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Thread: recutting sails

  1. #1
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    Default recutting sails

    Hey guys... Spring is just around the corner so I wanted to get a jump start on my boat project. I'm working on the sails and rigging for a Meadowbird 16 from CMD's Stambaugh. I want to go with the gaff yawl rig.

    For the gaff main, he shows luff: 10, head: 10, foot: 11, and leech: 19. Could I buy a used sloop main that has a 11' foot and something like 26' luff, and then whack the tip off it until it meets the basic shape and square footage? of course I can. But will it sail worth a hoot?

    Minnie's Yacht Surplus sells this sort of sail for about $200-300. To buy a sailrite kit and sew from scratch (done this option before), the kit is about $350. It seems like cannibalizing the sloop main would save a lot of work. I imagine Bruce has done this before...

    Would it require any reshaping? Todd?

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    The main from a bigger sloop may be heavier than you want. The luff construction will surely be heavier.
    I might seek out a used sail that is of a weight you want,THEN recut .That might be a big jib from a bigger boat.
    I tend to go a bit too light than heavy, specially for small boats.
    Gaff yawl...you'll be wanting the other sails as well? A single big light genny may do your whole boat?( I dunno exactly what is a meadowbird 16).
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 02-01-2018 at 10:38 PM.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Go with the kit if you can. I've built dozens of their kits, and they have come out shockingly well (shocking because I built them). THeir instructions are great, and you can build many sails on a home sewing machine piece of cake. Their support is solid too.
    The cure for everything is saltwater - sweat, tears, or the sea.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Meadowbird is a 16 x 6 day sailer. This one has a #350 lead keel, flat bottom, and strip-glued rounded sides.

    Fiberglass complete shell 11 07 073.jpeg

    Are jibs usually just cut flat? If I worked from a big jib, would it have the camber it needs? Or would I take it apart at the foot, and build in some broadseaming? Used mainsails from Minnie's seem to run in 6 oz. cloth. If I used a jib to work from, wouldn't the straight leading edge of the jib become the leech? But the leech should have some roach curve on the gaff. That curve would already be built into a main.

    I have an old jib that would suit. The jib and mizzen are spec'd at 28' sq.ft. each, and the main at 110' sq.ft. I'm not so daunted by making a little jib. I made my lug sail on the last boat from a Sailrite kit, and it turned out nice. Just trying to consider options.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    In no particular order....
    - Chances are that most used sails have already lost at least half of their tear strength, UV lifespan and a good amount of the cloth's original bias stability (which is what helps them keep their designed shape) so they may not be anywhere near the "bargain" they seem to be.

    - The stitching on used sails is always suspect. Thread only seems to have about half the lifespan from UV that the cloth has.

    - Genoas make lousy fabric donors for other types of sails, including smaller jibs. Genoa fabric is woven differently in order to address different, more spread-out stresses. This leads to nasty amounts of unwanted stretch when it is used on something like a mainsail or working jib, usually leading to stretched out and flapping leeches.

    - Jibs are not cut flat. They are shaped on all sides as well as across their middle, just like any other sail. In addition, the seam shaping (broadseaming) which the donor sail will contain will never be in the proper spots, or be the proper amount for the new sail. The only intelligent way to make a new sail would be to cut out sections of raw fabric and start over. You will find a lot less clean, clear, usable yardage on even a pretty large sail than you originally anticipated.

    - $200-$300 for a used sail with questionable quality and limited clean yardage vs. $350 or even quite a bit more for a kit made from new fabric of the proper weight and weave type, plotted into a properly designed shape is an absolute no-brainer. You would be nuts to waste your time and money trying to figure out how to re-cut the old sail.

    - I have yet to see an amateur re-cut job, anywhere or from anybody (or even from sail lofts, though most won't bother) that I would consider a very good sail.

    - You can't build a good sail if you don't know how, and the only people who think it's easy, or think that they can do it without bothering to learn how, are those who don't know what they're talking about. No offense, but the questions you are asking about cutting down jibs clearly show that you are totally unprepared to design a sail of any sort unless you get some books and spend a whole lot of time studying sail design and construction. Someone who can follow directions and work carefully can be an assembler and build a kit sail that should work fine - because somebody else already did the design work for them. That's the value of the Sailrite kit. You pay for that help, but it is worth it if you want a good sail that really works well. Real sail design and sailmaking is complex enough that it really isn't worth learning all that stuff just to make a few sails for your own use, but the kit thing allows you to temporarily rent that technology.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: recutting sails

    I agree with Todd more or less. You can make a sail out of anything, and even a poorly cut sail made of tyvek will get the job done, but if you want a good sail buy a kit or a new sail.
    The cure for everything is saltwater - sweat, tears, or the sea.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    I agree with Todd. Recutting is possible but you must know what you are doing. Go for the sailrite kit. I am right now making a jib from a kit and it works very well. I also give workshops for amateur sailmakers, and have kits made for them, and their sails come out quite good qua shape. The stitching is sometimes uneven, but it has no influence on the shape and hardly on the lifespan of the sail. Ofcourse some people will criticize your sails but only when you are moored in a small craft thing and you have just to find a few good answers in advance. Good luck. Frank
    www.oarandsail.nl

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    For the price difference, a kit would be my choice. I have though, and know a few others who have re-cut sails and used them succesfully to cover 1000,s of miles of cruising. No, they would not have been as efficient as a new cut sail upwind, but for any wind aft of the beam, new or re-cut would ,in my opinion, not have much difference, if of equal size. It does help to know what you are doing, but depending on your own level of acceptable performance, not something i would shy away from.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    For many small boats I went to my local sailmaker and had him recut a sail that he had in his dumpster. He would choose it, we would discuss my dimensions and in a day or two I had a workable sail. These would cost less than $100 and were servicable for a season at least.
    This was a good chance for me to try different rigs on the same boat. Lug, sprit, gunter etc. One of the best was a small jib recut as a jib-headed mainsail on an Old Town canoe fitted with a lee board, another was a cat schooner rigged dory. I did this for years, lucky enough to be in a place that had active small boat racing there were three sailmakers in town and used sails everywhere. Literally a dumpster full of them still in sail bags, every week. I still have dumpstersails as awnings, covers on machinery, and even a good sized boatshed (large enough to build a 30' sharpie, those garage-sails were rigged to roll up on 2x4 battens during the day)
    My vote is if you have access to the sails, go for it, I wouldn't pay much for them though.

    Edit to add; I could be persuaded to go and visit the dumpster again. The used sails are just a pain in the butt for him...

  11. #11
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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Three Cheers for Dumpster Sails!!!
    I pick up sails from the swap meet for small money.
    Never paid hundreds for a used sail.
    The jib I use on Woodwind is a re cut $25 T bird main.
    My (present)big jib and topsl came from a big genny.
    It's not because I need to save money, but because it gives the same kind of self satisfaction as building the boat. There is even a "green" side to it, if yer into that kind of thing.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Hurrah...hurrah...hurrah...

    i recall a fist fight breaking out after one boat dumped a mainsail from a Hallberg-Rassey 42 into the skip in Gibraltar. I didnt join in as it was fully battened and too big for me.....

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    I am all for recycling used sails as something, but almost never as actual sails. For storage I rip out panels along each side of each seam and roll up those bolts for future service as patches or small creative items of clothing, bags, covers, whatever.

    Real canvass, not not so available for free from old sails, was wonderful for making a three piece sort of Edwardian cut suit. That was from an ancient Ratsey sail that had contrasting stitching so I cut my parts to keep those running in interesting directions. Very hip '60s mod look.

    Dacron is not nearly so much fun and kevlar and such I dislike intensly.

    But for sails, unless you are both incredibly good at it and unconcerned about lasting performance, a kit or even better, as happened for me, a real sailmaker willing to do the design and cut and then happy to supervise.

    Too many sailors just don't respect their boats enough to sail well. Don't join them in wrong minded ignorance. When you're really good, then you can astound people with good performance from what look like rags.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Its a small gaff rig and not a marconi class racing boat so I personally wouldn't worry about "perfect" shape. You can always re-cut your homemade sails if they are really bad. No doubt though that new professional sails will likely point higher. As far a Sailrite kits, last I checked for a 20' sloop mainsail kit and it was within a few dollars of the Duckworks loft for a brand new custom sail. Same with adding a sun cover and foam on roller furling. My local sail loft was about the same price as their kit. I've purchased like new crispy sails from Bacon for 30-50% of new with great results too.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Its a small gaff rig and not a marconi class racing boat so I personally wouldn't worry about "perfect" shape.
    That would be good advice, considering that to anyone who actually knows sailmaking a small gaff rig mainsail is a lot harder to cut well than a Marconi class racing sail.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    If recutting means cutting of the top of a bermuda sail and putting a short gaff end on it, it will work and perhaps be cost effective.
    In most other cases it is easier to build a new sail from a kit, because you can sew on reinforcements, battenpockets, put on grommets on the individual panels and then sew them together, so you dont have to wrestle a new crispy 'blank' through your machine like in the old days, when you had to build a sail on the floor completely before putting on the rest. And I dont put old sails in the trash can, for there are artists, or others who can use them. And when sails have to be cheap there are other ways, like wide panels, omitting sailbattens, cheaper cloth, and sometimes I let people do the easy stuff to cut costs. Like with a certain black sail. Frank

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    I've built 9 sails from Sailrite kits (spread among 4 boats) they go together quickly and at what I think is a pretty reasonable price. They seem to propel my boats well enough, but just how well is hard to say. The only possibility for direct comparison is another Eun Mara up in Port Townsend and Suzanne hasn't been in the water for going on three years. I'm fairly certain her sails where made by well known local sail maker Carol Hasse, it would be interesting to see how the two boats compare.

    All that is a round-about way of getting to my sense that while yes, you can make something that "works" out of a randomly selected big sail, it is going to be really difficult to quantify how well it works without some kind of benchmark to judge against. It would be a shame to put a bunch of effort into getting a boat on the water only to be disappointed by her performance and not know if it is the you, the boat or the sails that are the problem.
    Steve

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    If recutting means cutting of the top of a bermuda sail and putting a short gaff end on it, it will work and perhaps be cost effective.
    Yeah, it will look like a gaff sail, but it is actually a pretty stupid idea. Draft and its placement, as well as entry angle will be determined by the luff curve and in most cases also the broadseaming along the luff and/or foot. When you just chop the top off of a Bermuda sail, the remaining part you leave is not going to yield a new luff curve that is anywhere near the shape it should be for that gaff sail. I would think you would, or should, be aware of that FF. The result is that the lower and mid-sail draft and entry angles are going to be wrong - probably resulting in excessive draft, which is too far aft, hard to flatten or reduce when needed and resulting in crappy pointing angles. Then you have the question of how to cut the head - because the amount of head round (or not) as well as the localized shape near the throat are going to be what's contributing and positioning the shape and draft to the top third or more of the sail. Do any of you actually know how much round to add up there and how to shape it? How about allowing for spar bend? What is the curve supposed to be like in the throat area? I didn't think so.

    Remember that I said that cutting a small gaffer was tougher than cutting a Marconi racing sail? Well, there it is in a nutshell and you would have to have awfully low quality and performance standards to accept such an abortion as a good sail for your boat. As Ian said:
    Too many sailors just don't respect their boats enough to sail well. Don't join them in wrong minded ignorance.
    It is sad how many folks on this forum have apparently decided that they will never be good sailors anyway, so they're willing to sail around ignorantly with crap for sails and consider it good enough.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Stupid, Nuts,Sad and Ignorant.And Crap.
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 02-02-2018 at 10:15 PM.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Bruce, any joy or happiness you receive from looking at that picture, or from sailing under that sail, is thoroughly misplaced and sadly mistaken. You should be deeply ashamed, while other people who haven't sailed a fraction of your miles sit snug in their parlor filled with a sense of righteous condemnation.

    I also understand Todd to be saying that there's a lot of good sail science readily available to anyone who wants to make use of it, and it could make a tangible difference in the sailing experience. That difference is probably worth some dollar value.

    I looked at the off-the-shelf gaff main kits from Sailrite. None of them big enough: I need 120 sq ft., and 19 ft. on the leech. When I gave them the dimensions, they wanted $700 to design a custom kit. The last kit I bought from Sailrite was a 70 sq ft lug sail. I think it cost $150. It would seem that double the area would be double the price. But instead, more than quadruple the price. There's gotta be a better way.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Stupid, Nuts,Sad and Ignorant.And Crap.
    Yep, that's pretty accurate from the looks of them.

    If you want good sails for your boat you basically have two choices. Either buy sails, or kits for sails, designed and built by somebody who is properly trained for the task, or spend a considerable amount of time studying and learning how to design and construct them properly yourself, plus learn enough about the available materials to make good choices for those sails. There really isn't any half-way measure that will consistently produce decent sails. It's pretty basic really, and I'm surprised so many of you have trouble understanding it. It's not much different from any other parts of the boats we deal with here. Poor materials, sloppy work, bad design and lack of adequate education on the subject matter tend to produce lousy boats. What a surprise.

    I looked at the off-the-shelf gaff main kits from Sailrite. None of them big enough: I need 120 sq ft., and 19 ft. on the leech. When I gave them the dimensions, they wanted $700 to design a custom kit. The last kit I bought from Sailrite was a 70 sq ft lug sail. I think it cost $150. It would seem that double the area would be double the price. But instead, more than quadruple the price. There's gotta be a better way.
    Sailrite is not a discount house. They put out a premium product at a fair markup, and they never claimed that they would plot you a sail for peanuts. Go price the 120 sq. ft. gaff sail from high quality fabric from a good sail loft and you will find that the Sailrite kit would still save you a fair bit of change - just as they claim it will. I think you are mistaken on your 70 sq. ft. lug's $150 kit price. There is usually a fee of around $100 built into any Sailrite kit to pay for the computer design service and the use of their 70' long vacuum plotting bed and machine. Even if they were using the cheapest Dacron made, you couldn't get that sail's materials out of the remaining $50. Decent fabric to build a 70 sq. ft. lugsail costs me about $125 wholesale, just to get the roll of cloth I'll need for it, the seam tape, grommets, rope, etc.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    It does seem odd that people will spend dozens of hours choosing the right hull and agonising over its performance and handling qualities, then spend hundreds of hours building it, and then chuck on a hacked around piece of cloth that will often degrade the speed, appearance AND handling qualities of the boat. Sure, if it means you get afloat and have a great time then go for it, but it just seems odd to place so much less importance on the sails than on the hull they drive.

    Having said that, I use lots of second-hand sails, but only after spending a lot of time finding the right ones; ones that will fit the forestay sag or mast bend and be so close dimensionally that only a few inches of trimming on one corner may be needed. I love using second-hand race sails because there are lots of people who change them when they are damn near as good as new, or normally just require more attention to tweaking as you move through the wind range. I use second-hand Etchells sails on one of my boats, which also uses an Etchells mast, and they provide me with a way to get a sail with maybe 30 hours careful use and (perhaps more important) lots of careful handling when being set, dropped and rolled for storage.

    But it's also common around here to see boats with masthead rigs using Etchells mains, and they always look terrible because as Todd says, issues like broadseaming mean that even if the luff curve is remodelled, the draft will be in the wrong place and of the wrong amount. It's similar owning a vintage car that's fitted with the wrong gearbox.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    People will use whatever they wish depending on budget and performance requirements. I suppose the people who build flat cut junk sails and voyage over 70,000 miles on them, must be complete idiots too....... not every one wants to squeeze the last 1/10th of a knot out of a boat.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    As I mentioned, paying a sailmaker to recut a sail is a good economy.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    It's far more than a tenth of a knot difference between well designed sails and sails made by untrained amateurs, but sadly many of you will never get a chance to find that out because you just "know so much" about sails. Nothing wrong with flat cut junk sails, especially since they aren't flat in use, which you don't seem to understand, but no surprise there.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Bradshaw View Post
    Nothing wrong with flat cut junk sails, especially since they aren't flat in use, which you don't seem to understand, but no surprise there.
    You may be an expert sailmaker. But you really should not make judgement calls on people, as if everything you say about them is a fact. Absolutely no need, and completely inaccurate.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Quote Originally Posted by skaraborgcraft View Post
    You may be an expert sailmaker. But you really should not make judgement calls on people, as if everything you say about them is a fact. Absolutely no need, and completely inaccurate.
    skaraborgcraft,

    +1

    Don't sweat it. The derogatory, insulting and demeaning posts about others doesn't mean jack.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    In cases like this thread, I judge a person's knowledge on the subject (or lack of it) by the statements they make or sometimes by the evidence I see in the photos they post. There isn't much else to go on. The statements you made were inaccurate and obviously uninformed. After 38 years of designing and building hundreds of mostly one-off sails to the highest standards possible I'm pretty intolerant of sloppy work or folks posting uninformed, bad sailmaking information. I will most likely continue to be that way. You are certainly free to put me on ignore if you aren't interested in what I have to say on the subject - or you can stop making dumb statements and getting called on them. Your choice.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Todd, I respect the wisdom and body of work you bring to the forum. You have informed my sail-making and my sailing. Thank you.

    I think back to my days in college studying outdoor recreation management. I went to work for Utah State Parks after graduating. In one of my classes they talked about the need for park managers to provide opportunities for multiple uses, for multiple patrons. Not every stream can or should be a catch-n-release, artificial flies only stream. Not every campsite can be handicap accessible, or have a pull-through for a 40-foot RV. There are also fishermen who love a worm and a marshmallow on a hook. They need a place too.

    Often times it seems that in these forum discussions about varnish, or sails, or whatever, people come out with exclusive statements about "the only respectable way to do it." At least for them. The funny thing is that even if you found two people who had both built Sooty Terns, or SCAMPs, or whatever, those two boats would still be very different boats. There has to be room for everybody. And some people fish with worms, and have a great time doing it. People who re-cut sails are not morally inferior or superior to people who buy a new sail each season. People who build carvel planked boats are not morally superior or inferior to people who tape-n-glue plywood panels. There's room for everyone on the water.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    One summer in Bermuda,about 20 years ago, I sailed a quickie ply boat back n forth from where I was anchored to where I was working. It was a mile reach in each direction. I rigged the boat with an ACTUAL bed sheet. We called it "Perfect Sleeper"
    Serta Perfect Sleeper.
    Ironically, I was working on a sailmakers boat.
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 02-03-2018 at 07:00 PM.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    One summer in Bermuda,about 20 years ago, I sailed a quickie ply boat back n forth from where I was anchored to where I was working. It was a mile reach in each direction. I rigged the boat with an ACTUAL bed sheet. We called it "Perfect Sleeper"
    Serta Perfect Sleeper.
    Ironically, I was working on a sailmakers boat.
    No pic showed but your post reminds me of my first boat. I was 9 yrs old and found an abandoned and severely beat up 8' ply pram in the marshes. I made a sail from a bed sheet gifted by my mother and sailed that boat for a yr or so and had loads of fun with it...we lived on the water so I used it often. It had marginal windward performance at best and that didn't matter. The thought of the sail being inferior (obviously it was a pos sail by any standards) never crossed my mind and was no less of a thrill because it was not manufactured by a loft...which is where some people are clueless when being critical. Definitely not a sad or stupid situation in any fashion. I'm 69 yrs old now.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    A young lad in the 1950's I made a kite sail from abedsheet to hold when I was ice skating . Kind of scary how fast that set-up could go, and how long it took to stop!

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Quote Originally Posted by skaraborgcraft View Post
    People will use whatever they wish depending on budget and performance requirements. I suppose the people who build flat cut junk sails and voyage over 70,000 miles on them, must be complete idiots too....... not every one wants to squeeze the last 1/10th of a knot out of a boat.
    Just to make it clear, not a single thing I wrote implied anything of the sort. I quite specifically wrote "if it means you get afloat and have a great time then go for it".

    The point was just that around here, there seems to be a bit of a contradiction or inconsistency between the high value many people put on the qualities of hulls, and the much lower value many people put on the qualities of sails. Todd seems to be saying the same thing; many people in the wooden boat movement will jeer at a "Clorox bottle" boat, an ugly boat or a badly maintained wooden hull, yet don't seem to apply the same criteria to sails.

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Chris, good point about the difference in standards, a good engine installation will get more money and time thrown at it yet the wind engine, which may save the vessel, will often get way less. The OP was debating kit versus second hand with a difference of maybe $100, kit would easily be the choice. If the second hand sail was free, and you had the time, then have a go, the design/skill challenge would be interesting, however, don't forget you are in an experimental zone and safety of the vessel doesn't go away.

    We have all been let down by professional people, educate yourself before using one.
    the invisible man........

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    Default Re: recutting sails

    Rat, There is room for everyone on the water (more or less, though there are some who never should get near water) but when it comes to sails, there are well designed and constructed sails, and then there are "others". There is definitely a difference (often a very big difference) in how well the boat works when equipped with good sails. If you're willing to accept the performance of those other sails, and that level of performance doesn't impede your fun factor, then go for it. But don't delude yourself into thinking that there isn't a difference. And in the case of this thread with an untrained person thinking about trying to change an existing Marconi mainsail into a gaffer with little or no sail design experience to work with, it would be a huge difference.

    Ever design a boat? Even a little one takes a substantial amount of figuring if you want to calculate all the various ratios and factors to predict its performance, sail area/displacement, PC, heeling or righting moment, helm balance, etc. I always wonder how a designer feels when he goes through that long process, fine tuning the hull and rig details to really hit that performance and cosmetic sweet spot, and then a builder decides to cheap-out and rig it with a dirty old, blown-out dumpster mainsail from a 1978 Force 5.

    I've built a few sails from bed sheets. Unfortunately, they are about the only source for small quantities of high thread count Egyptian cotton. In some cases, clients have needed real cotton replicas for antique wooden boats competing in boat shows. Don't laugh, but Martha Stewart tends to have some of the best quality if you don't mind paying $90 for a set of sheets to chop up for donor fabric.

    I've also built a few flat-cut junk sails. Check out the polishing job on this aluminum canoe. Notice no rudder. They hadn't built it yet and were steering with the sails and just letting the boat pivot on the leeboards. That was actually one of my favorite builds, but a bit tedious. The mainsail alone had about 75 grommets in it for all the batten and spar lacing.

    Chinese Lugsails copy.jpg

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