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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related)
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  #1  
Old 06-14-2006
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Life Span of a Sail

I have a Hunter 33.6, 1996 vintage.
I just had a rip in the main sail in heavy winds at teh reefing point and am going through the replace or repair evaluation.
What is the life expentency of a sail (this boat is in the Chesapeake)?
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Old 06-14-2006
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It Depends Of Course

Many cruising sails are in use much longer than 10 years. It depends on the amount of use or abuse and how much time in the sunlight.
All synthetics eventually break down in with UV light. Your sail maker can best advise you.
You can see how badly the material has deteriorated by pulling on the tear. If it rips easily then it is about done.

Gary
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Another quick test of the sail’s condition is to rub the edge of your thumbnail over the stitching fairly briskly. If the stitching breaks or pulls, then the thread is heavily UV-damaged and the sail would probably require complete re-stitching to be usable.
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Old 06-15-2006
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Life expectancy of a sail: 48 hours if left flogging in high winds and strong sunlight. Less if you're a diehard "sail of the day" racer. Or about 10 years for the casual sailor.

A lot depends on how much you expect from the sail, because it will lose shape and power way faster than the cloth wears out. Most are coated with a plastic resin when new, to help keep their shape (locks the fibers in place) and block UV. They'll be stiff and hard on your hands at that point, too.

Once the resin is gone...the shape will be lost faster. That's where it gets subjective, but I'd say ten years is probably time to splurge and get a new one, unless you plan to do the repair yourself and "just want to sail" without fussing over how blown out the sail may be.

If you can see daylight at any of the stitching, from the threads wearing and cutting into the sail. Or if threads have worn and broken. Or if the cloth bears any resemblance to your favorite flannel shirt. Time to do the deed and replace it.

You may be able to have it cut down and recycle it into a storm trysail, so it may not all be wasted. If part of it is in good enough condition...the shape of a storm trysail really isn't important, but using it allows you to keep your good mainsail out of heavy winds.
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Of course, one of the dangers of sailing under an older, blown-out sail, is that it is very difficult to de-power the sail in stronger winds, as the sail can not be successfully flattened enough. It also will be far more likely to fail under those same conditions.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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Old 06-15-2006
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Did the sail tear at the reef clew or at one of the reef ties? Occasionally I see people tie in all the reef ties tightly before hoisting a reefed sail. This puts a large load on those points which were not really designed for.
I prefer to let a reefed sail hang at the boom, or just loosely gather the reefed portion and secure it through those ties if necessary. If it tore at the reef ties due to excess stress there, you can probably safely repair that and get some more service out of the sail yet.
If it tore out the reef clew, then that's another story altogether.
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