Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: SF - South Bay
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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 more...so 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!!