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Yesterday I took 2 guys, who claim to know how to sail, out for an evening of sailing. They were here from out of town and I know nothing about them or their background but they talked a good game. As soon as we got out of the harbor I let them take over the adjustments and the tiller. almost instantly the sailing came to a halt and we were just getting pushed all over the place. So much so that I thought that I might have a bunch of seaweed wrapped around my keel. I even brought my keel up and down to try to remedy the situation. Wind was variable ranging between 4 and 7 knots. I thought the problem was that they kept making the sails too tight no matter their angle to the wind. I took over after a while, loosened the sails and we were sailing fine. They told me the reason why they were unable to sail my boat is that my sails are too old and worn/stretched out and that I must know where the sweet spots are. Is this possible. I have never had anyone on board that knows anything about sailing before and I have only been sailing for 3 years No other experience except for watching youtube videos and reading a few books before I started. My boat is a 1977 fractional rig with a swing keel and the Darcon sails are original but seem to be in great shape to me. I would be willing to bet that I have had them up more these last 3 years than they have been up the entire time from 1977 to 2011 when I acquired the boat. If my sails are that bad I will plan on new sails as soon as possible instead of whenever I come up with the money. Now I just need to determine if they truly are bad. If I take them somewhere that sells sails obviously their opinion will be I need new sails. So how do I determine how bad they really are. Please keep in mind that I have no intention of racing and as long as I can get her moving I'm happy but I would love for it to be a little easier to get her moving.
 

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Photos would help! What sort of boat?
If you are happy with the sails, then no.
If you can't point as high as you should, that's an indication that the sails might be shot. If you heel excessively, that's also a clue.
 

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It is entirely possible that your 35 year-old sails are "too old". Or not.

But based on your description, I would not let the "two guys who overtrim" to be the judges. Nor am I familiar with "sweet spot" as a very descriptive term regarding sails.

Try again with someone knowledgeable whom you know and trust.

Or send photos and see what people here say. One should be taken from the windward rail while sailing upwind, looking up into the main, another for jib. Then one taken from aft (a towed dinghy, or a friend in a motorboat?) showing both main and jib as the boat sails upwind. the sails should be trimmed in for close-hauled but not "strangled" with too much sheet tension.

Also important is your jib sheet angle. Take a photo of that when sheeted in (hint: it should project an imaginary line of itself that is just above the halfway point of the luff length.
 

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Ditto.

35 Year old sails are very probably shot in the sense that the fabric is old and stitching is tired. Try the poke test described elsewhere. They are probably stretched out of shape but without photos it's hard to tell.

Regarding a sweet spot....there is none. If they knew what they were doing, they would be able to trim the sails to get whatever is possible from them on each point of sail. An indicator of this is that when you eased the sails, the boat performed better.... clearly you know more about sail trim than they.

Remember....when in doubt, let it out.

Do you need new sails? Possibly. Take some pictures from the deck beneath the sail, looking to the masthead. Most probably, the max draft has migrated toward the center of the sail. Regardless, take the pictures to several sailmakers and have them assessed (many can overlay an optimal shape over the picture). While they have a vested interest in selling sails, make them tell you why they are shot. If the answer is specific and not smoke and mirrors, make the investment. You won't be sorry.
 

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classic!

all points have been made...usually the more "game" sailors talk the more crappy they are actually sailing

if YOU noticed they were pinching that has nothing to do with the sail...thats a classic overtrimming mistake too many people do...

we have all done it at one time or another.

unless they said something like we are trying to trim the bagginess out of the sail but cant then anything they say is really baloney...

when in doubbt let it out is a golden rule especially to newbs and or those that are notorious pinchers...

get someone elses opinion and or post some pics up...

cheers
 

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Sailmakers do want to sell sails, but most that ive met also want to build relationships. Referrals and repeat business are in their best interest too. This would be a good opportunity for you to get acquainted with the local lofts. See who your boat neighbors like. Bring the sails in for an evaluation. You migbt even find one who will come to you. I like to support the local businesses whenever possible.
 

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Hey,

I can assure you that 35 year old sales are indeed, worn out. However, if you are happy with the way your boat sails, then there isn't any real reason to buy new sails. There are a bunch of benefits of new sails:
-you sail faster
-you heel less
-you point higher
-you look cooler

Barry
 

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agree...however the point that rings a bell for me is how easily the op adjusted the sails to where they needed to be and the boat sailed...old sails or not!

out of curiosity what did the guys say when the boat moved along just fine when you readjusted?

did they still argue that your sails suck dont have a sweet spot, are just so old they arent worth anything?

or did they stay quiet?

there is no denying new sails are awesome but there is also the if it aint broke dont fix it scenario where you can save money and invest elsewhere dealeo.

cheers
 
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I have sails for my (soon to be someone else's) boat that are original, 1982 original. This was/is a race boat... the sails were USED USED USED... HOWEVER, I DID purchase new beautiful (thank you Harry Pattison) laminate racing sails for the boat, a 155 number 1, a mainsail, and 135 number 2... The dramatic difference in the sails come into play upwind close hauled... off wind, the difference is less dramatic, but still noticeable.

My beat up old boat, still sails well, and points pretty decent with blown out 30+yo dacron sails... it hardly stalls in place.

Methinks your experienced crew wasn't so.

Also I'd add that a good sailor can sail with an apron and a couple of spars... if they can't they have no business going out to sea. People lose rigs, its a fact of life, being able to fashion a jury rig is an essential skill all of us should strive to learn. I'd bet your rig in it's present state light years ahead of a jury rig.

Sure your sails might be tired... but unless you are racing, I'd take my time in replacing them. Sails are expensive... spend the $$ when you can.

I was racing... the shape of my original sails was driving me nuts.
 

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As someone who just replaced their sails with a new main and genoa this year, I can say that there is a noticeable difference between the previous, 15-year old sails and these new ones. More speed, less heel - I don't seem to have to reef as early, pointing seems to be about the same. I am very happy I did so...with that said, my old sails were perfectly functional. Once could argue that you could become so used to old sails that they seem perfectly fine...until you replace them and realize the difference. However, with so many other things that likely NEED to be replaced on sailboat just to have a functional boat, new sails are something that can certainly be put off until a later time.
 

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My boat is a 1977 fractional rig with a swing keel and the Darcon sails are original but seem to be in great shape to me.
You need new sails. Period. That's not saying that these other "sailors" knew what they were doing, but that doesn't change the fact that 37 year old sails need to be replaced.
 

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Sailing in light winds is much more difficult than in medium winds. If your friends were inexperienced with light winds and normally sail in higher winds then they would set up flat sails sheeted closely which blows performance in the 4-7 kts you had.
The main problem with old sails is that they blow out a seam or rip and tear when you get into a high wind situation. Close inspection of all seams along with the puncture test will answer your question.
Anyway, save your pennies and get new sails, you won't believe the improvement in your boat's performance in all wind conditions.
John
 

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You need new sails. Period. That's not saying that these other "sailors" knew what they were doing, but that doesn't change the fact that 37 year old sails need to be replaced.
Why? Will his boat sink if he doesn't get new sails? Is he a danger to himself or others?

If he can get where he's going and is having fun getting there I'd say "need" is a bit of a strong word. "Should get" might be more appropriate.
 

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I don't think it is possible to say antything about the conditions of your sails, based on age only. It depends on hours used, and especially hours exposed to sun and saltwater.

A local sailmaker here once said something I find quite amusing, and maybe true. "Sailcloth is an amazing material, nothing can destroy it, except sunlight and saltwater"
:)
 

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Sounds a lot like someone who sails with me now and then. It's always either my fault, or the equipment's. Boat heels too much, too slow, sails have too much draft, jib is sheeted in the wrong place, impossible to sail well without a traveller, and so on. Funny thing is I can dial the boat in perfectly using the normal principles of sail trim.

The best test for blown sails is to take a picture of the main sail, looking up, in a stronger wind - 15 kts or so. Post it here and we can tell you if the draft is too far aft, indicating a blown sail.
 

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As others have said, without pictures it is hard to say anything definitive. But that said, I think that it is highly likely that new sails would greatly improve the way your boats sails especially in light air, heavy air, and when beating. They should allow you to pount higher and sail with less heel.

The reason that I say this is that sail cloth (even dacron) from the 1970's was not all that great in terms of UV degradation and stretch. Unless this is a former race boat, the original 1977 sails were probably factory supplied and were poorly made and poorly shaped. Typically factory supplied sails were made to be cheap, and with little or no concern with performance and/or durability. If you care about how well your boat sails then I completely agree with ZZ4GTA, you need new sails, period.

But if sailing ability is not important to you, as others have said, then you might get by with your white triangles until they cease to be white triangles.

It is hard to comment on your two so-called knowledgable sailors. When someone invites me to 'sort out' a boat's sailing ability, I start by doing some experimenting. I start by trimming the sails so that they 'look right' and see what that does to boat speed and pointing. But just because a sail visually looks right, it may not actually be adjusted right. I use the 'looking right' set up as the baseline and adjust the sails from there, watching what happens with speed and pointing ability, as well as leeway and weather helm as I adjust the control lines to either side of that baseline. There may be one set of adjustments, say bladed out, or powered up, or no twist or a lot of twist that seems to improve speed and/or pointing ability and/or reduce helm, leeway and heel.

I will then incrementally increase the range of adjustment toward set of adjustments that showed imporvement until there is clearly a loss of performance. From that point I then adjust backward until I hit an optimum adjustment. I tend to call that 'dialing in' and I would not use the term 'Sweetspot', but I do occasionally hear that term on race boats for that kind of optimization.

Jeff
 
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