Ask Sail: Recycled Sails

I am considering buying used sails for my 1985 Beneteau First 38. I’d like to find some sails from another Beneteau First 38, but if I can’t, what should I look for?
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Wilbur Montfiore of Savannah, Georgia, asks:

I am considering buying used sails for my 1985 Beneteau First 38. I’d like to find some sails from another Beneteau First 38, but if I can’t, what should I look for? Which measurements are most important if I want to take a sail from another boat and have it cut to fit mine?

Win Fowler replies:

There are several important points to consider when deciding if it is practical to recut a sail built for another boat to fit on yours. Obviously, the original sail has to be at least as large as the sail you need. Next, look for a sail built of high-quality material of the appropriate strength that has been as lightly used as possible.

With crosscut sails it is very important to preserve the panel orientation so that the panels in the recut sail are still perpendicular to a straight line drawn between the head and clew. If this angle changes too much, the recut sail won’t be able to support its leech adequately. The most expensive parts of recutting are rebuilding corner reinforcements and edges, so the more corners and edges you can preserve the better.

Finally, be aware of some less obvious considerations. For instance, if recutting a mainsail of a very different aspect ratio, the angle of the batten-pocket exits and reef rows may not work. This is costly to correct. Most important, find an experienced sailmaker to advise you on all of this before taking the plunge, or you may not get good value for the money you invest in the project.

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