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post #1 of 7 Old 06-09-2015 Thread Starter
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sail repair

I have been in contact with sailrite about a repair I want to make on a torn mainsail. The tear is 4inches by 7inches so it is fairly large and makes a square flap with 3 sides torn. I have not been able to get much help from sailrite so maybe someone here can provide some advice.

The following is my correspondence seeking help from sailrite.


I had the unfortunate experience of snagging my mainsail on my spreaders and it created a 4 inch x 7 inch square rip in the sail. The rip starts about 18 inches from the luff. I would like to fix this by creating a stripe in the sail from the luff to the leach by using similar weight sailcloth. I had a few questions on this process that I think you can answer.

Before making the stripe, I was going to zig zag stitch over top the rip to seal it up. Then I was going to create the stripe by using similar weight sailcloth in black and blue to have a stripe about 6 inches wide. The stripe would start out blue on top about 2 inches wide, then black about 1 inch wide, then blue on the bottom 3 inches wide. I would make two of these (one for each side of the sail). Then I would zig zag the stripes onto the sail covering the rip as well as creating a stripe in the sail from luff to leach.

So now for the questions. Do you think this is a viable plan to fix the sail? How do I choose a compatible weight sailcloth? I see you have some black and blue rip stop sailcloth on your website. Do you think these would be appropriate for this repair or should I try to match the weight of the mainsail?

Why kind of stitching would you suggest for the seams in the stripe? I was thinking a straight stitch with about ¼ inch seam allowance.

Would it be better to cut the fabric or use a hot knife to burn the fabric on the cut line to seal the cut.

While I am at it I would like to add two rows of reefing points to the mainsail. Do you have any diy videos on adding reefing points? I see you offer a kit but no instructions that I could find on the website.

Sailrite Enterprises, Inc.

(260) 818-2005

What boat do you have? ie catalina 27

Sailrite Enterprises, Inc. My initial thought is that you are making this way too complicated. Get a yard of material similar weight to the sail, cut a piece 7x7 inches, stick it on the sail with seamstick, then sew two rows of zig-zag (preferred) or straight stitch about 1/8” in from the edge of the patch then another row just inside the first. Flip the sail over and cut out the old material, the cut should be about 1/8” inside the inner row of zig-zag stitches.

We have videos on building a complete mainsail as well as instruction books that cover the compete design and construction of mainsails. The general rules of thumb to follow is that you would like to take out 20-25% of the sail which should be about 12.5%-15% up the luff and foot edge. The leech side should be higher than the luff so the boom does not become lower when your reefed. Let me know if you have further questions.

May 26
Thanks for the reply. The boat is a T-Craft TS18 that I have owned for the past 25 years. The boat was built in Titusville Flordia by a company that mainly makes power boats. It is a fairly large 18 footer with a cabin that can sleep 4.
I was thinking that the stripes in the mainsail to cover the patch would be more aesthetic. Do you think it would adversely affect the sail performance. I also thought I could stick in a full batten in the stripe as an improvement.
How do I tell what the sail is currently made from and what weight it is? It is some synthetic material that is very smooth to the touch. It is 1977 vintage white and is still fairly crisp and keeps its shape under sail.
May 26
Sailrite Enterprises, Inc. At 18’ you have more options your sails are likely 4 to 5oz material. 4oz colored Dacron comes in 36” wide and two layers of 4 is stronger than your current sail. You could patch with a layer on one side and one on the other. You would like to cut the old sail material out if possible because it looks terrible when the sun is behind the sail, then you will have a colored highlight and see the tear across the sail through the patch.
You would need:
4oz colored Dacron
20203 V-69 thread
20306 ¼” seamstick basting tape

For one reef:
100138 5.4oz Dacron 1 yard for patches
You can use the thread and seamstick listed above
26208A jiffy grommets 2 each for the leech and luff edge main attachment points
26315 #1 nickel spur grommets if needed for intermediate ‘tie down points’
18202 #1 spur die set—to set #1 spur grommets
25204 Snap fastener tool to flair the rivets of the jiffy grommets

May 27
Hi Jeff,
Thanks for the information. I did not think the sail repair would show thru if I stitched it up and used seam tape on it prior to overlaying it with the dacron stripes. I ordered black and blue 4oz dacron sailcloth for the stripe material - order number SO 24 . I want to have two colors in the stripe, one 2 inches on top and one 3 inches on the bottom. I think a 1/4 inch seam allowance would be appropriate for joining them together. Any thoughts on this?
Also I was not planning to sew a hem in the outer edges - just cut them with a heat blade to seal the material. Do you think the heat cut would be better with a zig zag stitch holding it to the sail or would you recommend hemming the outer edges? I am worried about the air flow disruption that the hem may cause.
Did you ever consider a tool lending program similar to Advance Auto's for the die spur you recommended for the reef points? $33.50 is a little steep for only using it on 2 grommets. The way Advance Auto's program works is you pay full price and if you return it you get your money back.

May 27
Sailrite Enterprises, Inc.

May 27
The material will show through even more so if you stitch it. You should never stitch over the cut edge to ‘seal’ it you. You don’t need to even heat seal the Dacron simply cut with a sharp pair of scissors will be fine. You will not hurt anything is you choose to use a hot knife.
I would recommend ½” seam allowance and two rows of stitches per seam, this patch will bear the load of the sail so the seams joining them should be the same as the sail.

We used to rent tools 18 years ago or so. (90% of the returns were damaged) nothing but trouble customers always will win that battle. If you own it you will take care of it and it will last 30 years or more. The nice thing about having the tool is you can do all the slugs on your new main and your hanks on your jib or even some repairs for others.


May 27

Hi ,
I am just starting to cut my new fabric and make the repair to the sail. I have a few more questions about prior emails from you. The first thing is I do not want to cut out the torn piece. I am going to put a few stripes of black and blue dacron over top of the tear and the stripes will be much larger than the original tear. The tear is about 5in x 6in square. The stripe covering the tear will be the entire width of the sail from leach to luff. I have seen the sailrite video repairing a sail with a rip near the bolt rope. They zig zaged stitched the tear prior to covering each side of the sail. How is it possible to see thru this repair? It would seem to me this would be less noticeable than cutting out the entire section. Could you explain more fully why it is not a good idea to zig zag stitch the tear. A picture of a bad repair would be good if you have one available.
I have included pictures of what I want to achieve with the stripes and the repair. My sail is much smaller but the effect should be the same.

Sailrite Enterprises, Inc.

Today at 11:59 AM
I don’t have any pics of a bad repair. When it all is done as long as the sail is in one piece and works it is a good repair right? So you can do whatever you would like. If you find the video where we zig-zag through a sail repair please send a link I would like to see it.


Today at 11:59 AM

Hi, here is the link: Sail Repair Video - How to Fix Boltrope Edge Tape on a Mainsail Sail Repair Video - How to Fix Boltrope Edge T
Today at 12:25 PM

Sailrite Enterprises, Inc.

Today at 12:39 PM
Completely different than a tear in a single layer of material. If that tear was 3” aft it would have been repaired differently. I thought your repair was mainly away from the boltrope.

My thoughts on all of the above:
As you can see there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Cutting out the tear instead of patching it up with zig zag stitching just seems wrong. I also read on other postings that matching the bias is important in sail repair. Any instructions on how to do this?
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post #2 of 7 Old 06-10-2015
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Re: sail repair

Warning: I have not done this repair myself - but I have made a sail, recut another, and maintained some just above a total noob.

I think we have too many questions going on in the email string!

I suggest we shelve the reefing point for now, and look at the tear, approx 4"x7", 18" from the luff.

As SR mentioned, repairing near a boltrope would be approached differently, so again, let's not go too deeply into that. Let's focus on the tear.

As I see it you have two ways to fix it, both discussed above. Method 1 is a patch. Seamstick, zig-zag stitches. Relatively easy to do; not very aesthetic; but you'll look like a hardened racer! I know a few guys with big boats, fancy laminated sails, and patches where the spreaders got involved.....

Option 2 - more aesthetic, more work. Basically replace a panel in the main. As has been stated, you would probably want to cut out the old cloth, otherwise it will show through the repair. Really. This is a more tricky and time-consuming repair.

BTW, I a told that the pros do not use a hot knife to cut dacron in sail repair - it does seal the edges nicely, but creates a hard ridge which can deflect the needle and cause other problems. True? Dunno, but a sailmaker told me, so I did what he said.

And I would not put a hem in mid-sail. I have never seen a hem used. Your point about airflow is good; replacing the panel means you should be able to match the staggering of the seams to the original sail, and as the panel is full width it is the optimal repair from an airflow perspective - but equally I don't think a patch will make a huge difference.

I would not stitch near the tear, or repair the tear directly with zig-zag stitches. Been there, tried that. The problem is that the fibers around the tear have been compromised, and so the stitches will tear out; and in addition, you won't be able to get the alignment of the tear correct; pull the edges close enough to sew, and (before the stitches get pulled out again) you will almost certainly create a "pucker".

Look at the sewing around the tack or clew, and you will see multiple reinforcing patches. This spreads the load over a larger area, so the stitched don't pull out and the construction is strong. Same principal with your repair; don't get too close, spread the load.

Hope this helps; it'll be interesting to hear what others say. I would like to see Sailrite do some videos on common sail maintenance/repair jobs, it would be most useful. Perhaps they will read this!!
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post #3 of 7 Old 06-10-2015
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Re: sail repair

Agree with Paul 323 - TMI

Rips with 90° corners in sail cloth are vulnerable to further and continued tearing. That the tear is not near a 'corner' nor at/on the luff or leach is a plus since the rip is in a relatively non highly stressed area.
For a simple repair-
Use 4oz. cloth as a patch over the entire area - BOTH sides.
Align the 'texture' of the patch to the texture / 'weave' of the sailcloth to prevent wrinkling when the cloth is stretched.
Attach a patch first to one side using seam-stick basting tape or a thin coating of silicone adhesive .... Using the seam-stick at the rip and all the edges of the patch and every 1" in between.
The edge of the patch should be approximately 1" from the 'rip', at a minimum.
The rip should be carefully aligned back together as close as possible - use seam-stick to hold it in place onto the first patch.
The patch for the opposite side is an exact mirror image of the first patch, including fiber alignment / 'texture' / weave pattern - Use 'seam-stick' basting tape (or a thin layer of silicone adhesive) to hold it place.
Use V69 polyester thread in zig-zag along the edges of the patch, along the each side of the rips, and @ approx 1-1/2" apart horizontally across the rest of the 'sandwich'.

Sewing / machine set up - use three scraps of 4oz. cloth to set up the sewing machine and to set proper thread tension so that the stitches are 'well knotted' and 'tight' but without deforming/wrinkling the cloth; set up so there are NO dropped nor skipped stitches. Consult the machine's manual for set up.

If using a 'dressmakers' sewing machine, increase the pressure of the 'presser foot' to maximum 'down force' to help stop the 'foot' and cloth from jumping when the needle is withdrawn from the fabric 'sandwich'. Sew as slow-as-possible, you may have to turn the balance wheel by hand to get through 3 layers of 4oz. cloth. LUBRICATE the sewing thread (both, top and bottom thread) by soaking with a 'DRY' teflon spray lubricant. Use an appropriate sewing needle for the V69 thread .... consult the machine's instruction book for the proper needle 'number'. If such needle info is not available, use a #16 needle. With a dressmakers machine, if you cant successfully set up for zig-zag without dropped/skipped stitches (on the scraps, as above) ... then use straight stitching.
DO NOT 'heat seal' the patch edges nor the margins of the tears .... the seam-stick basting tape and the stitching will hold everything in place.

Last edited by RichH; 06-10-2015 at 03:38 AM.
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post #4 of 7 Old 06-10-2015
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Re: sail repair

"I have not been able to get much help from sailrite"

Wow, I read through most of your correspondence with them, and was amazed at how much time they spent corresponding with you. Realistically, how much time do you think a business can afford to spend teaching you sail repair for free?

Let's give them credit where credit's due.

Good luck with your project. I have to admit that just about the only thing I don't repair on my boat is sails, as our local sail loft is very reasonable on repairs.
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Re: sail repair

Thank you Paul and RichH. Your comments are exactly what I was looking for. RichH, I am going to follow your detailed instructions and hope it comes out right. This was my first idea about how to repair the sail and I am happy to hear from someone who knows about this stuff and that it will work. Since the repair will be a new stripe in the sail about six inches wide from luff to leach what do you think of inserting a pocket in the patch for a full length batten? I think it would add to the sail shape and possibly spread the load even more than the two sided patch. Also, I am just a little unsure about how to match the weave of the new sail fabric with the old sail. I know about bias in fabric but can not tell where the selvage edge is on the original sail. If I were making a sail the selvage edge would align with the foot of the sail because you end up with less seams that way. Thanks again, Bob
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Re: sail repair

Siamese, I think Sailrite is a great company and have made multiple purchases from them. I also think they are in a 'do it yourself' business and realize it with all of the great youtube videos they create. It is not that I am ungrateful for the time spent corresponding with Sailrite. I was just looking for expert advice like RichH and Paul provided. I kind of gave up on them after the remark "When it all is done as long as the sail is in one piece and works it is a good repair right? So you can do whatever you would like."
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Re: sail repair

Well I finished the repair and now have a black stripe in the middle of the sail between the boat numbers. Everything looks good so far. I will post how long the repair last later.
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