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  #1  
Old 09-07-2008
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The age of the sails and thier condition

Is it possible to have sails made in 1980 still be in great shape? In other words do sails wear out by simply being old? Or is it the amount they are used, or is it possible that heavily used sails can still be in great shape after many years? Just wondering because I am going to look at a 1980 S2 8.0B that is for sale. The owner states that "the sails are original and in great shape. Not baggy at all".
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Old 09-07-2008
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Others can probably describe this more accurately, but basically sails become old as they lose the stiffness of the fabric. Age is a factor, but care, usage and exposure are probably much larger factors in longevity.
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It's possible that 28 year old sails could be in good condition, but only if they were very lightly used, rolled up and kept out of the sun and elements. I have a very crisp set of original sails from a Lighting that are ~40 years old and I have very worn out sails that were new in 2002. It all depends on the use and care. If the boat was sailed in 20knt winds every time it was out then they are probably blown out. You will have to put them up in a sea trial and see for yourself. If you don't have much sailing experience or don't know what good shape looks like I'd take along a friend who does.
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in these parts you can only sail 3 or 4 months on the year if that makes a difference...
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The difference is in the owner's care and usage. Things we are unable to assess online.
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Old 09-07-2008
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Possible but real unlikely. Every time a sail is used, the fabric is pulled against the weave and it distorts--to some degree. This is cumulative, and if the fabric originally was calendered with some type of plastic or resin coating, as soon as that coating has worn off (from UV or motion) the fabric really starts to destabilize.

"Heavy use" implies enough use to have changed the shape. Even one season of "normal" use (2-3 times a week?) is enough to make a typical genoa stretch 2-3%, which is why many lofts will tell you to cut a sail to, say, 128% if your class rules call for a penalty at 130%. They expect the sail to get bigger and stretch out!

How far it can go before the important dimensions change and the draft shifts, etc....you need to see hands-on, with the sail hoisted and evaluated. One good clue is to examine the stitching, the thread usually wears faster than the sail. If the needle holes are obvious, if threads have popped, or if the sails feel as good as cheap hotel bedsheets...they're overdue for replacement. They'll still move the boat--but that's like driving a car with half the air pressure in the tires and two spark plugs unplugged.

I'd expect anything with sails over 10 years old to need replacement. 5-10 years, might be "good enough for now" if you weren't racing or the use was light. But 20+ years? If they're still good, run out and buy a PowerBall ticket while you are hot!
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Sj..

SJ... I am curious if you meant a Lightning? Just curious, I learned to sail on a Blue Jay- and then moved up to a Lightning- Then a Ensign on the LI Sound (Mystic, CT)... Sure Glad the Ensign was Fibergalss. The darn wooden Lightening leaked water and all the other older guys had fiberglass ones. Telling people I finished 8th or in the top ten was usually less humbling until I mentioned there were only eight boats LOL....

To the question... All mentioned is great.. Also consider the material used. I know that when I purchused racing sails for my Ensign- They cost more then the twent year old boat cost me- lol....

Best of Luck with the boat buying...
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Yeah, I meant Lightning. My fingers weren't working so good this morning. I bought the Lightning from my Boy Scout troop for $300 when I was a kid. Before the Boy Scouts it had been used and abused by a university sailing team in Florida then somehow made it's way to California were it received more abuse. I spent countless hours restoring it before it could be sailed. I still have the original rig and the aformentioned sails in the rafters of my garage.
Someday when I have time I'm going to decorate my office with the hardware, spars and some of the woodwork removed during the resto.
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