By PhilipH2 - 16 Nov 2020
This is a discussion currently active on OCC Members Facebook group - I thought it would be useful to copy here:
We're on the lookout for new sails and would like to get opinions from fellow long distance sailors. Our current sails are cross cut dacron and have stretched, resulting in a pot belly and poor upwind performance.
Should we replace our genoa and main with a new set of cross cut sails, or go for tri-radials in a stronger material?
What type of sails do you prefer for long distance cruising?
Our boat is a Hallberg Rassy 43 like the one pictured.
I went between cross cut dacron and radial hydrant. Zoom Sails made main and genoa on Nautosphere... very good woven dacron/dynema mix. A year and 10, 000nm or more from Trinidad to Australia they are still like new!
Guy Chester so these are cross cut Nautosphere? They look great.
Steve Neal very very happy with them..
Cannot recommend the cloth more highly, only a year old but they have been upwind and down in up to 35kts no issues of distortion, the furling main rubs against the mast slot...no wear or chafe evident..older dacron would "polish"..
These folks were good for us. Get a a recommendation for a local sail maker, so that THEY measure the boat and make sure they fit. Crummy sail-makers say they don't fit due to wrong measurements. Good sail-makers make sure they set well, for no extra charge.
Steve , where are you at the moment ?
Rene Kesting St Augustine USA. How are you liking the ABCs?
Steve Neal ABC’s are great ! And glad to have made it here from Panama when we did !
There’s a northsails (fanatsic guy) rep you may want to send a msg ? … See more
Mark Rc Thurlow
I think you may need to help us to help you. Where are you? what is the five year plan? Which countries?
are you a racer, slow and steady, circumnavigating? What does long distance mean?
slow steady circumnavigating, in the USA currently.... we want reasonable performance, but are looking primarily for longevity without breaking the bank.
Phil and Jamie at zoom did a set of southern ocean sails that I took the Antartica twice , South Georgia and put a total of 40k miles on in 5 years . Unbelievable qualit and service . I had hydranet for the head sail and stay sail. Heavy Dacron with aply on the Leech for the Main. For me I’d go hydranet next time . He also did a cruising code zero that ion 8-9 knots of wind of make 4 knots on a close reach .Phil and Jamie spend tons of time listening to what YOU want. It what he thinks you need . Plus he can ship reasonably to the us and there is no duty . 100% he will make
So my next set of sails
Jayme Okma Lee
We just got sails from Zoom Sails from Jamie Gifford and Behan Gifford. Definely recommend talking to them.
Another vote for the Giffords helping you order what suits your needs best from Zoom sails. You can contact them via their blog sailingtotem.com
We went for cross cut Dacron, 7 years ago. Main and jib. In that time we’ve sailed almost 50,000 miles including 1.5 circumnavigation. I would love to go with Hydranet, but it’s twice the price. They still look ok, not perfect but still serviceable. My reckoning was that I could now buy a new set with the money saved. This is on a First 47.7 tall rig. Only 100% Genoa.
I would definitely recommend contacting Jamie who now works with Zoom Sails. We bought our genoa for our Stevens 47 from him and 36,000nm and seven years later it is doing fine..
We are just buying new tri-radial Hydranet sails from Zoom Sails. Our previous sails were cross cut Dacron and similarly had stretched and lost shape. We are having them sent to French Polynesia.
Great to see Zoom Sails called out! I'm a sailmaker/designer and circumnavigator and work with Phil Auger (sailmaker/designer and cruiser) for Zoom Sails.
To your questions. Crosscut Dacron has toughness and can hold shape surprisingly well if built with high tenacity Polyester AND enough fiber density in the high load areas. Our last main on Totem was mediocre Dacron (budget reasons) and did 7 years / 45k NM. Then done because of UV degradation, but the shape was still quite good. Downside being that enough fiber density means, heavy and very stiff so bending on the sail is like wrestling an alligator.
Hydra Net and Nautosphere are 2 excellent hybrid Dacron/Dyneema, and woven. No glue bonds to fail with the strength and low stretch benefit of high modulus fibers. Downside is the price.
Happy to talk sails if interested in Zoom or just to give advice.
Jamie spent a lot of time listening and advising even before I bought from him and Phil ,
They been super available and always ready to answer questions or talk shop about fabrics and sails. They have real world experience with what you are going to do with your sails . Not a lot of sailmakers take That kind of time
Diomedea has a Spectra laminate main from Norths and a Doyle Stratis load path fabric jib. The jib is an awesome sail. Very powerful. Doing well after 6 years. Only maintenance has been to repaint the paint-on UV strip.
We bought new sails for our Mason 44 from Quantum Sails in Annapolis before we headed off three years ago. We chose tri radial Hydrant and have been very happy with them. There were a few issues with the headboard and the batten cars, but they all got resolved. I agree that you should have the sailmaker measure.
You may need some maintenance along the way too, for any rubbing spots that wear. We left the jacklines up on one long passage and they chafed through a batten pocket in one spot.
We purchased a North 3Di mainsail in 2017. After 10000 miles including an upwind transatlantic crossing it is still a perfect shape and is bulletproof. Absolutely worth the money... but that judgement depends on your budget and expectations!
By Dick - 16 Nov 2020
You are correct that this is a fairly universal question among cruising sailors and deserves wide discussion. That said, I will write this for the OCC Forum readers and request that my wish to not have my writing copied and pasted into a FB stream be respected.
There are many aspects of sailing where there are “best practices” or close to it. Sail design and sail cloth choice is not one of them. There is a wide array of reasonable choices and, luckily, few “wrong” choices. What can, and often does, go wrong is amply displayed here. You asked a question and most, if not all, responded with the choices they had made and how it had worked out for them.
Valuable information, for sure, and good information for those decisions where there is a “best practices” type of answer. But sail design and sail cloth choice are one area on a sailboat where personal sailing proclivities dictate most decisions. You contributed to not zero’ing in on a personalized answer by providing so little information: HR 43 and long distance sailing stand alone in information about you and your sailing interests (the present sails: cross-cut Dacron may have come with the boat).
I (and hopefully the sailmaker you choose to work with) would spend considerable time asking questions about your sailing habits. You do not include whether the mainsail is conventional with slab reefing or roller furled in some way. I would also like to know: do you like to sail? Do you like to sail well or just wish to get around the block? Do you use sail shape tools: halyard and outhaul tension? Backstay adjustment? traveler position? etc. on a regular basis? Or are you content with getting things close enough and forgetting about them.
With headsail(s) I would wish to know how often you roller reef and do you have back up sails (staysail for ex. or storm jib as well as a storm trysail for the main). Do you have an easily adjustable jib sheet lead?
How much do you like to sail well? Do you like to occasionally sail up-wind and take the helm? Do you value boat speed and pointing ability in your everyday cruising? (my take is most cruisers do not, in any significant sense, and that is an observation not a criticism). Do you ever race? Have you ever raced?
I have sailed next to HK43s but not on them. They are clearly not race horses, but my take is that they would respond well to a good set of sails (not all boats do): that they would point higher and sail faster would a good set of sails well handled. That means they would enjoy a wide range of sail design choices and cloth.
On money: I am not sure that money plays as large a part in sail choice as most give it: that is if you want longevity in sail shape. Simply put, Dacron sails on long distance cruising boats are going to show shape deterioration in as little as 2 years and certainly by 4-5 years. For those who just want to go around the block, that may be fine, but for those who look at poor sail shape and are bothered by the compromise: they may be facing a few years of annoyance. High modulus (HM) sailcloth in laminate or woven will just hold their shape much longer.
Then there is field repair: there Dacron is far the easiest, many times just needing sticky back cloth and no stitching with HM the most challenging as some cloths/laminates rejecting most adhesives and requiring stitching.
I am sure I left important considerations out: please come back with questions/comments etc.
More personally: I like to sail and I like to sail well and I have a boat that, like yours, is no race horse, but a boat that responds very nicely to good sails and good sail shape. I chose radial Hydranet for my sail cloth and had the sails designed for radial construction. I chose Hydranet over laminate as I was in Northern Europe where the weather is often wet, frequently damp, and I wanted a cloth that would dry. Hydranet is woven and will dry.
I do 6 months a year cruising now (2,000 to 4,000nm) and have one high latitude North Atlantic crossing since my sails were built in 2013. They have not needed repair and they look a bit dirty, but their shape is still pretty much as new. I have been very pleased.
Let us know what you choose and what led you to those choices.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy