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Old 10-13-2009, 11:31 PM   #1
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Anyone have info and comments on when a cruising mainsail should be replaced? I heard that after 8 years or 20,000 nms of constant cruising it's time for a new one. I have managed to get 10 years and 36,000 nms on this one. Have taken care of it, but feel it's time to part.... Still looks good but with all the time in the sun I feel I'm on borrowed time and paranoid of a sudden massive splitting event!
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Old 10-13-2009, 11:47 PM   #2
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I'm currently saving for a new set of sails... mine are 31 years old and I can't guess how many miles they've seen but they are still running strong... a few frays here and there but nothing some sail tape and a little stiching can't take care of... I in fact put the first tear in my main she's ever had recently when I let a batten catch a shroud... ... For me I'll get new sails when I have the money, till then it's patches, which is actually fine in my book, so long as I have some scrap sail cloth, needles, and thread on board... on the other hand if you have the money no reason not to keep crisp sails aloft... with the old sails as trustworthy spares.
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Old 10-14-2009, 05:09 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by BJSmith View Post
Anyone have info and comments on when a cruising mainsail should be replaced? I heard that after 8 years or 20,000 nms of constant cruising it's time for a new one. I have managed to get 10 years and 36,000 nms on this one. Have taken care of it, but feel it's time to part.... Still looks good but with all the time in the sun I feel I'm on borrowed time and paranoid of a sudden massive splitting event!
You can have your sails inspected by a (recommended) sail loft that caters to cruisers. They'll be honest with you about condition, need for repairs, expected life, etc. Sails can be reconditioned --patched, repaired, bolt ropes replaced, re-leathered, new batten pockets made and so on...

Depending on who made the sails originally and how good of a job they did, the sails may last a very, very long time OR simply fall apart quickly. I recently read an article about sailmaker Carol Hess (Port Townsend WA) who is sought out by cruisers for her excellent sailmaking. Her sails are more expensive that others but are known to last 3x as long as most cruising sails as well. Both materials and workmanship are really important to getting those sails to last.

Good luck on finding a good loft that can inspect your sails and assist you with this.
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Old 10-14-2009, 08:33 AM   #4
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Couldn't agree more. We lugged our headsail and main down to a sail loft (both a good 15yrs old) and simply said 'we're going overseas for 8 months can you look them over and repair whatever needs doing'.

The UV strip was replaced on the headsail and the stitching on the luft replaced along with a new cord. The batten sleeves were restitched on the main and a 3rd reef inserted along with a couple of small patches here and there.

Final cost all up? = $450 AUS

Worked a treat and got us there and back safely. New sails next trip
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Old 10-14-2009, 10:54 AM   #5
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Anyone have info and comments on when a cruising mainsail should be replaced?
Apart from the obvious tears and stitching that is coming apart through UV action.

One reason to either replace the Main sail or have it re-cut it is because it has lost its shape through stretch and therefore will not provide the design lift.
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Old 10-14-2009, 02:35 PM   #6
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Sails fail three ways:

1) The stitching fails - they can be restitched

2) The fabric looses its shape - they can be recut

3) The fabric becomes porus ("Blown Out") - you need new sails.

4) (For completeness) - they rip - they can be repaired.

As a sail gets blown out it will be less and less efficient. This is a long term process and usually takes place slowly. The most simple test is to try and blow air thru the sail. If air comes out the other side your sail is blown out. It will still work, it is just less efficient. You just need to decide when to replace it.
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