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Old 02-10-2013
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Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

I am in the market for a used boat and am considering putting an offer down on a 2003 Sabre. Like many Sabres of this vintage, it has some cracks in the gelcoat on deck and in the cockpit. The extent and severity of the cracking doesn't appear to be too extreme at this point in its life (for instance there is no extensive "alligatoring"), however some of the cracks concern me, in particular a number that occur along much of the length of the genoa tracks, emanating from each screw that fasten the track to the deck (see enclosed pictures). Some extend into the non-skid textured portions of the deck, making them particularly difficult to repair. While the cracking would not be at this stage a cosmetic issue for me, my main concern is whether it would continue to get worse with time and, perhaps become a structural problem eventually, requiring extensive and expensive repair. Do most cracks, particularly on Sabres, appear early such that a 10 year old boat will have the majority of them with not many to follow, or is it impossible to generalize. Any insight would be much appreciated.
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Gelcoat cracks in Sabre-gelcoat-cracks-1.jpeg   Gelcoat cracks in Sabre-gelcoat-cracks-2.jpeg  
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Old 02-10-2013
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

Do you know where the boat spent it's first 10 years? If it's off seasons were spent in a Winter climate, was it covered or exposed to the elements?
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Old 02-10-2013
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

As you can see most cracks will begin at a screw hole. That is because gelcoat is like a brittle layer on top of a more flexible structure layer. Many could be avoided by proper beveling at screw sites which is a lot more work. None of your options are easy but I have had some sucess with small repairs by veeing out and carefully filling with gel but dont bother if you are not going all the way back to the root of the problem. In this case it means removing some hardware. Dont forget to bevel the screw holes before reinstalling. Jim also owner of Choice Fiberglass www.choicefiberglass.com

Last edited by Perseverance; 02-10-2013 at 01:55 PM. Reason: additional info
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Old 02-10-2013
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

Those cracks certainly appear to be caused by the point-loading of the genoa track, particularly at the bolts. Is it possible to get access to the underside, and can you see what backing plate/washer/etc arrangement was used?

Also, are the cracks concentrated in specific locations, for example, a cluster around the "150%" genoa car position and the "100%" car position? If so that would pretty much indicate inadequate below decks reinforcement in those highly loaded areas. Improving the backing in those regions would go a long way towards stabilizing the current situation. If the loading/flexing continues over time I think it's reasonable to expect the cracks to perhaps worsen with use. It may still be primarily a cosmetic issue, but eventually the visible portion of cosmetic damage becomes a 'costly' item during survey and resale...

Also, if there is significant movement causing these stress cracks, any cosmetic repairs may well reopen unless the backing is addressed.
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

Thanks for your reply. I agree that they do appear to be from flexing that would occur under load. I did not notice whether they were at specific locations or more broadly distributed, however I would take your suggestion and make sure to inspect the backing situation before proceeding any further.
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Old 02-10-2013
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

Thank you all for your replys. I will keep it all in mind if I proceed with an offer. If I do end up purchasing the boat and decide to repair the cracks myself, I will definitely do the job appropriately including improving the backing, if warranted, veeing out the cracks down to the source, and beveling the screw holes before filling with gelcoat. I'm not sure about the cracks in the textured gelcoat. I understand that it may be possible to get a mold of the imprint that Sabre used for such a repair, but I'm not sure that I would be up for such a job....

As to the history of the boat, it has been in the northeast for it's whole life however I don't know the details of its off season storage. It is currently outside, on the hard, and covered with a Fairclough.
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Old 02-10-2013
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

I had something similar when I got my boat but it was concentrated at the points that the headsail cars went. The machine screws that held it in place were only backed up with washers, which is not nearly enough.

I got a strip if about 1/8" SS an inch wide and cutting it in several pieces to allow for the bend, installed it as backing plates for the whole length of the track. We held the plate in position and used the drill to mark a spot then drilled through it.

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Old 02-12-2013
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

Somehow I'm shocked that this would be considered normal in a 10 year old boat from any builder. I can only imagine the comments if this were a Hunter. If that isn't caused by abuse--like tieing off to the jib cars and putting an extreme vertical load on the track as the tide fell--then that sucks.
Tim R. and kd3pc like this.
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Old 02-12-2013
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

I agree with Tom here. My '85 Ericson that had been raced had nothing like this nor does my '97 Caliber. My friend's 1993 Sabre 362 has no cracks here.

Before I went any further, I would check the moisture content in that deck.

Are these cracks symmetrical to the boat? IE port and stbd?
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Last edited by Tim R.; 02-12-2013 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 02-12-2013
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Re: Gelcoat cracks in Sabre

Tim R
The cracks are on both port and starboard tracks, suggesting that it is not due to an accidental extreme load... The moisture content of the deck has not been checked but would be if I go any further with the boat. Thanks for your thoughts.
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