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Old 08-07-2007
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laminated sails life expectancy?, cleaning?

Hi… My boat came equipped with laminated sails. This is the first time I've dealt with that type of sail so I am wondering what the life expectancy is? I cruise about four weeks of the year, and day sail about another 50 days. All of this is done in Florida or points south of there. I do not normally remove my sales during the summer unless there is a threat of a hurricane. Also, any advice on cleaning laminated sails? Thanks
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Different laminates will have different lifespans. Also, the kind of use and storage conditions can drastically affect the lifespan of any sail. Are the sails covered when left bent on aboard the boat???
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Thanks for the reply, when I'm cruising, which is about four weeks of each year,the sails are covered about half of the time. At all other times the sails are covered. Although, because I have Jack lines in the sail cover is cut, so it fits around them There is some water migration. I try to keep them as dry as possible.
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What 'kind' of laminate? mylar, aramid, spectra or the newer 'cruising laminates' in which lightweight dacron tafetta is laminated to a center film.

Mylar, etc. laminates usually cant be cleaned with much success. Cruising laminates 'sometimes' can be cleaned (depends on the central 'film').
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Answers some of the questions, more help please

]Hi …. Thanks for the replies; I'll try to answer some of your questions.
1… I did speak to a person from Sailcare, Jerry I think. This was before posting my question. First of all his answer about cleaning my sail was a definite no. He does not even attempt to clean cruising laminates. He said that the normal life for a cruising laminated sail is about 10 years. I have no reason to doubt what he said, but I always check and double-check any information that I get. Especially when it comes to an item is expensive as a new main sail. Also, not that I'm cynical, but Sailcare does manufacture sails.

2.. Here's what I've been able to find out about the construction of my sail. It was made by Bainbridge (sp?) And it is laminated starting on the outside as follows; taffeta then mylar then a polyester scrim and then taffeta again. This may not be hundred percent accurate, but I'm sure it's close. This comes from the person who made the sail. He did say that mildew is a problem with this type of sail. As for the life, his feeling was closer to 15 years than 10. Keep in mind he also manufactures sails.
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Sounds like you have a Pentex laminate sail... which uses parallel high-modulus polyester laminated between mylar IIRC.

One thing to keep in mind MangoMike, is that the lifespan of the sails is probably somewhere between the two, but could be drastically shorter if you sailed in the tropics, or much longer if you sailed on the Great Lakes and store your boat for seven months of the year...
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Old 08-08-2007
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I think as a general rule of thumb laminate sails have about half the life span of dacron. Call it 10-12 yrs. (Dacron is typically blown out by then and should probably be replaced then also.) UV and water are bad things for laminate sails. Water intrusion will cause mildew to form between the laminate layers over time. (gets in thru the stiching) The mildew generally can't be cleaned and you can't get rid of it. UV will cause the layers to delaminate and the sail to fail over time. I have also learned (I got a new laminate genoa this year.) that the laminate sails don't stretch as much in gusty conditions and are generally less forgiving. Thats the bad news. The good news is that the sail will hold its shape and not stretch out basically for its entire life-span. It will hold its intended shape right up until the day it blows apart.
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I think that you have gotten good basic answers. I have been researching this for my 38 foot boat for several years now and I am actually working on a draft paper on this topic. Here is the gist of the info that I have gotten from a couple different lofts.

Laminates need to be handled more carefully. They hate sun, flogging and careless folding. Lazy Jacks and sown in mainsail covers are an absolute pain in the butt with laminates because you can't flake sails properly with the Lazy jacks rigged so you either shorten the life of the sail, or increase the work dramatically. Laminate sails come in all kinds of flavors. The ones that made sense for my boat are as follows:

Film sails (3dl's and the like) have a performance lifespan around 300 hours but they still look like a sail for a very long time after that.

A properly made arimid/mylar sail, which has been reasonably protected from UV (religiously using sunscreens or socks and sail covers) and which has proper chafe patches and handling, has a performance lifespan of closer to 1500 hours and will still look like a sail after several times the number of hours in its performance lifespan, but on big genoas just will not have the racing performance of a film sail. Polyester/mylar sails have a shorter performance and overall lifespan than a aramid/mylar and will offer significantly less performance than aramid strands in changeable conditions. Dacron has the shortest performance lifespan of all of the choices, perhaps a few hundred hours, and significantly offers the least performance at both the high and low end of the wind speed range. Dacron is a little more forgiving of chafe, UV and much more forgiving of flogging. Dacron has a white triangle life probably in the 4000 hour range and if treated as carefully as you need to treat laminates, might look like a sail considerably longer than that.

In a general sense, laminate sails don't stretch as much in gusty conditions and are therefore much more forgiving in terms of speed, heeling, powering up at just the wrong time and that helps with control and seaworthiness. They are generally lighter in weight and so hold their shape and therefore perform better in the lighter wind end of their windspeed range. In other words, for a given sail size and shape a laminate sail will have a much wider windspeed range than a dacron sail and so you can get by with a smaller sail inventory. (T34C- That's the good news Also T34C's comments about mildew only seems to apply to sails with taffada elements. I have not experienced it at the seams.

BUT as everyone said above there are huge variations in quality from sail loft to sail loft, and even in individual sails from particular lofts. 20 years ago I considered buying a boat that had an entirely kevlar sail inventory. The owner gave me a survey for the boat, and in it the surveyor said words to the effect that no one in their right mind would go cruising with Kevlar sails. My boat came with a nearly 20 year old kevlar/mylar sail that I used in heavy going and throughout the winters and which finally delaminated and tore leech to luff in a 40 knot gust when it was roughly 23 years old. After doing my reseach I have concluded that Kevlar/Mylar is a less expensive way to go for performance cruising on a boat the size of mine and way cheaper for racing. I can have fewer sails in my sail inventory and those sails will continue to perform longer than dacron. Now then, if you are of the school that considers any white triangle to be a sail, then go dacron.

Jeff

Last edited by Jeff_H; 08-08-2007 at 02:04 PM.
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