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How long do your sails last

Feb 15, 2008
Hunter 49 Sydney
I have a Hunter 49 (2008) , I'm a cruiser live on board. I am now embarking on my third mainsail.
I'm beginning to develop the view that in mast furling is cause my sails life to be generally shorter than other cruisers, though most of the feedback to date has been from conventional slab reefing.

So Im primarily interested in those who have in mast furling and whom sail more often than motor and not so much weekend sailors, who's sails dont see the sun or the wind most of there life.

I do ( excluding covid years) a lot of sailing on average 5000, to 8000nm per year.
I got 5 years out of the original production sail, and 7 years ( less 1 year covid :( out of the current sail.

It seems in chatting over a beer many cruisers are getting at least twice that out of there sails.

The manufactures of the sails are telling me around 4000 hours max in the tropics (I'm in Philippines) , mostly sailing the pacific and Asia. So 4000hrs over say 6 years, so this means I have at max 2 hrs/day or 500 8hr days. Im certainly getting that, but what about you guys. How do these numbers stack up.

I believe the sail is suffering UV failure, because I can pull it apart with my hand in some places where its not currently ripped with my hand. To me thats says UV damage.

Both mains seem to have suffered UV damage on the leech, or trailing edge. Im wondering, if this area is what is exposed through the slot when the sail is furled and therefore still suffering UV damage. Where as a conventional slab reef is probably covered more properly.

To that end I'm also wondering why I can not put a strip of sumbrella down the leech of my new main to act in a similar fashion to what we all have on our Jibs or Genoa's. Has anyone tried this, or know of a good reason, other than the bulk size why this has not been done before ?

All thoughts welcome
Jun 14, 2010
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
No experience with in-mast, but the UV damage sounds about right. A good sail loft can extend life by restitching and patching when needed, when the seams and edges are UV damaged, but eventually the cloth in the belly of the sail is weakened too, and it's just too tired to give optimal service.
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
No main sail furler on my boat.

I suspect there are several actions involved that alone are not much of an issue but combined could contribute to a shorter sail life.

UV exposure is certainly a factor. Living at the 16th parallel your sails are exposed to more UV than if you sailed in more northern latitudes. The UV breaks down the resins used in the sail cloth and weakens the threads of the cloth.

When not unfurled and powering your boat to exotic locals, the Mainsail lives in a metal oven furled away inside the mast. The constant heat works to break down the sails.

Living off the grid as a cruiser how often do you rinse the salt crystals from the sail. The sodium chloride crystals act like a thousand tiny knives carving away at the sail fibers waving in the breeze.

Then there is the wind and the sailing which occurs every day. This action to capture the wind to power your boat takes its toll. Pulling and stretching the sail fibers. Fluttering in the breeze or flapping wildly in a gale constantly working the resins against the cloth fibers to break the bonds.

One positive about rolling that damp sail into the mast, your not bending it on the same fold every time like sailors who store their sail tied to a boom.

You can explore heavy cloth cruising sails or the newly designed laminate materials. I suspect you’ll get a sail that will hold its shape for a longer time yet in the end will fail as Mother Nature and the seas are powerful and relentless in their desire to ruin sails. These add hours of sail shape come at a price. One that only you can judge of value.

From your blog it appears you have found a life that suits you and your sails have provided the experience. 7 years sounds pretty good for the work you put them through.
May 17, 2004
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
7 years sounds pretty good for the work you put them through
:plus:. 5000+ miles per year for 5 years is probably about 5000 hours of sailing. Regardless of the storage method that doesn’t sound bad to me. I have in mast furling and am on year 8. All I’ve needed are a few repairs to batten pockets, and the rest of the sail is perfectly fine. But I’m at 39 North latitude and only get about 170 hours of actual sail-up time per year, so that’s a whole different league from yours. The 5000 hours you get from a set of sails would last me 30 years. :)
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May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
i would listen to your sailmaker, not the sea stories 'over beers'.

high tech vs ???

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Jun 8, 2004
Catalina 320 Dana Point
My conventional mains always toast out along the upper leech first, even though kept covered when not in use.
Feb 21, 2013
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
Just replaced my original 15 year old cross cut dacron inmast furling mainsai with a tri-radial laminat on my Hunter 46. Both were off shore, heavy weight with extra UV thread switching and other features to ensure longevity. Suggest discussing what sail construction specs with your sail loft that will maximize longevity.
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Jan 7, 2011
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
I have a 1988 O’Day 322…I replaced the main at the end of the 2019 season. I believe that it was the original sail…
so 31 years!

But I have only owned the boat for the last 6 years….so who knows. She is a fresh water boat…on the Great Lakes.
So really only used 6 months per season…

Feb 15, 2008
Hunter 49 Sydney
Ok, thankyou to all who responded. The net result would seem I should be happy with what I have. U have used what I believe is a good cloth Challenge 10.88 High Mass Fiber, although not at the top, I believe above average. I have used UV thread and triple stitching. What has failed is the cloth and it would seem most thing this is probably reasonable. Thanks for your input. FYI This test was done by a sailmaker friend