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post #1 of 20 Old 03-29-2017 Thread Starter
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New sails?

My old Pearson Wanderer is a good old boat. She's got lots of weather helm and heels pretty bad when the wind hits about 15. The sails are just plain old, dirty and wrinkled. I will assume they are shot. Should new sails make a significant improvement?
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post #2 of 20 Old 03-30-2017
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Re: New sails?

Impossible to know what your sails look like or how they were treated. Old sails belly out if treated poorly.
Cleaning and storing them right would clear up the aesthetic but it sounds like you are looking to change them out and be ready for an adventure.
If the thread is weak and parts> the fitting are old and frayed. There are holes and ropes showing she was left in the sun and not put away proper. Sun is the most common way to ruin them. Barring that, there may be cause to ask just what you intend to do with the boat....
Keep it, sell it, race it, sail away in it... Those are factors too.
Old Pearson...? Pearsons go way back to the beginning of GRP constructs. I would defiantly have it checked (out of the water) by qualified person. The rudder and so on. Has the bottom been cleaned?
Heeling is not due to sails usually. Harden up when she heels over. Find her sweet spot. Look at the shape of the sail. Is it bellied? How many jibs and what shape?
Look up your sail data and see if a better main sail is in order. You may just find one out there that is used.
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Re: New sails?

I take it that you have never sailed a boat with a new set or you would not be asking this question. The answer is Yes, more then you can imagine. imagine your boat sailing to weather in 15 knots of wind with about 15 degrees of heel and you are holding the helm steady with one finger. All while actually moving forward through the water at 5 knots.
When we bought our current boat it came with a set of High tech cruising sails made by Quantum which were 5 seasons old. they looked like almost new. but the first time I put them up I knew they were not shaped right and to baggy. I don't know if they changed shape with age or were cut bad from the beginning. Bad weather helm but some of that was from to much mast rake. We sailed the boat for the summer season with the Quantum sails while mostly sailing some what sideways with too much heel when going to weather. Just never felt right. Ordered a new set From Ullman during the fall discount sale. Got the new sails in December and the sailmaker bent them on. First sail was for the new set was the next weekend, my wife was at the helm as I raised the main and un-furled the jib. I sheeted in the jib and while she was sheeting in the main I hear her start to laugh, I looked back to see her give the main one more big pull and she says "know were talking". I did not even have to look out of the boat to know we were sailing faster, straighter, I could feel it. we were doing 7 knots upwind in 12 knots of wind.
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post #4 of 20 Old 03-30-2017
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Re: New sails?

Originally Posted by CLOSECALL View Post
My old Pearson Wanderer is a good old boat. She's got lots of weather helm and heels pretty bad when the wind hits about 15. The sails are just plain old, dirty and wrinkled. I will assume they are shot. Should new sails make a significant improvement?
I've got a good old boat and put a new set of sails on it after sailing with an older set for many years.

The biggest difference for me was light air performance. In very light air, the new sails made the difference between sailing and motoring. If you like to sail in light air, you will be amazed.

At about 15 knots the wind begins to overpower my boat so a reef in the main - new sails or old sails - is helpful to keep a light helm, and it's faster with a smaller main at 15 knots. Even an old main can reef fairly flat(mine did).

I also downsized my RF genoa from a 150% to a 135%. That allows me some minimal reefing (say to 120%) while keeping a good shape for windward sailing.
I don't miss the 150's extra sail area.

The bottom line is, I'd be surprised if you didn't find yourself spending significantly more time under sail, with a new set of sails.

Tom Young sailing a 1961 38' Alden Challenger, CHRISTMAS out of
Rockport, Maine.
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Last edited by TomMaine; 03-30-2017 at 07:58 AM.
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post #5 of 20 Old 03-30-2017 Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies.
I've had this boat for four years and cruise the Chesapeake. I can easily believe these sails, which came with the boat, are 20 years old and have been used hard. The boat's hull and rudder are fine. It is a shallow draft with centerboard, which may contribute to the heel. I'm more concerned with the weather helm.
You are right. I have never had a boat with new sails. I have an opportunity to buy a mainsail that has never been used but has been stored indoors for the price of a used sail. It can be returned if not satisfactory. Sound like a good idea?
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post #6 of 20 Old 03-30-2017
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Re: New sails?

Originally Posted by CLOSECALL View Post
...I have an opportunity to buy a mainsail that has never been used but has been stored indoors for the price of a used sail. It can be returned if not satisfactory. Sound like a good idea?
Be careful with buying used sails. An owner of the same class boat as mine sold me a set of used sails for a small fraction of the cost of new sails. I assumed that the sails would fit my boat perfectly. What I found was that the dimensions were slightly different and the fittings were quite different. There would have been a cost to change my boat to fit the used sails. I decided to buy a new sail, custom-made for my boat. They have not yet been delivered, so I can't help with your initial question.
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post #7 of 20 Old 03-30-2017
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Re: New sails?

Yes, old blown out sails will add significant weather helm and heel.

The difference will amaze you with properly made new sails.
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post #8 of 20 Old 03-30-2017
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Re: New sails?

That sounds like a good deal. If, indeed, they have not been used, and as jwing points out, fit your boat. Another thing to keep in mind is that the ultimate performance of your boat is limited by the design of the boat itself. If it is designed to be a slug, getting new sails will make it a slightly faster slug.

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post #9 of 20 Old 03-30-2017
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Re: New sails?

There is absolutly nothing you can do to a boat that makes a bigger difference in how it performs than buying new sails. Less heel, more point, easier to trim... and if you haven't bought new sails in 20 years... just wow will it make a difference.

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post #10 of 20 Old 03-30-2017
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Re: New sails?

CloseCall - here's a fairly straightforward method to analyze if your sail is at the correct 'shape' for your boat and for your present sailing 'expertise'.

The following article I wrote many years ago was written in mind for dacron sails made by a now generally obsolete method at a time much before very 'stable' dacron sail cloth was available. Woven dacron sails made since ~2000 are constructed quite differently and dont need to be 'raised' with an additional 'stretch-out' luff as was needed for dacron mainsails made before ~2000. Hopefully the old article will help you evaluate if indeed you need new sails or just some minor 'adjustments' by your local sailmaker to restore the proper shape when 'raised' ... or you 'just' need to add some ADDITIONAL halyard tension 'after' you raise that sail.

With old baggy, thread worn and dirty sails, one can easily assume that your mainsail is of the 'older' design criteria'.

With the methods outlined in the above link ... your goal will be to so raise the sail such that after doing the proper additional tensioning after raising, the corner of the sail thats at the intersection of the mast and the top of the boom (the tack) is at near 89 (90 is good enough). You can simply use a moderate sized piece of precut and 'square' cardboard to visualize how close to that 90. Once youre sure the 'stretch-out' is proper (first evaluation is done at-the-dock on a windless day), then go sailing in moderate winds and note the angle that aft end of the #2 batten makes with centerline of the boat when closehauled/beating ... the aft end of that #2 batten should be closely parallel to the centerline ... adjust/fiddle with ALL sail tension controls (including varying tenson on the mainSHEET) until that #2 batten is parallel to the centerline ---- when beating/closehauled sailing. If this 'old' sail can't come close the that tack angle requirement (by proper 'stretching that luff' and you can't get that aft end of the #2 batten end - 'straight back' & not 'hooking up' towards windward), your boat *will* be SLOW, will have a quite noticeable 'weather helm' and will tend to aggressively heel over even in 'moderate' winds. With this 'evaluation' method you can make a fairly close assessment and determination that you need to have a relatively inexpensive 'boltrope' adjustment by a sailmaker, a slightly more expensive boltrope replacement, or you really need 'new' sails.
BTW - make sure that your backstay (forestay) has proper tension before you do the sail evaluation on the water, as a too loose forestay will cause similar problems as you describe.

Further, when sailing close hauled and with your hands FREE of the tiller/wheel and the boat should be able be tested be able to continue sailing in a straight line ... no luffing up, no heading downwind when your hands are free of the steering. The adjustment to do this is by tensioning the mainsail HALYARD up/down until you can do so; but then, followed by a slight easing of the halyard tension until the boat, when beating, starts to 'slowly' head up with your hands free from the steering ... then, make a mark on the halyard and the mast, so you dont have to often repeat this process for when sailing in normal/moderate winds and waves.
If you can't obtain this 'dead fish' neutral helm, then 1. consider to have that bolt rope 'eased' or, 2. replaced, or 3. new sails.

Usually with a still decent quality but 'old' mainsail that can't be 'shaped' on the fly due to a shrunken boltrop, 90% of the time a re-set/re-adjusted luff bolt rope will restore the proper & reasonable sail shape, reduce the aggressiveness and amplitude of the heeling, bring the boat back to 'proper' speed and with damn little adverse weather helm.

The newer dacron mainsails dont need this 'stretch-out', are already cut and designed to be simply raised and forgotten with respect to luff/halyard tension. The old design sail unless you 'shape' them by additional tension on the halyard/luff, 'after' raising, will have a very 'baggy' appearance, the amount of draft will be 'god-awful', the point at where maximum draft occurs will be aft towards the leech, and that aft end of the #2 batten will be quite radically pointed up (hooked up) to the weather side of the boat.

Yeah, this a lot of stuff to go through ... or you can just plunk down several hundred $$$ for new sails.
If this confusing (it well may be) or if you need addition question answered .... dont be bashful. My bet is that you aren't raising this OLD sail properly, and that's causing 90% of the problems that you're experiencing. Improper sail 'shaping' (after raising) is a very common problem, especially for 'self-learned' sailors.

hope this helps. ;-)

Last edited by RichH; 03-30-2017 at 01:25 PM.
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