6 Steps to Buying Your New Sail

Unlike most other sports, there are very few off-the-rack options when it comes to purchasing a new sail for your boat. But, what can be a slightly more involved process also results in a more customized product, designed by your sailmaker with both your goals and your budget in mind. It can be a daunting process to start, but Andrew Waters, a Sail Designer and Consultant out of our Annapolis loft, walks us through the process from idea to execution when it comes to your new sail. 

1. Identify Your Goal(s)

Sometimes, the need for a new sail is obvious — if your sail is old, soft, or damaged beyond repair, it's a no-brainer you need a replacement. Or, if you’re taking on a new adventure, like distance cruising when you’ve been sticking to the coast, or perhaps taking your cruiser into racing, your inventory may need adjusting. The first step, says Waters, is to reach out to your Rep and go over exactly what you want the outcome of this new purchase to be, as well as your budget. “Explain where you are, your ambitions, and your plan,” says Waters. “We’ll have a conversation to identify what the next options are, and what’s within your budget.” A helpful step is to get your current sails into the Loft as soon as you can, so that our team of experts can assess what you already have, make a determination of what you might want or need, and give you a real timeline of when the projects can be completed. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about different types of fabric and cuts, too,” says Waters of the face-to-face time with your Quantum Rep. 

2. Consider Where You Sail

A coastal cruiser is going to need very different sails than someone who's racing offshore from New England to Bermuda. Someone who sails in the calmer waters of Galveston Bay is going to be looking for different features than someone who sails in the bigger breeze off of San Francisco. “In windier areas or situations, you want a heavier fabric or a slightly smaller sail, most of the time,” says Waters. This means while a 130% headsail may be standard for your boat, if you’re consistently sailing in bigger breeze, you may want to consider dropping down to a 120% for more control.

You’ll also want to evaluate the accessibility for repairs where you’re sailing, says Waters — if you’re staying close to home, you can likely get away with a less expensive fabric that may require more repairs here and there, since it won’t be as heavy of a lift to get your sails into the Loft. Conversely, if you’re setting off on a round-the-world-cruise, consider investing in something that you can either be confident in its longevity, or know you can get fixed even on the other side of the world – if you show up in Fiji with a torn luff, will the local sailmakers be able to work with the product you have?

Quantum works with a number of fabrics, and each of these have different weights, strengths and price points. From your standard woven-polyester Dacron, which is often the most budget-friendly option, through Triradial products with an added weave bias for more durability, all the way up to Spectra or Carbon that provides higher performance at a higher price point, depending on your goals, your boat and the amount of wear and tear regularly put upon your sails, your Rep can work with you to determine the fabric that best matches your needs and your budget. 

3. Consider What You Sail

The age and setup of your boat may preclude you from buying the higher performance fabrics — whether that's because of what the rig can handle, or what will match the aesthetic of the boat, if that’s important to you. Certain fabrics, cuts, or sail styles may not work with your boat — or there may be some solutions you haven’t considered from your original sail inventory that a representative can lay out for you. 

Also, evaluate how often you’re sailing, who you have aboard, and how much time and energy you want to spend changing out, setting, or dousing sails. If a roller-furler fits your needs, this will impact the type of sail and sail fabric you want to use. 

4. Consider How You Sail

The sail inventory needs of a casual daysailer versus a long-distance cruiser are very different. For your average daysailer or trailer-sailer, standard Dacron sails should do the trick – their durability is excellent for their value. For a longer-distance cruiser, or someone who’s out for extended periods of time, you may want to consider something stronger. Waters suggests Hydranet for the offshore folks, a tried and tested spectra woven fabric that is low-maintenance and long-lasting — but comes with a slightly higher price tag. 

If your sails will be out for an extended period of time, either sailing or even when furled, make sure you have UV covers and sacrificial strips on the leech and other edges - if that strip starts to fray/fade, it's easier to replace than the entire sail, and those strips can be a canary in the coal mine, of sorts, for the rest of the sail — as Waters points out, repairs are often faster and much less costly than replacements, but only if you can catch the issues early on.

5. Determine a Solution With Your Rep

You’ve run through the above points with your sailmaker, now it's time to make a plan. Your sail Rep will walk you through the various options they recommend based on where, what and how you sail, and how these various options can help you meet your goals, whatever they are. Open communication is at the top of our priorities at Quantum — our goal is to get you back on the water as quickly as possible, with a product that exceeds your expectations. 

6. What Happens Next?

When you’ve decided on a plan, our team will come out to your boat and take measurements so as to custom-fit the sails. “We’re adamant that we get measurements for every boat; the design of the sail, every time, goes off of those measurements,” explains Waters. “It's very rare, particularly on older cruising boats, where they’re all exactly the same — no fittings are in exactly the same place, or things like the forestay or a headsail drum that may have been changed will alter the measurements just slightly. We don’t take generic designs from other boats; we always seek verification. It's a very important part of our product — we’re precise.”

The team then brings that information back to the loft, and with the designer work together to build exactly what you, the customer, wants. Along the way, your rep will keep you updated on progress and timelines, and work with you to get the sails on to our boat as quickly as possible so you can head off on your next adventure!

Bonus step: Quantum’s team of experts prioritize the follow-through when it comes to getting you back on the water with your new sail. Our reps are happy to come out to your boat, install your sail, and even walk you through setting and dousing, and any other questions you may have about your new sail. Reach out to your local Quantum Loft to get started.

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