The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the Sage 17’s, and upcoming Sage 15’s, sails is Elliott/Pattison Sailmakers.  The loft is located in the Newport Beach, CA, and made in the USA.  In addition to E/P we have also worked, at Sage owner request, with Hyde Sails of Northern California (aka, ‘Judy B. Sails’), Haarstick Sailmakers, and Sailrite.

When the sails for a new Sage 17 are completed they are shipped from CA to Golden, CO.  Once at the shop I inspect the sails for:

  • size
  • stitching
  • hardware placement (such as hanks, bolt rope, slugs, reefing, and leech & foot lines, and clew grommet)
  • correct sail logo placement
  • correct sail number (on the main)
  • correct color (if custom color ordered)
A Sage 17 150% genoa with colored panels.

A Sage 17 150% genoa with colored panels.

complete headsail collection: storm, working, lapper and 150% genoa.

A complete Sage 17 headsail collection: storm, working, lapper and 150% genoa.

Once the headsails are OKed they are folded and placed into the appropriately marked sailbag (ie, ‘working jib’, ‘lapper’, ‘genoa’).  The bags are then tagged to note the boat hull number and the owner’s name.

After the main is checked I install the reef cringle lines.  The main is the folded and placed in a sailbag.  I also put the main’s battens and sail ties in the bag.  As with the headsails the mainsail bag is tagged with the boat hull number and the owner’s name.

Sage 17 main with two sets of reef cringle lines installed.

Sage 17 main with two sets of reef cringle lines installed.

New sails are wonderful things.  Their shape is perfect and they power a sailboat to her fullest potential.

Two common questions I am asked by person purchasing a ‘new to them’ boat are:

  • ‘Should I get new sails?’
  • “Why doesn’t my boat sail that well?’

Sails wear out.  Racers will change sails yearly, or a couple of times a year.  Cruisers replace sails less often as they are not as stressed by being used in heavy winds and the shape isn’t as important … but not unimportant.

In general if you sail a lot a cruiser will need to replace the sails used most often, such as the main and the genoa, around 5-10 years.  After ten years it is VERY unlikely a sail that is used often will retain a shape that will move the boat well.

Old, or well used, sails no longer hold their shape.  This means the ‘engine’ of the boat isn’t working.  The boat will sail slow, the helm will feel wrong (either to much weather or lee helm) and the boat will not go to weather.

One of the many bonuses to owning a trailer sailor is the sails are not that expensive.  A new main on a 17′ boat will run about $800; a 150% genoa about $550.  This is about 1/3rd the cost for a boat just ten feet longer.

So, if your boat is older than 10 years, YES she needs new sails.  If you boat isn’t sailing well … I bet you need new sails.

– Dave

4 thoughts on “Sails

  1. brent1965 says:

    Dave, very informative post. Thank you for sharing.

    A couple of questions:

    1-hank-on vs rolling furler. It appears that hanking-on the head sails works best for maximum versatility (with all the different headsail options) as opposed to a single headsail being furled. Is this correct? Your thoughts on the pros and cons of these two systems for a trailerable sailboat?

    2-How is a storm jib used? Which headsail seems to get the most usage?

    I’ve always felt that a roller furler is a pain with a sailboat that is constantly being rigged and trailered (each outing). Your thoughts?



  2. A roller reefing headsail only retains an ‘OK’ shape up to the point it is rolled up 30%. After that as the sail is made smaller the shape becomes very poor = poor pointing ability. A few Sage17 owners have multiple headsails for their furler allowing them to pick a sail that when furled will have a better shape.

    When the headsail is fully furled it still leaves a lot of weight aloft AND windage.

    As you wrote a furler complicates rigging the boat … taking about 30 minutes more to rig the boat. so, in my opinion, unless you keep the boat rigging most of the time it is not worth the ‘bonus’ of not needing to go onto the foredeck to change headsails.

    For me I am comfortable going onto the foredeck to change the headsail. I’ve done this many times in winds greater than 20knts with AIR BORN sailing herself under main alone. If I wasn’t comfortable going forward a furler would be considered.

    For the Sage 17 you consider the storm jib when the wind is constantly above 20-25 knots in coordination with a single or double reefed main. for a 20 knot wind I prefer a single of double reefed main with the working jib.

    The headsail used most often depends on the local wind conditions. On Lake Dillon, Colorado, I sail most often with the working jib … as the wind is usually blowing 15-20 knots in the afternoon. On Puget Sound the most often used headsail is the 150% genoa … as the wind is usually blowing less than 10 knots (if at all).

    – Dave


  3. P.S. to my original post –

    old sails are ‘baggy’ and don’t correctly allow the wind to flow across their surface. as noted before this means the boat doesn’t sail ‘right’: poor ability to point to the wind, she is slow, and you feel this in the helm.

    i neglected to mention another result of old baggy sails – the boat heels more … a lot more. the sails are just bags catching wind and not allowing the wind to flow off the boat. a correctly shaped sail will result in a boat staying more level for a given wind than with a old sail.

    – Dave


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