What to look for, look out for in a used sail - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 5 Old 06-20-2012 Thread Starter
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What to look for, look out for in a used sail

I saw a Craigslist ad today for a used main for my exact model of my boat. My main is all blown out and is so bad that I can't make ANY progress to windward under main alone.

How do I evaluate this sail without actually putting it on my boat and going for a sail with it (which I don't imagine will be allowed...)? What are the chances that this sail, which is probably the same vintage, is any better than the one I have already, unless it was very lightly used all these years?

Is it worth even going to look at?
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post #2 of 5 Old 06-20-2012
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Re: What to look for, look out for in a used sail

My experience with used sails is that it's a real crapshoot. Even if the sail is crisp it isn't necessarily a good sail. Having said that, I'll still admit to being a sucker for used sails that seem like they'll fit my needs if they're priced right. If I end up not liking them, I turn around and resell them on ebay. They better be cheap, though, or I'm not interested.

Mark Smith
1977 C&C 30 Mk 1 hailing from Port Clinton, Ohio
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post #3 of 5 Old 06-20-2012
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Re: What to look for, look out for in a used sail

Sadly, most used sails are for sale for good reason .... someone replaced it with new because the performance or shape of the old sail is BAD.

First thing when evaluating a used mainsail is the overall condition: Stitching integrity, amount of UV 'burn', integrity of the slugs attachment, .... and more importantly:

A. what are the precise dimensions of the luff & leach (to the nearest 1/8") and how do they stack up to the sail's OEM dimensions --- is the sail stretched out of shape or 'shrunken' out of shape?
Go to a sailmaker's dimension datasource, such as Sailrite Sailplan Database, and look up the sail's as designed dimensions, then compare with the used sail ACTUAL measured dimensions.

• For a (dacron) boltroped sail (which needs to be 'stretched out' by halyard &/or outhaul to arrive at its 'designed' shape), add 1" to these MEASURED dimensions for every 10-11ft. of luff or foot length .... this is not checking for 'fit' but to see if the sail is distorted in its shape. measured dimension + (1" for every 11 ft. of luff length) = 'as designed' luff length !!!!!!!!!

• Then carefully look at the condition of the leech, especially between the battens to see if the leech hasnt been stretched out of shape by too aggressive mainsheet tension.
Push each 2 battens apart, then look to see if the area ALONG the leech between the two is relatively 'taught', not 'floppy'.

B. If the boltroped luff (and foot) dimension are LESS than databook (including that 1" for each 10-11 feet of luff/foot length, then the boltrope has probably shrunken with age, and either needs adjustment or replacement. Shrunken boltropes are THE cause of 'baggy' / draft-aft, poorly performing, poor shape mainsails !!!!!

C. For sails that are NOT boltroped but are TAPE luff, etc., once the sail has 'stretched' much beyond its OEM design length = put in trash container; .... 'boltroped' sails can be 'adjusted' back into shape.

Rx: Before you go to all the trouble of a new/used sail, I suggest you fully evaluate your 'old' mainsail. Most times with woven dacron 'boltroped' sail mal-shape is due to a 'shrunken' boltrope - which causes: FULL draft, draft aft, hooked up leech ... slow boat, boat that heels aggressively, lots of 'weather helm', cranky boat. Go to:How to properly RAISE a woven dacron mainsail - SailboatOwners.com and follow the directions there for evaluating YOUR current mainsail, HOW TO PROPERLY RAISE (stretchout) a boltroped DACRON sail .... and what to do about it if its radically changed luff, etc. dimensions simply because the boltrope has shrunken and needs to be 'adjusted' or replaced.

Most cruisers and beginning sailors simply do not know how to raise a boltroped dacron sail .... you have to 'stretch it out' along the luff (and foot if its also 'boltroped') AFTER you raise it.

Boltroped luffs are the most common preferred configuration on dacron mainsails ... and the boltropes SHRINK over time and usually need to be 'adjusted' or 'eased'. A boltrope adjustment by a sailmaker (or DIY) can 'usually' restore the proper shape in an old 'baggy' boltroped dacron mainsail.

hope this helps. ;-)
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post #4 of 5 Old 06-23-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: What to look for, look out for in a used sail

Thanks, Rich. I'll be making use of your tips.
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post #5 of 5 Old 06-23-2012
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Re: What to look for, look out for in a used sail

Originally Posted by RichH View Post
Sadly, most used sails are for sale for good reason .... someone replaced it with new because the performance or shape of the old sail is BAD.
There are lots of very good used sails out there. If you are looking for a perfect, top quality racing sail for cheap, you're out of luck but otherwise you can find LOTS of good stuff - rarely more than 1/2 of new price, even if the sail IS new or nearly so.

High end racers dump at least some of their wardrobe annually because they are no longer perfect - still years of second tier performance left in them though. I remember reading about Americas Cup racers who dumped their jibs after 50 tacks. That's about $1000 per tack. If you happen to have a mast over 100' tall, you could get the old ones pretty cheap.

Often people buying new boats will replace the production sails with higher quality stuff and sell the new or near new sails the boat came with from the factory.

Sailmakers get left with no-shows for custom built sails,

People buy boats with big wardrobes and sell off the lesser used sails.

People buy a boat with symmetrical chutes and change to an asymmetric.

Etc. Etc.

I have had a couple of real winners in used sails - a 1/2 Oz. spinnaker in nice used shape - 3 small patches and good fabric condition - $400 instead of $4000 for a new one. Also, a high clewed 100% jib for $150. This one was almost unused and left over from a Pacific round trip. New would have been $3000.

You are unlikely to find a good main used but jibs and especially spinnakers in good shape are plentiful. Just type "used sails" into the web and see for yourself.

If you want oddball IOR sails like Tallboys and Bloopers - unlimited choices in almost unused condition.

I, myself, personally intend to continue being outspoken and opinionated, intolerant of all fanatics, fools and ignoramuses, deeply suspicious of all those who have "found the answer" and on my bad days, downright rude.
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