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My story about buying new sails

Ward H

Nov 7, 2011
Catalina 30 Mk II Barnegat, NJ
(I know this is a bit long winded. You can read just the 1st and last two paragraphs to get most of the story and skip the boring details.)

This write up is about my lessons learned when choosing a new sail supplier and why spending a few hundred dollars more rather than going with the cheapest advertised price supplier, may get you a much higher quality and better fit sail.

When I purchased Moon Shadow, our 1980 O'day 25 in Sept of 2012, I called our local sail loft for a quote on a new main sail.

He offered a OEM replacement 6.18 oz Dacron w/ 1 reef, leach line, tell-tales, logo, SS eyes and bag for $933.

I knew a new jib would cost more so I decided to wait on both sails a season to see what other maintenance/upgrades we would need that would have a higher priority. I'm glad I did, as shortly after we splashed in the spring a new OB was required. There went the boat budget.

In our third season (2015) I decided I was ready for new sails but would buy one at a time. This turned out to be a good idea.

I got a new quote from our local loft and quotes from 2 on line distributers.

Local Loft - $993. OEM replacement leech line w/cleat, tell-tails, sail battens, logo, SS eyes and bag. 2+2 battens were optional for $91. Note - They do not come to the boat to measure. They have specs in their book. No shipping needed.

RT - $575. Custom built in 6.18 oz. Dacron to dimensions provided (which were the standard P & E lengths) of luff 24.5, foot 9', standard battens, 1 reef, leech line with cleats at reef & clew, tell tails and sail bag. Note - They have the OEM specs. Shipping $26.

FES - $1100 but special net price $580. Performance Mainsail w/ 7.18 oz Challenge Performance Cruise Cross Cut sail material, P/E of 24.5/9, 4 partial battens, 1 reef, tell tails, draft stripe, triple stitched, Aluminum Headboard, leech line w/ cam cleat, sail insignia, 9% roach and sail bag. Free shipping. Note - They do have a form on their website asking about 30 questions or measurements.

I had dealt with the local loft when getting a main sail cover and a main sail for my Newport 17. They have a good reputation but I thought the price was a little high.

The FES reply with the quote started out with this comment:
"This is a special promotional quotation good only through August 30 and is based on a special purchase from our cloth suppliers, while supply lasts."

Their specs did seem to cover all the items I was interested in and a loose foot and 2x2 battens were options but that comment about limited time offer and while supply lasts left me with an uneasy feeling.

I found several good reports about RT on line and some positive comments from respected forum members so I decided to go with RT.

I had filled out their on line quote form so they had my basic information and in that form I did ask for 6.18 oz. Dacron. I gave them a call and explained the sailing conditions I would be sailing in and type of sailing I do. (Coastal day sailing and winds up to 20knts.)

NSS said the quoted sail would be fine. After reading up a bit I asked via email about any performance options I should consider like 2x2 batten arrangement and loose foot. He replied I could upgrade to those options for an additional $35. I then asked about the O'day logo and draft stripe. That added another $55 to the cost bringing it up to $691w/ shipping.

With that price I again thought about FES but that promotional comment and good reviews of RT pointed me back to RT so I placed my order.

I continued to research main sails on line and found some good threads on choosing a sail supplier. One poster, clearly explaining she sells sails but was giving objective information, explained a lot about sails and sail buying. She mentioned being aware of bait and switch when choosing sail cloth as most sail buyers don't have the experience to know if they got what they ordered. Hey, I thought, that's me.

I contacted her by email and she said I shouldn't worry, RT has a good reputation. That was a relief but I hadn't received a confirmation on my order with details like sail cloth so I asked for one. "We don't send that out because it slows down the process and helps to keep the cost lower". Alert, Alert. But they have a good reputation so I won't worry.

The sail arrived on time and despite the box being really banged up the sail looked good. Whoops, they didn't include the O'day logo. Called NSS and he said he would mail it to me because it was easy to apply. OK, time to go sailing.

The sail looked good but I noticed two problems. The sail slugs vibrated a lot and there were wrinkles from the first sail slug to the clew, which I could not tune out.

I posted photos and questions about sail trim in SBO. I received a lot of good responses, including tightening the Cunningham. Whoops, the sail doesn't have one. An option I needed to ask for. Not pleased but posters explained how to add one which I did. One poster thought the sail wasn't cut right. He turned out to be right.

At the start of our 4th season (2016) I laid the new sail over the old sail and yep, the tack didn't have any offset like the original sail did. Called RT and he said to go ahead and use it and send it to them in the off-season and they would fix it but it was strange a small boat needed an offset. I thought it strange they didn't have or ask for the measurement.

At the suggestion of a poster who replied to my thread, I used a line to pull the tack back against the mast and that did help to reduce the winkle.

After a couple of months I was ready for a new jib. I wasn't going back to RT so I went to that lady who had posted some really good comments on SBO and SN on how to choose a new sail and sail maker.

Enter @DrJudyB of Hyde Sails Direct, a distributor for Hyde Sails.

I used their on line ordering system to place the order for my new jib, then spent about an hour talking to Judy on the phone about my type of sailing, conditions, etc.

While talking to her I explained about my dissatisfaction with my RT sail. She explained that was why it was necessary to get many measurements before making the sail. We also talked about sail cloth. She thought with my sailing conditions that the 6.18 oz. cloth of my new main would only hold a good shape for a couple of years while her standard cloth was designed for 20 kts with gusts to 25 and would hold it's shape for many more years than that. She explained how the cost of the cloth was the largest part of the cost of a sail so most on line sellers would choose the cheapest cloth to keep the cost down. This worked, as most sail buyers wouldn't know the difference. Hyde Sails only sells good quality cloth several steps above the cheapest and OEM quality cloth. This was also OK for many sailors who only sail on lakes and in light wind conditions.

Note - In my RT quote, I did ask for 6.18 oz. cloth but when I explained to them about my sailing conditions, they could have told me I should upgrade to a better cloth. Maybe they just didn't have a better cloth.

I decided then and there to bite the bullet and order a new main sail from Judy. This may be the only time I purchase new sails and I know I would never be happy with one sail (the jib) I like and one I probably would never be happy with. This way I would have a set of sails of the same high quality I was expecting to get from HSD.

As this is my story of buying new sails and comparing different suppliers, I am mostly going to discuss the main sail from here on.

Using the HSD on line ordering form, the base price for my main sail was $728. Adding the 2 x 2 batten arrangement and 1 reef point took the price to $779. The Challenge High Modulus 7.3 Dacron was standard with HDS.

What about the Cunningham, draft stripe, O'day logo? Included. Also included were alloy headboard, leach lines, alloy leach line cleats and loose foot or boltrope foot and shipping.

Since I was ordering two sails I got a discount to bring the cost to $669, less than the RT cost me.

Note - I didn't see anywhere on the HSD website that the boat logo was included. I asked Judy twice if it was included and both times the question was overlooked. When I called and asked specifically about it, she admitted she must have overlooked the question because it was standard on every main sail.

I ordered on a Thursday and that Saturday morning I got a package from HSD. It contained measuring instructions and the tools needed to take the measurements. All measurements are in fractional feet so there was a long tape measure, folding rule, sample sail slugs and a few other things. (The jib kit included UV cloth color samples and luff tape size samples).

The instructions asked for 30 some measurements and 8 or 10 photos. Judy had explained it may seem like some of the measurements were duplicates but it was their way to ensure critical measurements were accurate by having me take them by different methods. If they could come to my boat, they would take about 15 measurements. Of course, they would then charge for this, raising the cost of the sail.

It took a buddy and me about 2 1/2 hours to take the measurements for the main and jib as well as the photos.

Note - The jib required just as many measurements. I was installing a jib track as well and included the measurements for where I planned to place it. I had asked for the 115% jib. They reviewed and told me where the designers stated the jib car needed to be for that size jib. I explained there were too many issues with putting the track there and could they work with where I planned to place the track. The designed the jib for that track position and I ended up with a 108% jib. It was still larger than my current jib, which had been cut to fit the jib furling system. I'm very happy with the size.

The sails arrived before their estimated arrival date with tracking data from the time they left the factory to my doorstep.

The first thing I noticed was that both sails came well packaged with bubble wrap around the sail bag, which is a nice stiff material rather than cheaper, very light, left over cloth. Even the bag tie is heavier (3/8") line than just cheap thin cord. Both bags are well marked as to contents with tags and print on the bags. Included were sail ties and reinforcement patches for high wear areas of the sails, if needed.

Here are some of the obvious things that stood out as proof of the quality and high value of these sails when I unrolled them on the yard for inspection:
Tell tails - 3 sets at each reef point on jib and the normal leach tell tails on the main.
Jib foot is marked at 10, 20 and 30% reefing positions.
Leach lines plus foot lines on both jib and main, all with alloy clam cleats.
On the jib both leach and foot line alloy clam cleats are fully enclosed in Sunbrella like pockets held closed by Velcro. (Hyde Sails uses a Sunbrella like UV fabric instead of Sunbrella)
The mainsail clew and tack have SS rings instead of cringles, less bulk, and a clew strap that fits. (The RT clew strap was too wide for the cringle making it hard to put on and adjust)
The batten retention system has a flap that slips into the batten pocket and is held with Velcro. It includes a neat retrieval tool and lines. Easier to adjust then tying a cord.
The O'day 25 insignia, draft stripes Cunningham were all there.
At the foot was an extra 4" of boltrope so it can be eased if needed in the future.
When furled the jib UV cover has a nice Hyde Sails logo showing.
My original mainsail had 14 sail slugs; my RT mainsail has 11 sail slugs. This sail has 15 sail slugs.
It also had floppy rings at the luff reef point. Judy explained this was to reduce the friction of the line going through a cringle. It worked well.

At the same time the sails arrived I got an email from Judy with two attachments:
Hyde Sails "Sail Care Guide" and Juby B's "Secret of Extra 1/2 Knot +"
They offered some good info. Nice touch.

On my first sail with the new HSD sails the first thing I noticed was how easy it was to trim the main to be wrinkle free. Also, despite the wind strength, there was no vibration from the sail slugs. I attributed this to the proper number and placement of the slugs and the proper tack offset.

The sails are now nicely put to bed for the winter but I got sail with them through out September and early October in light to heavy winds. I had read several times that a new set of sails will make an old boat feel like a new boat. I found that to be true. It was a real pleasure working with good quality sails.

I was also reminded that you get what you pay for and research pays off. I think if I wasn't focusing on that < $600 main sail and had done a bit more research, I may have ended up with Hyde Sails Direct first. When I finally did go with Hyde Sails Direct I got a much higher quality sail at a price about $200 more than what I thought I was originally going to pay for a new main.

PS – I only used initials for the on line sail sellers I had contact with, except for Hyde Sails Direct, because HSD is who I ultimately went with and I’m writing this to show how a few hundred dollars more can get you a much better sail than those found for under $600. For some, the cheapest sail may be absolutely fine for their budget and sailing conditions.

1 - Fresh out of bag.jpg 2 - HS Logo.jpg 3 - First sail.jpg 4 - First sail.jpg 5 - First sail.jpg 6 - First sail.jpg


Jun 4, 2009
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
I went for a local sail maker and they sent someone down to measure. I figured if I had a problem it would be a lot easier to deal with locally than try to send the thing back and forth to the orient, or try to get them to pay a local loft to fix the problem.
I think I got a pretty good price anyway for a RF main for a 53' boat, around us$3500. No shipping, duty or hassles. They even included the sail numbers which I really wanted but neglected to order. Thanks Joelle @ Turbulence.
Jan 7, 2011
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
Nice write-up....

But did she sail any faster with the new sails? My O'Day 322 main sail is original I think (1988). Genny is newer, but I should really think about replacing the main sometime.

Jan 1, 2006
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
Good story and I read all of it. I think if you can find a sailmaker who will give you individual attention and listen to your concerns, the few hundred dollars extra is well worth it. As you saw with the included extras vs. the a la carte, the price extra becomes meaningless. I' glad you got good sails. Now I have to look back to see who told you the sail was wrongly cut.


Jul 13, 2015
Hunter 31 Toronto
Ward, thanks for this. I too read it all and am have copied and pasted this for future reference.


Aug 18, 2015
West Marine Kayak Tampa Bay
Thanks for taking the time to write this up in such detail.
Jul 1, 2010
Seaward 25, Catalina 350 Erie, Pa
While I love a good deal, this is just another good example of you get what you pay for. When we bought new sails last winter, I found the whole new sail market confusing and frustrating...almost as hard as buying a car.

In the end, I chose a local sailmaker (Vermont Sailing Partners). Not exactly local to me, and it would take too long to explain why I've sent my sails to them for the last several years for any repairs needed. They are a local loft near Lake Champlain, and very well respected there. They weren't cheap, but also not that much more than other online quotes I got, not the most expensive, either. The bottom line was that I trusted them. Also, everything is done there, in-house, from the design, to the cutting, to the assembly and stitching.

I did the measuring, since we aren't located near the loft, and got Bill, the owner, the measurements he needed (I can't see how you could expect to get good fitting sails without actual measurements). He made sure we were on the same page as far as what our needs were. The design phase included a 3-d computer model emailed to me so we could confer on reef points, and design, before anything was cut. They made me a set of sails that fit perfectly. The boat sails better than it ever did, so it was one of the best upgrades we've done on it. When I sent Bill pictures of the sails this spring, he even picked up on some sail trim advice he passed on...minor stuff that made a major difference.

So my lesson learned is when getting new sails (or any purchase that is important) find someone you trust so you can let them sweat the details, rather than just looking for the best price. It's really hard to compare apples to apples sail pricing unless you really know the sail business like a sailmaker does.

Ward H

Nov 7, 2011
Catalina 30 Mk II Barnegat, NJ
But did she sail any faster with the new sails?
Hard to tell for sure as I don't have wind instruments but it sure felt like it as at times I felt the boat was moving much faster than used to for the wind I was feeling. I did get close to or reached hull speed more times with the new sails than I did all season with the old sails. Instead of gusts healing us hard over, the boat seamed to heal less while picking up speed quicker. I was able to point closer to the wind.
I felt I could hold off on reefing longer as the wind built.
I also noticed I could get better looking sail trim and get the tell tales flying easier.
Being new to sailing I've spent money on many things I thought were a must have only to find the benefit not worth the cost.
Not the case here. This was money well spent.


Apr 2, 2013
Catalina 310 Niagara-on-the-Lake
Nice write-up. My sails are 'pretty' good, 16 years of cruising type sailing. I will be retiring in a couple of years, my wife says "if we need new sails, we should get them while we're working". What should I do?
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Oct 24, 2010
Hunter 30 Everett, WA
Always listen to the Admiral. Yours sounds like she knows.

Actually we need sails as well, but deciding what we want is not easy.



Apr 2, 2013
Catalina 310 Niagara-on-the-Lake
Ken, let us know what you decide. With all the things a person has to experience in a day/week/month, sometimes using someone elses advise can really help narrow down options. Buying new sails is not an easy experience for most of us, it would be a huge help if you shared what you find out. Maybe someday it will be me offering this info.....
Jan 21, 2009
Catalina 30 Lake Perry, KS
Nice write up. Since I have no loft near me, I have had to use out of town sail lofts. Several years ago I went to the Miami Boat show to order new sails. In looking at the various ads, I pretty much knew who I wanted to use, but wanted to talk to all of the representatives to confirm my initial thoughts. Some barely gave me the time of day. Another well known loft wrote a quote on the back of a business card. Pretty unprofessional and very disappointing. My original choice was everything I expected. Why? Their site went through a detailed explanation of cloth levels, construction details etc.. In person, again they were very detailed and I was pleased with the price and quality of the sails. I will be ordering new sails in two years and have started researching the possibilities. Again there is such a difference in Sail Loft's web sites. My old vendor was again very thorough. I was also very impressed with Hyde sails direct. A good explanation of sails and various construction types and cloths. I have narrowed down my choices to my previous vendor and Hyde Sails Direct based upon their willingness to put in the effort to create a detailed web site which would lead me to believe that they will make every effort to provide a quality product. I am glad that your new sails are working out for you.
Oct 24, 2010
Hunter 30 Everett, WA
Ken, let us know what you decide. With all the things a person has to experience in a day/week/month, sometimes using someone elses advise can really help narrow down options. Buying new sails is not an easy experience for most of us, it would be a huge help if you shared what you find out. Maybe someday it will be me offering this info.....
Actually it may not be for some time. I sorta blew my stash of boat bucks on the Admiral's new car 3 weeks ago. For specific questions, I suggest asking Jackdaw. He is certainly more knowledgeable than I.

Mar 1, 2012
1961 Rhodes Meridian 25 Texas coast
Judy B is good folks. She's been a contributor on the Trailer Sailor boards for years, and in fact, is one reason TSBB still exists. When Todd Johnson ,who ran it, passed away, Judy took it over and was webmaster for a while. She is who was responsible for hooking TSBB up with Phil Herring here on SBO. This before Phil also revived the Cruising Sailor BB, from Cruising World mag.

I would have no qualms whatsoever dealing with Htde Sails
Nov 8, 2010
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
Nice write-up Ward.

I've never bought sails from Hyde, but every time Judy posts here I'm impressed with her deep knowledge, and willingness to share. I'm not surprised you love the sails.
Jun 18, 2014
ODay Day Sailer 2 Fabius, NY
Fabulous write up for sure. I'm still a newbie but need a new mainsail for my Oday Daysailor II and just sent Hyde's a quote request! It looks like they have the basic model for $610 which is less than Rudy and way less than other online sites of looked at. If the quality is as good as it sounds like, I'll be real happy with that.


Aug 10, 2014
Catalina 22 9874 Newberg, OR / Olympia, WA
Thanks for the writeup.

+1 for JudyB. I'm in the process of ordering from HSD, and she's been fabulously helpful.