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  #1  
Old 11-05-2002
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Sail Comparisions

I''m a cruiser/racer with a Hunter 260 with a large roach main and a jib I am trying to make sense of what type of sails would work best for me. We mainly do club PHRF racing with light air 2 to 10 knots 70% of the time or heavy air 18 Knots to 25+ knots 30% of the time. I currently have standard dacron sails that came with the boat when I bought it 4 years ago. The jib that came with the boat is undersized. I am looking to do a sail upgrade and want to get the best of both worlds, performance and durability. Should I stick with dacron or move up to a laminate? If I get 10 years out of my dacron what life can i expect from a laminate sail? As I cruise too I would want to flake the mainsail and keep it on the boom with a cover, will that work with laminates or will it kill the life of the sail? Also do you have any preference in sailmakers UK vs. North vs. Doyle, etc. and why?
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Old 11-05-2002
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I seriously doubt that you would get much benefit going to laminate. Laminates have two real advantages, Laminates tend to be lighter for the same strength and have the stretch less. When you talk about a comparatively small cruising boat like the Hunter 260, the weight of the sailcloth will not get appreciably lighter by going to a laminate. Similarly, the Hunter 260 has a very flexible rig and so won''t benefit from extremely low stretch fabrics. At best I would suggest radial cut polyester sails with an oriented weave which will give you the best trade off in durability and stretch for a boat that size. Besides you would probably take a rating hit if you went to high tech sails since you probably benefit from a ''Cruising sails'' credit (3 to 6 secs per mile)

Jeff
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Old 11-06-2002
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I agree with Jeff H that you will not normally benefit by using laminated sails on a 26 ft. boat. The only time you will benefit significantly is when the wind is very light. The lightweight laminate will hold its shape in light air better than heavier dacron sails. Laminated sails will continue to drive the boat in light air, after your dacron sails have collapsed from their own weight and are hanging limp.

Since you already have a serviceable set of dacron sails, you could buy a laminated headsail, and only use it for racing and extremely light-air sailing. In moderate to stronger winds you could use your old dacron sails. That would greatly extend the life expectancy of your laminated sail.
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Old 11-06-2002
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Sailormon6, I agree with your assesment of laminated sails in light air sailing but disagree on heavy air. This is where laminates really shine. It''s the lack of stretch that is their strength. Dacron stretches more in heavy air creating a fuller shape which increases heel. Exactly what you don''t want. Laminate total life is shorter but they will hold their shape right up until they fall apart. Dacron''s shape begins to degrade the first time you use them and will hold together longer with a poorer shape. All dacron is not equal but this is generally true.
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Old 11-06-2002
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Sailmc,
Huntersailor''s boat is a 26 footer. The stretchiness of dacron is not as important a factor with a smaller boat as it is with a larger boat. By constantly re-trimming the jib on a smaller boat, as it stretches and contracts with the puffs, you can maintain the correct sail shape very effectively. Larger boats carry larger sails, and the extent to which the sail stretches becomes more significant. It also is more difficult to constantly re-trim a large jib, because of the forces exerted on the sail.

If you want to be competitive on a 26 ft. boat in very light air, you really need a laminated headsail, but in moderate to stronger winds, you can still be very competitive with dacron sails. I know that dacron sails degrade over time, but not nearly as much as most sailors think. My 22 year old dacron sails still regularly beat identical and larger boats that are flying laminated sails, and I''ve raced them hard over the years.
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Old 11-07-2002
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You''d have a tough time selling that to the guys in our fleet with the 3DL''s on their S2 7.9''s, Melges 24''s and everything else from 24 to 40''. Trimming a sail does not flatten it. The shape of the foil changes in a puff increasing draft. You can''t trim this out. You can adjust it but not for every puff. The stretch will become permanant after a much shorter time with Dacron. You must be one helluva sailor!
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Old 11-07-2002
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Sailmon6, thanks for your input. One thing I would like clarification on is you say you need a laminate headsail in very light wind. The Hunter 260 has a maximum headsail of 105%, anything larger would go outside the spreaders and give you terrible shape for upwind sailing. The Hunter 260 is a B&R rig and is really powered by a large roach mainsail. Given this information,if you were going to choose between the jib and the main as to which sail should be laminate, would you not choose the main? Also, could anyone comment on sailmakers UK,North,Doyle.
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Old 11-07-2002
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North has great products but they are tough to deal with if you''re not a gran prix racer that orders a new suit every year. UK tape drives are nice but I''m not comfortable with their longevity. I have no experience with Doyle.
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Old 11-07-2002
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huntersailor,

I agree that, for your boat, the better choice would be a laminated main, rather than jib. If I had to choose between the main and the jib, I would want my largest sail to be laminated, because the larger the sail, the more you gain (i.e., less weight aloft, etc.) from having a lighter-weight laminated sail. Conversely, dacron will be less of a disadvantage on a smaller sail. (The weight and stretchiness will be less significant.)

Obviously, if you can afford to buy a whole suit of laminated sails, that will make you the most competitive. But, if your largest sail is laminated, and your others are dacron, you can still be very competitive. What you do with your sails still matters a great deal more than how they are made.

North built my old dacron sails, and I have no complaints. Anyone who has owned a UK, North or Doyle is likely to sing their praises. In reality, if you buy from any of the top sailmakers, you will probably get a very well-built laminated sail with a very good shape.
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Sailmc,

I don''t disagree with you that laminate sails have their place on performance boats under 30 feet. Boats like the Melges experience high apparent winds and high sail loadings. Their light weight rigs benefit from any any sail weight savings. Similarly the S2 7.9s carry comparatively large MORC proportioned genoas which also benefit from being light in weight and low stretch, giving a much wider wind range.

When you talk about a boat like the Hunter 260 with a comparatively heavy but flexible rig, and no back stay adjuster (or backtstay for that matter), high stretch halyards and minimal ability to shift gears quickly, the low stretch light weight properties of laminated sails really won''t help much.

While it is true that the shape of the sail does change shape in a gust, getting fuller as you note, it is a mistake to say thatyou can''t trim it out in puffs. Use of an adjustable backstay on a boat the size of the one in question can be used to trim a sail flatter very quickly pretty much gust to gust.

Jeff
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