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Old 08-16-2010
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Sails Questions

Hi,
I am curious about sails. I have many questions about them and I will post a few here.
What is the best material for blue-water sails? Canvas or nylon or something else?
What is the average life span on well maintained sails?
At what wind speed does a stout sail face the real threat of tearing?
What sail is the most likely to tear on a boat, I.E. worst track record (the sail that runs out of life first, again maybe the main or the job or another?)
Is it recommended that you keep a spare sail for everything? I.E. Mainstay, jib, ect.

I have many more questions but this appears to be a good start. Thanks in advance for the answers and anything else prudent to the subject.
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Old 08-16-2010
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The answer to all of those questions is IT DEPENDS.
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First, the best start is to do some reading and research on your own. Every major sailmaker has a website and plenty of information about sails. One smaller one that you might check for more general information on sails is here:

articles

In a nutshell, it's hard to answer your questions as it's doubtful you have enough basic knowledge to understand the answer, but here...

What is the best material for blue-water sails? Canvas or nylon or something else?

Depends. Dacron (sorry, I didn't mean canvas) lasts longer, but it's shape is compromised earlier in it's overall life span.

What is the average life span on well maintained sails?

Depends. Latitude (read UV exposure) plays a huge role in the equation. The sun can drastically shorten the life of a sail aside from wind, general handling abuse, etc...

At what wind speed does a stout sail face the real threat of tearing?

Depends. A storm tri-sail, more wind than you want to imagine dealing with.
A light #1 genoa can be damaged (probably not torn though) in 15-18 kts... Each sail is built for a particular load/wind range. It's up to you to choose the right one for the conditions


I.E. worst track record (the sail that runs out of life first, again maybe the main or the job or another?)

I think you mean 'jib'. Typically, mains are build with heavier materials and will last nominally longer than many head sails. Many cruisers sail with terribly blown out sails. They get to their destinations, but often attribute poor boat performance to yacht design when new sails would open a world of love, wonder, and stunning realizations that sail quality really does make a huge difference in boat performance.

Is it recommended that you keep a spare sail for everything? I.E. Mainstay, jib, ect.

What's a mainstay? Spares? No. Just sails appropriate to your goals and sailing venue. Cruising and race sail inventories are very different creatures.

Last edited by puddinlegs; 08-16-2010 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 08-16-2010
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It certainly depends, but in an effort to help out a newbie, I'll post some of my personal thoughts below.

The answers will be, at best, a rough idea. Your mileage will vary, and your experience will eventually be much more useful than anything you read here


Quote:
Originally Posted by trisstan87 View Post
Hi,

What is the best material for blue-water sails? Canvas or nylon or something else?

Some sails are used all the time, some are only used under certain conditions. The main, for instance, will likely be dacron or similar, while your spinnaker will be probably nylon. Check out sailrite.com for more information on sail material. You won't see real 'canvas' very often.

What is the average life span on well maintained sails?

Your climate and choice of sailing weather will heavily affect this. If you don't stow your sails wet, and if you clean them when something bad gets on them (chemicals, salt buildup, deck cleaners, etc) you can reasonably figure something between 5 and 10 years. If you are a racer, you'll likely replace them every season or two.

At what wind speed does a stout sail face the real threat of tearing?

Your ability to properly trim a sail will have more to do with tearing than ripping. My first rip was because I poorly tied a reef into a main. The wind was a secondary cause. You can rip a sail in 10 knots of wind, especially if it's worn or you have a high-chafe area that you haven't addressed. Here's the important part: sails don't tear because of wind.. they tear because of use. If they are used enough, they'll tear if you sneeze on them.

What sail is the most likely to tear on a boat, I.E. worst track record (the sail that runs out of life first, again maybe the main or the job or another?)

The one you use the most. That's gong to depend on your sailing style. The spinnaker is pretty likely to tear, though, as is the main.


Is it recommended that you keep a spare sail for everything? I.E. Mainstay, jib, ect.

Thats going to depend on your sailing style. If you plan to be away from civilization for a while, you better have enough experience to know which sails to double up on. Thing is, most folks carry multiple headsails, for instance, each a different size than the others. So maybe you tear the #1, and have to sail on the #2 until you get it repaired. On the other hand, many people carry a second spinnaker and/or main, or different types of spinnaker. When speaking of any types of spares - whether sails or engine parts or vhf radios - it depends largely on your storage space and type of sailing. if you are an inland day sailor, there's certainly no reason to carry seven extra sails.
Here's the other piece of advice I might offer... when you are closer to heading offshore, you'll know these answers on your own. So take the above and mull it over so you can sleep at night.. but when it comes time to make the decision yourself, you'll have enough experience that you won't have to listen to a bunch of goobers on the internet
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Thank you all for the input. I do realize that some of the questions are tiresome to those who have answered them before, I have looked through at least a hundred forum pages before I posted any questions however, I am trying to find out on my own. I have plenty of time to learn this all myself, and most of it I will, but having such a wealth of knowledge at my finger tips is really helpful and i'm thankful to have it.
Myself, well I will without doubt (barring injury, death or disease) be traveling accross the pacific into and around Micronesia, Cook islands, Tonga, ect. I will look at the websites suggested and see what I can come up with.
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If you're planning on going to such remote areas, I'd highly recommend getting Dacron sails, rather than more advanced laminates. The main reason for this is most laminates are not field reparable by the average sailor—dacron sails are—even with out a sewing machine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by trisstan87 View Post
Thank you all for the input. I do realize that some of the questions are tiresome to those who have answered them before, I have looked through at least a hundred forum pages before I posted any questions however, I am trying to find out on my own. I have plenty of time to learn this all myself, and most of it I will, but having such a wealth of knowledge at my finger tips is really helpful and i'm thankful to have it.
Myself, well I will without doubt (barring injury, death or disease) be traveling accross the pacific into and around Micronesia, Cook islands, Tonga, ect. I will look at the websites suggested and see what I can come up with.
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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
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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