Ask SAIL: Time To Buy New Sails?

Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

TIME TO BUY NEW SAILS?

Q: I have a very old set of Dacron sails on my Catalina. Friends have told me I should have them replaced because it will make my boat sail better. But quite frankly, I’d prefer not to spend the money on sails that seem plenty sturdy enough for the kind of sailing I do, which is mostly daysailing with the occasional overnight. To tell the truth, I also kind of like the way they are much easier to work with than stiff, new Dacron. How can I determine if my sails are still up to the task aerodynamically? How can I make sure they are, in fact, sturdy enough to keep using?

Cabot Franklin, Aurora, OH

BRIAN HANCOCK REPLIES

There is a saying I like to use and it goes like this: you measure the life of a sail by the length of time it holds its shape, not by how long it holds together. In other words, when the shape is shot the sail is shot. That said, your sails are probably fine for the type of sailing you do. You are not racing, and cruisers usually avoid sailing upwind, which is where you will experience the most difference.

What I suggest you do is this. Sail upwind with the mainsail and the headsail trimmed for a beat. Lay on the deck in the middle of the foot of the headsail and take a photo of the sail looking up toward the head. Do the same for the mainsail, and then print out each photo. If you have draft stripes this will be easier, but in any case, what you want to do is visualize a line running across the sail from luff to leech. This will help you to see where the maximum draft in the sail is. For the headsail it should be around 30 to 35 percent aft from the luff. For the mainsail, the maximum draft should be around 45 to 50 percent aft. If your sail is not in that range, then the shape is not great. It will usually be farther back as the fabric ages and stretches, and the maximum draft sags.

As far as durability is concerned, I am fairly sure even without looking at the sail that the fabric itself is fine. It’s the stitching that wears out first, so take a look there. If the thread is chafed or worn, the sail will not be good for any kind of extended voyaging. If you are concerned about either the stitching or the sail shape, take the sails into your local sailmaker and have him add a row or two of stitching (over the old stitching). 

He can also recut the sail to improve its shape. This is usually done by re-cutting the luff curve.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

June 2016

Related

SuperFoiler_2018_Adelaide_0325

Foiling Multihulls Take Their Toll

Although sailing has always been inherently dangerous, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that in addition to elevating boatspeeds, today’s foiling multihulls are also dramatically upping the level of risk. In the run-up to the 35th America’s Cup, regatta organizers were fond of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comA Double Winner Off on a longer trip than usual next summer? If so, you may well end up carrying extra fuel in jerry cans on deck. However, lashing them to your stanchions is a thoroughly bad idea, because ...read more

tasha-fuiaba-2

Waterlines: Auto-da-Fé

Why must we persecute bluewater cruisers who get into trouble?It has become standard operating procedure. As soon as the online sailing community catches word of a cruising sailboat that has been abandoned offshore, the crew of said boat is immediately subjected to a cyber ...read more

01_arc17-2079

ARC: Slow Road to St. Lucia

In the curtain call of an Atlantic crossing that had proved frustratingly slow for many of the 186 participants in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the 37ft classic wooden sloop Trimley Maid crossed the finish line in Rodney Bay, St Lucia, on Christmas morning, over a month ...read more

c45-style-renex-03

Just Launched: Bavaria’s New Look

Having had maximum use out of its Cruiser line of Farr-designed hulls, Bavaria Yachts is in the process of renewing its entire range. The first of the new-look Bavarias designed by Mario Cosutti, the C57, debuted at Boot Dusseldorf last year and has now been joined by two new ...read more

Humpback-next-to-the-yacht

A Circumnavigation of Vancouver Island

A circumnavigation of Vancouver Island? That sounded like a great idea, so after a few months of planning, my friends Bridget, Jelski, Jonty and I quit our jobs in Auckland, New Zealand, and flew to Canada, where we joined Harry Miller and Sarah White aboard their 1983 Canadian ...read more

baths1

A Quick Recovery in the BVI

At 0730 on the morning of December 6, three months to the day after Hurricane Irma’s eye tracked across the British Virgin Islands, I clambered up into the helm station of our Moorings 4500, stretched and looked across at the white sand beach of Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke. ...read more