Sails - who's are best and why?

19/10/2009 09:25:06
Its the time of year when everyone is looking at what sails to buy for the next season, there always seems to be info on boats/masts etc, but never anything on sails.....

19/10/2009 11:05:40
"Best" for waht? What are your priorities and needs for buying new sails?

Light weight?
See through? Best looking? Distinctive and stand-out from the crowd?
Best shape when new? Best shape when 6 months old? Best shape when 3 years old?
Match to your mast (is your mast the same as other peoples?)

I suspect that all of the top sailmakers can match any one of these requirements. And that none of them can match all of them at the same time! P&B, Hyde, Speed, North are generally the big makers (all with sailors in the class, so they get good and direct feedback), but you might do better with sails from a smaller manufacturer who can attend to your needs more individually.

19/10/2009 11:46:27
Rowsell Sails 1st, 3rd and 4th at the Tamesis Worlds. Got to be worth a look.

19/10/2009 14:39:33
But who do each sailmakers sails suit best in terms of crew weight, carbon mast type, sea/inland waters. there are alot of factors involved in searching for the right sails to help win races.

19/10/2009 14:46:56
If you don't know, enough alread (you don't or you wouldn't be asking :-) pick a top jockey that beats you by miles and has approximately the same weight and boat and mast, and buy his 6 month old cast off. Will save you a fortune and guarentee that you'll have a good set.

20/10/2009 08:47:38

Consider also that the "traditional" dacron sails will last longer than the mylar - but are not quite as fast.

I'd suggest that you prepare a list of boat design, mast type (and bend characteristics - many sailmakers have an on-line form for this), typical crew weight, type of sailing (eg pond, sea - for a pond you may wish to trade a little speed for pointing ability).
You'll also need the luff and boom lenght for the main.
For the jib, list the distance from the deck fitting to the mast, and the fairleads (width and distance).

From that, a sailmaker has a good idea of what to cut for you.

Now, approach a number fo sailmakers (see buying guide + any others you can find). You should be able to get a quote for your sails - if the sailmaker dosesn't understand (e.g. not a Merlin specialist) then move on.

At the end of a few months, you'll have a short list of the sailmakers and prices.

Alternatively, visit the Dinghy exhibition - some sailmakers offer a show discount (others offer a winter discount).
I've saved about 10-15% on my Solo mainsail that way (and it's cut to mantch my weight and the mast characteristics)


Colin (MR 3387 Solo 3400)

20/10/2009 17:06:05
Chris Martin
Laminate sails are physically no faster than dacron but do hold their optimium shape for longer though, especially polyester laminate in my experience. This, along with lighter weight, is why we are nearly all using laminate sails.

Dacron stretches along the leech so while a 10 year old dacron sail may seem in better physcial condition than a 10 year old kevlar one with equal use both will be totally shot if used every week!

21/10/2009 10:39:11
Measurement Man
Interesting point here; does laminate really hold optimum shape longer?  In my experience the stuff shrinks like billy-o, and unless very carefully shielded from uv takes on all the shape characteristics of a tarpaulin...

I have been very seriously considering reverting to dacron for club sailing; Mike Anslow did this a year or so ago, and John bought a dacron sail for the old boat with which he is very pleased.

There is no doubt that laminate is lighter and will get the vote for high level open sailing, but for club use I would definately advocate looking closely at the dacron option.

Any 10 yr old sail will be knackered; the important thing for a club sailor is how useful it remains at 3-4 years, and I venture that Dacron will be a better shape at that age.


21/10/2009 10:58:38
Chris M
When Dickie and I sailed Armed Forces we won the Midland circuit using a 3 year old Alverbanks polyester laminate main. I know it's only puddle sailing but if it were slow this would not be possible.

At the worst extreme on 3602 i had a kevlar main that lasted about 12 weeks.

The Technora stuff that most sailmakers are using now is much better than the Kevlar, but not on a par with that Alverbank sail i had in terms of longevity.

I think that the cloth weight is the issue as the ultra light cloths do not shield the kevlar/aramid fibres from UV as effectively and the thinner laminate is prone to cracking. The Alverbank main was a not an ultra light cloth but still lighter than dacron.

21/10/2009 11:50:50
At Hampton the majority of us are using Dakron DS sails for our Classic Mk IX's, XII's etc. It seems as fast as any of the new sails and it seems to last longer. I think the white cloth looks better on a classic merlin as well. 
Have a chat to Dave at DS I would thoroughly recommend his sails.

21/10/2009 12:25:03
Andrew M
I bought the DS main that Dave had on one of the boats at the dinghy show last year which is a laminate with some kevlar and some other exotic thing in it.  I had hoped people who knew more about the relative merits of the various sailmakers would post, unless you are in the top 10 in the champs it probably doesn't matter which of the leading sailmakers you buy from but what makes a big difference is getting a sail cut for your weight (the one I had before this was quite flat, present one full in the head) and the mast you are setting it on.  If you are working with a sailmaker on a development programme like Glen was (see Y&Y) you wouldn't be asking the question on the forum would you

23/10/2009 11:59:35
Dave at DS - great service and very knowledgeable.

24/10/2009 12:20:22
Geoff Wright
The Mylar that Dick Batt was using a few years back seemed a long life material and lighter than Dacron.  Also looked better than most kevlar material since.  It went out of fashion when higher tech came in but if the cloth is still made it might be worth revisiting for club use longevity?

26/10/2009 10:04:09
shaka zulu
white sails are best because you can have nice lilac numbers on them.

27/10/2009 13:34:58
Is this one Dave singing the praises of another - or Dave singing his own? I think we should be told!!

28/10/2009 09:10:12
It's not the same Dave, there are a few of us about you know!! Dave D is far too modest to self-praise!


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