performance hit.

Laminates don’t tend to stretch much but tend to fail catastrophically at end of life which is not necessarily very predictable. Generally a major failure would be beyond repair in the field.

If you carry a backup such a failure is not a serious issue. Same if you are near shore in a developed country and the laminate main or working job failed without a backup.

In the developing world failing a laminate without a backup could cause serious problems. If you order a replacement there will be delays for measuring, ordering, & constructing the new sail, for shipping it and for getting it thru customs. And there are customs duties which may add significantly to the cost. If you are under a time crunch to get the boat out a hurricane zone before hurricane season such a delay puts the boat at risk.

This is a moderately low odds event with a potentially high cost so the total risk is moderate.

If I was going offshore and/or into the developing world and I wanted laminates and the boat came with Dacron, I would keep the Dacron primary sails as backups and carry a sewing machine.

Thank you for your detailed reply, I appreciate.
So if I understand correctly, even if Dacron has less durability, once it stretches can still be used with a performance loss.
That is very good advice, if the boat comes with Dacron sails, I will keep as spares and buy Laminated sails and use them till they rip.
Will give me enough time to order new sails once that day comes, using the old Dacron ones.
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Old 06-05-2022, 11:07   #6
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

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Originally Posted by Drek4 View Post
So I guess, comparable quality will be about five times more durable.
No, that is not right at all.

First, it depends on the size and aspect ratio of the sails - when you get above a certain load laminates start making more sense. Below that dacron make more sense.

Second, It depends on what you mean by 'durable' and for instance, racers and performance sailors have quite a different perspective than typical cruisers. Using the cruising definition dacrons will clearly have better durability, using the racer definition laminates will have longer could have a longer 'shape' life except (back to point one above) on smaller lower loaded sails where they could be roughly equal.

Third, laminates are more vulnerable to 'operator error' - the mylar is easier for a not so smooth sailor to fatigue fail - with fluttering leach or crushed under reef point, or flogging when tacking or reefing, etc. Dacron is much more resistant to those types of damage. So, operator smoothness is a significant factor. If you are a new or inexperienced sailor, dacron is the better bet for longevity.

Fourth, north's 'top of the line' 3Di is in fact NOT a laminate, nor is it woven, it is a third type of construction; and while on a round the world race boat it might possibly last 50,000 miles, but those benchmark boats can go very fast (like 500 nm/day) that would be equal to perhaps 3 years life on a cruising boat. In any case, you can't use 3di as a benchmark for 'laminate sails' because it has no mylar in it which is the principle component that fails on laminate sails.

Bottom line, very generally, in most cruising applications, in a modest size/loaded boat, a dacron sail will 'last' longer, while the laminate sail will give a bit more performance over its life, and for a full time live aboard blue water sailor who is a little picky about sail shape 3 years for a good quality laminate sail would be about par for the course with dacron depending on point #1 above where you are on the load/size scale.

edit: related to point 4, of further construction techniques, there is also hydranet, which is woven, but with a mix of dacron and dyneema; which is also sort of in its own corner with its own performance expectations.
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Old 06-05-2022, 11:28   #7
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

I'm not the type of sailor who has a vast amount of experience sailing laminate or Dacron sails.

I have however done the research and spoke to a few sail makers about the difference.

One of the simplest explanations I received was....

1)Dacron sails slowly change shape over time until they get to the point where they are so inefficient you you need to replace them.

2) Laminate sails basically hold sail shape from the day you get them to the day the de-laminate and you need to throw them away. They may not provide a lot of notice before this happens.
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Old 06-05-2022, 11:32   #8
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

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Originally Posted by Breaking Waves View Post
No, that is not right at all.

First, it depends on the size and aspect ratio of the sails - when you get above a certain load laminates start making more sense. Below that dacron make more sense.

Second, It depends on what you mean by 'durable' and for instance, racers and performance sailors have quite a different perspective than typical cruisers. Using the cruising definition dacrons will clearly have better durability, using the racer definition laminates will have longer could have a longer 'shape' life except (back to point one above) on smaller lower loaded sails where they could be roughly equal.

Third, laminates are more vulnerable to 'operator error' - the mylar is easier for a not so smooth sailor to fatigue fail - with fluttering leach or crushed under reef point, or flogging when tacking or reefing, etc. Dacron is much more resistant to those types of damage. So, operator smoothness is a significant factor. If you are a new or inexperienced sailor, dacron is the better bet for longevity.

Fourth, north's 'top of the line' 3Di is in fact NOT a laminate, nor is it woven, it is a third type of construction; and while on a round the world race boat it might possibly last 50,000 miles, but those benchmark boats can go very fast (like 500 nm/day) that would be equal to perhaps 3 years life on a cruising boat. In any case, you can't use 3di as a benchmark for 'laminate sails' because it has no mylar in it which is the principle component that fails on laminate sails.

Bottom line, very generally, in most cruising applications, in a modest size/loaded boat, a dacron sail will 'last' longer, while the laminate sail will give a bit more performance over its life, and for a full time live aboard blue water sailor who is a little picky about sail shape 3 years for a good quality laminate sail would be about par for the course with dacron depending on point #1 above where you are on the load/size scale.

edit: related to point 4, of further construction techniques, there is also hydranet, which is woven, but with a mix of dacron and dyneema; which is also sort of in its own corner with its own performance expectations.

Thank you for the detailed information, very kind of you.
Since I lack experience, I would be better off sticking with Dacron sails, since I will make more user errors and those sails resist better to this.
Laminated would be better, once I have more experience and IF I want more speed/performance out of the sails, if not I stick with Dacron.
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Old 06-05-2022, 12:25   #9
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

I don’t have a clue about sails except I’m told the main is stretched.
Engines no problems Sails this is a great thread.
Apparently I can change to a square top main. Apparently I can add adjustable battens. I have a self tracking job track but no hardware or sail to fit it. I have all the hardware for a code 0 but no sail. The current sails are Dacron and repaired in a few spots. The foresail is 104,
I have storm sails and an anchor sail which is likely the only thing not junk.
Is their a short list of brands to consider?
If I flip the boat in a year will it maintain value to the sale?
I read about tape sails they were black.
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Old 06-05-2022, 17:14   #10
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drek4 View Post
Thank you for the detailed information, very kind of you.
Since I lack experience, I would be better off sticking with Dacron sails, since I will make more user errors and those sails resist better to this.
Laminated would be better, once I have more experience and IF I want more speed/performance out of the sails, if not I stick with Dacron.
generally, that would be a sensible approach.

however, if your primary interest here is looking to buy a boat and you want to understand how to value the sails which come with a used boat . . . . I would suggest for the sails you are primarily looking for ones in very good condition, whether they be woven dacron or laminate is less important than the condition. So many people selling used boats have trashed their sails, and know they are going to be selling so don't replace them. Both dacron and laminate in good condition will work ok for you, so long as the laminate is somewhat cruising oriented and not full-on extra light racing fabric.
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Old 06-05-2022, 17:46   #11
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

Dacron for a cruising boat, laminates for racing.

We've sailed this boat for 38 years. We've cruised around the world and we've raced about 500 races. We have both racing sails and cruising sails.

Most of our racing sails are high end laminate (the best are "membrane"). We've gotten about 100 races on main and genoa, a bit more on smaller headsails.

All of our cruising sails are Dacron, and rather low end Dacron at that. We are on our third mainsail and third working jib and our second cruising genoa, all Dacron. They are all about 10 years old and they are fine.

Yes, Dacron loses it's shape but it is not terribly noticeable if you are not trying to race. The idea that the shape gets so bad that you cannot use it is solely a justification sailmakers use to sell you laminate sails (and they have said it so much that we all repeat it like it was the bible.) What DOES happen is the Dacron gets old and starts to tear easily. Then you replace it. Or you just want new sails and need an excuse.

Laminate sails are better now than they used to be. Previously they would start to de-laminate in 3-5 years. They can be repaired but once they start to go it is endless. The newest laminates, most of which are called "Membrane" are very durable. My main and H1 genoa are 5 years old and I don't see the end of them yet.

Price difference is huge, probably 5-1 cost for a good laminate vs a Dacron which will last longer.
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Old 06-05-2022, 19:44   #12
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSpencerCat30 View Post
I'm not the type of sailor who has a vast amount of experience sailing laminate or Dacron sails.

I have however done the research and spoke to a few sail makers about the difference.

One of the simplest explanations I received was....

1)Dacron sails slowly change shape over time until they get to the point where they are so inefficient you you need to replace them.

2) Laminate sails basically hold sail shape from the day you get them to the day the de-laminate and you need to throw them away. They may not provide a lot of notice before this happens.
Thank you for your input.
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Old 06-05-2022, 19:50   #13
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

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Originally Posted by Rumrace View Post
I don’t have a clue about sails except I’m told the main is stretched.
Engines no problems Sails this is a great thread.
Apparently I can change to a square top main. Apparently I can add adjustable battens. I have a self tracking job track but no hardware or sail to fit it. I have all the hardware for a code 0 but no sail. The current sails are Dacron and repaired in a few spots. The foresail is 104,
I have storm sails and an anchor sail which is likely the only thing not junk.
Is their a short list of brands to consider?
If I flip the boat in a year will it maintain value to the sale?
I read about tape sails they were black.
Thank you for your comment...
I just want to have a good control on the main and genoa, then after practice as much as I can in calm seas the use of the spinnaker, not a fan of this one, but must to control for good downwind speed.
I wish you the best of luck in your search for new affordable sails.
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Old 06-05-2022, 19:56   #14
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

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Originally Posted by Breaking Waves View Post
generally, that would be a sensible approach.

however, if your primary interest here is looking to buy a boat and you want to understand how to value the sails which come with a used boat . . . . I would suggest for the sails you are primarily looking for ones in very good condition, whether they be woven dacron or laminate is less important than the condition. So many people selling used boats have trashed their sails, and know they are going to be selling so don't replace them. Both dacron and laminate in good condition will work ok for you, so long as the laminate is somewhat cruising oriented and not full-on extra light racing fabric.
Thank you very much for your reply.
Yes that thought has very much occurred to me that replacement will be most likely required once a purchase has been concluded.
This is the main reason I turn towards this forum once again, because sails are a significative part of a budget, so knowing the pros and cons of both these type of sails is very much appreciated.
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Old 06-05-2022, 20:04   #15
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Re: Laminated sails vs Dacron durability

Quote:
Originally Posted by wingssail View Post
Dacron for a cruising boat, laminates for racing.

We've sailed this boat for 38 years. We've cruised around the world and we've raced about 500 races. We have both racing sails and cruising sails.

Most of our racing sails are high end laminate (the best are "membrane"). We've gotten about 100 races on main and genoa, a bit more on smaller headsails.

All of our cruising sails are Dacron, and rather low end Dacron at that. We are on our third mainsail and third working jib and our second cruising genoa, all Dacron. They are all about 10 years old and they are fine.

Yes, Dacron loses it's shape but it is not terribly noticeable if you are not trying to race. The idea that the shape gets so bad that you cannot use it is solely a justification sailmakers use to sell you laminate sails (and they have said it so much that we all repeat it like it was the bible.) What DOES happen is the Dacron gets old and starts to tear easily. Then you replace it. Or you just want new sails and need an excuse.

Laminate sails are better now than they used to be. Previously they would start to de-laminate in 3-5 years. They can be repaired but once they start to go it is endless. The newest laminates, most of which are called "Membrane" are very durable. My main and H1 genoa are 5 years old and I don't see the end of them yet.

Price difference is huge, probably 5-1 cost for a good laminate vs a Dacron which will last longer.
Thank you very much for taking the time to share this with me.
I now feel much more at ease with the choice of sails I have knowing this.
I'm in your debt.
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