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canucksailorguy 12-10-2012 02:59 PM

Alternatives to Sailrite?
Is anyone aware of a company that manufactures diy sail kits you sew up yourself, as does Sailrite, or are they the only game in town? Any comments about these firms, pos or negative?

bobmcgov 12-10-2012 05:39 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
Hmmm. Not aware of anyone else in the "We cut, you sew" business. Probably a good reason for that. Many people have observed the price of a complete Sailrite kit is not that far below what, say, F/X or SailWarehouse charge for a finished sail.

There's a reason for that, too. The materials costs are pretty much fixed. There's a lot of design work, cutting, and marking hems that goes on. In a way, the sewing is the easy part. Sailrite (or any modern loft) has that big flatbed plotter/cutter to pay for, & the expensive software that drives it.

So if you really want to make your own sails AND save money, shop around for a good price on sailcloth -- it's mostly Contender or Challenger anyhow -- and do the designing and cutting yourself. It is not terribly hard, if you are handy with a metric tape measure. There's a nifty freeeware program out there called Sailcut CAD that will let you design a perfectly good sail, then spit out plotter coordinates accurate to the thousandth of a mm.

<a href="" title="drift3 by Wyoming offgrid, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="418" alt="drift3"></a>

Then it's down to you, a tape measure, and a hotknife.;) I've built three sails this way, and they are really nice sails. Second and third better than the first, of course -- there is a learning curve. I will say this: after you've done the hard work of designing, laying out and cutting your own sail, you'll realize Sailrite's kit prices are pretty reasonable. Takes us about a day to lay out and cut; half a day to sew the panels; and most of two days for the finish work (boltrope/hanks/slugs, leech lines, batten pockets, corner reinforcements & grommets, reef points, etc.)

Scratch building is an option if you understand basic sail theory, enjoy that sort of thing, and place no value on your time. Your final costs will be ~60% of a Sailrite kit, maybe 25-30% North Sails or local loft. No one to complain to if it doesn't fit, tho.;)

Brent Swain 12-10-2012 05:45 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
You can buy almost new condition used sails, at a fraction the cost of materials.

canucksailorguy 12-10-2012 05:58 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
Brent, I've looked around and I haven't found any really decent sails at what I would term a decent price. Then there's the problem of finding the right size. If you can point me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it. I've already checked out the usual suspects - Bacon's, Minney's, etc.
Good info on sail building and what's involved - I'll take it into consideration.
I'm always amazed at the depth of knowledge in this place.

smurphny 12-10-2012 06:12 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
I've done both. If you keep looking at used sail sites, eventually you can get a really good deal on a sail that's in next to new condition. I recently bought a mainsail that I suspect came off an A35 or something very close. 8 oz material, triple stitched, it sail looked like it was never used...for $250 bucks! I recut/sewed it for a heavy cruising sail, dumped the hump, added some extra heavy patches and a reef point. I also sewed a kit from Sailrite for a trysail. It is a very nice, extremely well designed sail which I hope to never use.:) +1 on the little sailcut program above. My next sail project is going to be a new storm jib. Once you learn the basics of sail-making and have a good machine, you can save a LOT of money.

Brent Swain 12-10-2012 06:23 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
It's far easier to modify used sails than build a new one from scratch.

canucksailorguy 12-10-2012 07:39 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
@ smurphny and Brent - ok, let's take the discussion in that direction since you two know what you're talking about...let's say I find a lightly used mainsail that is too big. What dimension - luff, foot or leech is the easiest to correct? Would I be right in presuming you take the material from the head, and square it off, rather than mess with the foot? How much bigger can the sail actually be? I'm dealing with a luff of 38.25, foot of 11.5 and a leech of 39.7 in 7 oz Dacron. I could go a few inches shorter on the luff without a lot of problem I think, just raise the boom to compensate.
What about reef points?
And - that $250 sail - I've seen nothing comparable to that deal - the Bacons et al out there don't give those prices, so who am I not checking out that I should be? You can pm me that info ir you'd prefer, lol....
Also - I have available if I want it a very nice sail that is too small - luff 33'5", leech 38'6.5", foot 12'8.5", so it's too short in height, too long in the foot. Is that doable? I would have to add 4.75 feet to the foot, and cut the foot back 1' 2.5" in length, so a cut right up the leech to get that right. That doesn't sound real easy.

smurphny 12-10-2012 08:42 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
I think I got that sail from Atlantic Sail Traders. Second Wind and Minneys also have a good supply of used sails. The things to look for are, of course, the types of attachments at the luff (I had to change from slugs to outside slides at the luff and to 7/8" slugs on the foot), the sail's condition, stitching, weight, etc. Pretty much what you'd look for in any new sail. The most important thing is probably the luff angle. If it's right, the foot and luff can be saved as-is and maybe both tack and clew. That's a lot of sewing you don't have to do. If the foot and luff can be preserved then all you need to do is carefully layout the leech cut. You may not even have to remove the headboard if the luff length is right. The batten pockets need to be removed and moved in and maybe shortened and a new tape sewn on the leech with a leech line in it. On the sail I just did, I added a couple of layers to the patches, beefed up the batten pockets, added a third reef, and sewed in new grommets and corner leathers.

One thing you probably can't efficiently do to a used sail is to recut the actual curvatures. If doing that, it would probably be better to just start from scratch with new sailcloth. If the sail is way too big, it may be a problem because the deepest part of the sail's shape may be out of place once recut.

It IS a bit of work but a good thing to be able to do. If you have more time than money like me, it's almost a no-brainer.

canucksailorguy 12-10-2012 09:41 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
I've done a leech repair on this sail, it wasn't all that hard to do, but the sail is now past that and needs replacing.
If I'm understanding you, getting a sail with the correct luff means you don't have to mess with the headboard - you just recut the leach so that the foot is the correct length, install leech tape and a leech line, redo the batten pockets, etc.? Isn't the luff/foot angle a de facto 90, so that all you have to do is cut from the head to the appropriate length on the foot - meaning the leech will automatically be the right length?

canucksailorguy 12-10-2012 09:56 PM

Re: Alternatives to Sailrite?
Also - how about the possibility of adding on to a good but smaller sail, as in, adding length? Is that feasible? And nowhere have I seen any indication of the luff one seems to note that.

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