Boat Maintaince


by William Posner

Given cost of purchasing new sails for your boat these days, some are turning to the used sail market


_/) used sails & gear...

| Pacific Sail Trader.com



Given the cost of purchasing new sails for your boat these days, some are turning to the used sail market. Here at Pacific Sail Trader we wish to give you the lowdown on how best to do it.

Purchasing a sail without seeing it in person is the greatest concern of most buyers. Not being able to actually touch it seems to be the missing sense.


Will it fit correctly? Of course a seller that will provide not only accurate measurements with the sail pulled taught, but showing photos of the good and the bad can help as well. If there are patches or repairs, are they shown? Seeing the corners is key. Often the original owner, especially if a racer will have written the luff , leech and foot measurements as well as the date those measurement were taken. Getting the build date is a plus! Let's say you see that the corner rings are reinforced with leather.Well that's a clue as to the age as it has been many years since that was a standard feature seen on sails.


What else to ask? How about what boat it was flown on, or how it was stored. Was it properly flaked and bagged? Stored onboard? ...or in a dry, cool environment.

Is there a shipping cost? Is it reasonable? Will the seller take the sail back if you decide it's not for you? Who pays the return shipping and how much will you get refunded once the sail arrives back to the seller?


Shipping and Insurance costs. Most sellers will ask the buyer to pay the return shipping costs and not process the refund until the sail arrives. What about insuring the item against damage or loss during shipping? Though very few get lost or damage...that's what insurance is for. It's cheap, but not for everyone.


Know what you want! Do you know the exact size you need? Are you willing to settle for one that is a little shorter than maximum hoist? What's all this about weight? Dacron sails, nylon spinnakers and staysails are designated with weight in ounces. This is defined in ounces per sail maker's square yard of material. This is different from a square yard you learned about in school.


How do you attach your headsail? Do you hank it on, have a racing headfoil or maybe roller furling? What size hanks do I need. #0 allows a proper fit around a max forestay diameter of 1/4", #1 for 5/16", #2 for 7/16" and #3 for up to 9/16".What's a racing foil? Well... these extrusions in aluminum or plastic are fitted over your headstay and provide one or two grooves to accept and hold the luff of your headsail to the forestay.

The size of the groove must fit the size of the little cord sewn into the front of your jib or genoa. This cord is called the "luff tape".


Luff tapes. The standard luff tape size is #6 which corresponds to 5mm or 3/16". The standard furler accepts a #6 luff tape into the groove. Finally, someone had the idea of standardization.


More on that luff length maximum measurement...(Roller furling)


Accessing the sail plan database from Allen... here at L-36 is a great place to start, but getting the tape measure out and putting it onto your halyard and pulling it up, gives you peace of mind. The upper swivel and the lower drum take away from your maximum hoist and need to be accounted for. How much do I subtract if I can't measure it myself? A good rough guide is 18-24" for mid to large size keelboats, but again, measure it!


Isn't my forestay longer than my mast height?


You bet! Hey that education you received is paying for itself. You remember it's called the hypotenuse and if you know your mast height off the deck (not the top of the cabin) and you know the distance from the front of your mast to where your forestay attaches, then you are good to go.

Just multiply each of those numbers by themselves (called squaring) and then add them together. Take that sum and find a calculator that does square root and find the sq. root of that sum. Voila'! You have the forestay length, but you're not done yet.


Maximum luff length should be less than the forestay length to allow both for some stretch under load and to let the halyard have a fair lead to the top of the sail.  I think 5% is typical.


Forestay sag consideration


What's that and do I want it or do I want to get rid of it?


...more on that next time AND let's also take a look at how to buy a spinnaker and what I need to know before I do.


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