New Sails!?

Moderator: GreenLake

New Sails!?

Postby Jbarth13 » Tue May 21, 2013 6:35 pm

Hi All,

My parents are looking to purchase a new set of sails for DS 3303. The boat sees some club racing and a fair bit of daysailing. It has a non-tapered mast, if that matters. I have done some poking around this forum for a bit, and the consensus seems to be that North and Jotz are really excellent, while Intensity is cheap. Is there really that much of a difference between intensity and the other two? Do people find the windows in the intensity product to be large enough when racing? Any comments on durability? We are looking for sails that will provide good performance, be durable, but are not looking to pay for top of the line. Comments about other sailmakers are welcome.

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Re: New Sails!?

Postby GreenLake » Wed May 22, 2013 1:40 am

How long do you figure your sails will last for the purpose? I do moderate amounts of daysailing and weekly beer can races in the summer and some frotbiting. A few years ago, I bought a main and jib from Jotz. By the end of this summer I will have taken the DS out 100 times with these sails. That means, I will have paid more in car expenses to tow the boat than on sails during that time, and for what I use them for, they will continue to be serviceable for several seasons to come.

PS: I'm going to move this thread to the "sails" part of the forum soon, so if it suddenly appears to be "gone", look there.
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Re: New Sails!?

Postby talbot » Sat May 25, 2013 12:50 am

I have used my Intensity sails about 100 times. They were an amazing improvement over the original Pryde sails on my 1973 DS. They still work OK, but are not finely finished. As if the Intensity hot-cutter was not hot enough-- they tend to shed threads from the edges.

My local Hyde loft, Sailmaker's Art, naturally treats them with contempt, and maintains a good custom sail will "last forever." Right now the sails still work fine, loose threads and all. Jim Myers at Intensity is pretty responsive in terms of customer service.

My question is -- what makes a sail wear out? Assuming sails are cut with similar patterns, is the correct shape achieved mainly by the pattern or by the sewing? If the former, then stretched fabric is stretched fabric. A nicely finished sail and one with loose threads, if made from the same cloth, will lose shape about the same time. For the price of new North Sails, you could buy a couple of sets of Intensity sails. They don't cost much more than my annual moorage, and a serious racer might buy a set every couple of years. If it's the stitching that matters, then Sailmaker's Art may be right. I'm not advocating for Intensity. It was all I could afford. But I would be interested in opinions from people who understand more about sail construction and dynamics.

I was researching full-batten sails the other day, and it seems as if there is a range of prices in between North and Intensity. The DS may be in limited production now, but there are enough of them around that a lot of lofts can make the sails. The loft might not have them on the shelf the way Intensity does, but they can make them up on order. Intensity sails are so cheap because they are ordered in bulk and made offshore.
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Re: New Sails!?

Postby GreenLake » Sat May 25, 2013 5:13 pm

I'm not a sailmaker or expert on this, but the following seems to happen:

The weave has warp and weft threads cross at 90°. If you pull at the sail fabric along either of these directions the threads can (and will) resist that pull easily. The problem comes with load at an angle, or on the bias. The fabric will easily distort, more easily after any added fillers or stiffeners have worn off. The result is a blown sail that doesn't hold shape. Letting sails flog is damaging, presumably because of the way it loosens up the fabric. It might be the case that very strong winds also stretch the threads over time, in addition to other effects.

So your question boils down to "what is the value added" by getting a sail from a particular sail maker.

First off, the sail fabrics used, even though they are all using fibers with similar, if not identical chemistry are not identical. Some incorporate reinforced threads that form a visible grid pattern on the sail. Then there are differences in the way the sail cloth is finished. Finally, not all the sails may be made from the same weight of cloth.

Once you got beyond the fabric, there are details in finishing, such as the quality and construction of the seams, and all the other elements of the sail (batten pockets, head board, tack, reef points, clew and windows). I'm not enough of an expert to be able to tell you in detail what to look for, all I know is that there are differences in the way these things are done, and that this will have some effect on longevity, use etc.

Finally, you get to the finer details of the cut of the sail. Sails are not flat, but cut to assume a particular curved shape. This is done by the way the panels are cut. Given that the DS has several mast configuration of different bendiness. When a mast bends, the distance between leech and luff increases for the middle of the sail, flattening it. You get the best results if the sailmaker knows the different masts and can cut a sail for the specific characteristics of the one you have.

If sails are ordered in bulk, it would seem difficult to get this kind of "fit".
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