Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: CT/ Long Island Sound
Thanked 26 Times in 25 Posts
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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.