Questions about mending small tears in sails - SailNet Community

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Old 03-19-2010
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Question Questions about mending small tears in sails

There were small tears in the sail of the boat we bought at the end of last sailing season. Largest is about 4" long and none of them cross panels. I bought Dacron, thread, and needles from Sailrite.com. Have been procrastinating making the repairs. I have never looked at a patch on a sail. When I was searching the internet last night there isn't much info about making such patches. About all I could find was when cutting the patch cut it so that after the edges are folded in the patch exceeds the tear by one inch in all direction. Use a zig zag stitch. That is a about all I could glean.

Questions:
1. Do you patch both sides of the sail?

2. If you patch only one side, do you secure the tear in some manner so that 1 inch margins from the tear to the zig zag holding the patch don't end up getting caught on something and provide more stress to the sail?

Thank you.

Have a Great Day,
Jim
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Old 03-19-2010
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I'm an amateur sail repairer, but can help some. If a grommet or other device was torn out that I have to replace, then the grommet will likely be under more of a load. In that case, I'll put a patch on both sides. If the patch will just be just covering a small slit in sail cloth, I'll just put a patch on one side. If I patch both sides of a repair, I'll cut the patches on the bias, and sew them on so that they run at 90 deg. angles to each other. In either case, when I'm done zig-zag sewing around the outer perimeter of the patch(es), I'll zig-zag sew an "X" across the patch, from corner-to-corner to prevent the edges of the torn or cut fabric from snagging on anything, and to add strength.
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Old 03-19-2010
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It sounds

like your sail might be pretty old. If you can't attribute the tears to specific things that might chafe or cut them, the tears, if there are more than one, could be from the fabric simply wearing out from use or UV degradation. Take them to a sailmaker for a diagnosis. Since you already seem to have the materials for a repair, you can probably use them regardless of what the sailmaker suggests. If the repairs last longer than the sailmaker believes possible, you come out ahead. If they don't, he was right: you need new sails. For the repair, it would probably be best to stick a patch on both sides. We use the sticky-back stuff, the weight depending upon the weight of the cloth you're patching. Spinnaker rip-stop tape on a mainsail doesn't usually hold up long: use heavier stuff for heavier sails. DRY is the name of the game in getting good adhesion. The general recommendation is to cut the patch large, as you mentioned, and to round the corners so that the forces are spread more evenly over the remaining sail and will be less likely to cause more holes or tears. Depending upon the adhesive (how well it sticks) you may want to sew the patch too. The danger of doing this - and the reason why a zig-zag stitch is used for this when it's done - is that poking a line of holes into what remains of your sail can create a weak spot (...please tear at perforation...) which will make your problems worse.

We tore our mainsail along a seam from the leech to the luff in a race last fall: too big a job for us to repair on our own. The first thing the sailmaker did was to check the dacron to see if the material was strong enough to warrant fixing. (The sail was at least 20 years old; its builder long out of business.) Restitching the 10' seam and fixing some other chafe and batten pocket issues cost us about $700. We figure we'll get another 2-3 seasons of cruising from this sail, however, and that's a lot less than a new one for us. If the restitched sail was simply going to let go somewhere else, however, it would not have been worth fixing it, and we'd be using it for a drop cloth when we paint the bottom next month.
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Old 03-20-2010
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Stick your needle through the Dacron near (about 6" away) from your tear and move it about. If you can move it a lot or if it tears your sail cloth is shot - get a new sail.

If it holds up, patch one side.

Carefully stick the torn edges together, on the opposite side from your intended patch, with duct tape. Cut a piece of new Dacron to give plenty of room around the tear so that the threads in the new fabric are oriented the same as the sail threads. (This is important so that when you adjust your sail while sailing the sail and patch material deforms equally - or a near as dammit!

Fold a 1/4" to 1/2" hem all around. Mark lines across the patch edge and onto the sail so that when sewing these lines will line up (this keeps the tension in patch and sail even, so you don't get creases or wrinkles).

Stick it down with double sided tape or use a stapler it you can get to it.
Sew around the the patch keeping the "stricking marks" lined up. Use a zig-zag stitch if you have a machine or a simple overhand stitch if doing it by hand.

Turn the sail over and remove the duct tape (if you've sew through it, it will rip along the perforations).
Mark a square on the sail that just outlines the rip. Cut diagonals in each corner and fold under. Sew again to the patch on the other side.
That's it.
sam :-)
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Old 03-20-2010
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If you're afraidthe new stiches will tear through (the cloth is punked out) or just not a great tailor, you can also gule the patches on. Use a thin smear of 3M 5200 or "GOOP" urethane adhesive, or anything similar to those. Make sure both surfaces are clean and dry, press flat with a weight until cured, repeat for the back side. The patch will be just as good as a stiched one. If you cut the patch material with a hot knife or run a flame on it, that should also prevent (un)raveling.

But like paul said, it might just mean the sail is shot. Sails will work long after they should have been replaced--like a V8 running on four cylinders. Enough to learn on, enough to putter around on, enough to stretch a budget on but not enough to really sail well.
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