Re-Shaping the Luff: Bringing Sails Back to Life

As sails age, many things can happen that will affect sailing performance. The biggest being the draft of the sail changing. Quantum Sails Chicago’s Service Manager, Sam Keys, talks about what causes these issues and what can be done to fix them.

Typically when a sail is designed, the largest amount of draft at a given position of the sail is at about 45% of the way aft of the luff towards the leech. As the sail gets older, a couple of things can happen that move the draft of the sail closer to 50% or more, making it more and more difficult to trim and to steer the boat to. The other issue with the draft position is that it gets a lot “fuller” than originally designed, making it difficult to de-power the sail as the wind strength gets stronger. Here are some ways that we like to give your old sail a “face-lift.”


Luff Rope Shrinkage         

One of the biggest causes of the draft position changing is when the rope on the luff of a mainsail or genoa shrinks. When a luff rope is attached to a sail it has to be given a small amount of tension in order to take the load that the halyard or Cunningham has applied to it.

Over time this rope can eventually shrink, making it very difficult to apply the correct tension on the luff. This will make the sail seem fuller, moving the draft aft on the sail. What we like to do in this scenario then is to essentially “ease” a portion of the tension of the rope.  

This is done in two different ways. If the rope is free floating in the luff tape, held in place by hand stitching at the head and tack, then we can unstitch the hand stitching and ease the tension in the rope and hand sew it in its new position.

Typically, the rope is not free floating, which in that case we have to unstitch almost the entire luff tape to re-tension it. Then we apply back on the sail and re-sew it.

Luff Shape Image - resized

Luff Re-shape

Over time the material of the sails will stretch. This will cause the draft to become fuller than originally designed, even with the correct amount of luff tension. What we like to do here is re-shape the luff roach.

To some, the luff of the sail may seem like a straight line, but this actually is not the case, it has a positive arc running from the head to the tack. This, along with the broad-seaming of the sail, is one of the methods used to create shape in the sail. To help alleviate the fullness in the sail we then essentially reduce this roach using a long batten along the luff to create a new luff shape, but with a similar arc as was originally designed.

Over time and continuous use, your sails will start to show their age and lose some of their performance. Drop them off at your local Quantum loft and we can help bring them back to their original glory.



Sam Keys
Quantum Sails Chicago
Service Manager


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Will You be Ready Offshore When Rough Weather Hits?

You're ready to head offshore, but are you ready for rough weather? Mother nature can create some unique challenges and having the right sails and crew can make all the difference. Follow these tips for preparing your boat and your crew, and let the adventure begin!

Nemetoma Salty Dawg - Resized

While “cruising” and “rough weather” seem to be contradictory terms, even with modern weather forecasting, it is a reality of offshore sailing. Quantum sail designer and pro sailor David Armitage found that out first hand while delivering his Beneteau 47 Nemetona as part of the Salty Dawg Rally from Norfolk, VA, to Virgin Gorda for the start of a nine-month sailing adventure with his family.

Dave completed the passage with the help of his father and brother, both experienced sailors. Their departure date was set on a recommendation from Chris Parker of the Marine Weather Center. Indeed, there were a number of boats that would head out at the same time on Parker’s advice. While they had a decent weather window, they could still expect to see some heavy weather and rough seas during the 1,300 nm journey.

The sail inventory required for any offshore sailing experience is very different than what one needs for in-shore or even weekend coastal cruising. Outfitting your boat and preparing your crew properly is like taking out an insurance policy: Hopefully you won’t ever need it, but you will be very happy to have it if you do.

Balancing Sail Area and Trim In a Storm

More sail area doesn’t always mean more speed, certainly in rough seas and big breeze when the boat can easily be put on its side.

The autopilot does a lot of work offshore, but for the autopilot to work well, both the sail area and the trim must be balanced. With a small staysail and reefed mainsail, Dave and his crew were able to maintain up to eight knots on their course in 35 to 40 knots of breeze. “If you saw the boat during these periods, you would have been shocked at how little sail area we were carrying, and yet still making good forward progress,” he says.

Always a racer, Dave says the experience was a good lesson. “I would definitely not go offshore without good/small heavy air sails that allow you to sail the boat well.”

The Headsails

When you’re out at sea and it’s blowing 30 knots, your primary all-purpose genoa on the roller-furler isn’t going to cut it; the sail will be too big when it gets rough, and you won’t be able to furl enough sail for the conditions and still have a working headsail.

Having a heavy working jib not larger than 100% of the perpendicular distance from the luff to the clew as well as a true storm jib or staysail is crucial. The working jib can be flown on an inner forestay, if you’ve equipped your boat with one, or on the primary roller furling system. However, if you have to drop the genoa and hoist the working jib, you’ll want to be very prudent about performing that maneuver early and not waiting until the boat becomes unmanageable in the building breeze. Additionally, having a purpose-built small jib will extend the life of your genoa.

Offshore, a heavy working jib is likely to be the correct sail much of the time, and if you plan to sail offshore often, adding an inner forestay might make a lot of sense. “We had taken the time the previous year to fit an inner forestay and small jib to the boat,” says Dave. During the passage, he says, “that sail and setup definitely paid for itself.”

When it really gets rough, you need to have a true storm jib. There are multiple ways to fly a storm jib, and if you have a furling system, you’ll need a sail with piston hanks for the inner forestay. Other considerations like a tack pennant or pad eye for sheeting should also be discussed with your sail maker.

Read more about choosing cruising headsails.

The Mainsail

If using a traditional mainsail, you need to be sure that you have the right number of reefing points and at the right distance, and that you know how to use them. Flynn recommends two deep reefs. During sudden squalls, the mainsail will most likely be dropped completely. For upwind sailing in sustained high wind, you will need a storm trysail. To use the storm trysail, you would normally take the mainsail off the boom and stow it down below.

If your boat is equipped with an in-mast furling system, you probably don’t need a storm trysail. The in-mast furling allows you to roll up the main in such away that is very flat and about the same shape of a storm trysail. While there are a number of pros and cons to an in-mast system, the ability of being able to reduce mainsail area in a hurry could be huge. “In these instances [we were able to] reduce sail quickly in the rainsqualls, which allowed us to maintain control and balance,” says Dave.

Read more about choosing the right mainsail for your boat.

Dad Nigel Stands Watch - resized

Know Your Course & Your Crew

Nematona was making good progress down the coast, but some of the other boats tacked to the northeast and headed out to sea to avoid the rough weather. The result was an easier ride, but they ended up sailing up to 200 extra miles in the wrong direction. The boats that took that route arrived two days behind Nematona.

If he had to do it all over again, Dave says he would have taken the same route, but he would have rather had four people on board. Their watch system in rough weather consisted of one person at the wheel, the second person resting under the dodger just aft of the companion way, and the third person was down below attempting to sleep. During the last three days, actually getting any quality rest was almost impossible in this scheme.

Dave and his crew arrived in Virgin Gorda after eight days to the minute at sea. There’s never a guarantee of a safe passage when crossing the open ocean, but with the right preparation and planning, you’ll be in a lot better shape. “We were tired, but happy to have arrived safe and sound in one piece,” says Dave. “Let the island adventure begin!”

You can follow Dave and his family’s adventure on their blog and Facebook page.

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Great Sledding for the Bobsled at Quantum Key West Race Week

Quantum's Director of Offshore One Design, Scott Nixon, has spent the week sailing with the new C&C 30 team Bobsled at the Quantum Key West Race Week. We checked in to see how their week has been going.

With the fast approaching massive winter snowstorm heading for the Bobsled's hometown of Annapolis, MD we knew that Wednesday would be a good day to go sledding. Quantum Key West Race Week is serving up some chilly and windy conditions this week and the teams are loving it. Monday started out with a Northerly breeze in the 18-22 knot range and many teams including our new team on the C&C30 One Design Bobsled were caught a bit off guard. High winds and big waves are new to our team and while we had good speed around the track we lost a lot of points to boat handling issues, especially the dreaded spinnaker set and douse. Tuesday the RC wisely kept the teams on solid ground as the winds were steady in the high 20's all day. The Bobsledders used the day to review video, look at sail pictures and review our boat handling process. We updated our boat set up and put together an order of operations for out sets, gybes, and douses. It paid off as Wednesday's conditions were classic Key West conditions with a post frontal North Easterly in the 12-17 knot range. Bob Moran, the captain and team leader of the Bobsled had solid starts and our speed team led by Mike Coe kept us in control of our own destiny with great boat speed both upwind and down. The Bobsledders improved our boat handling 100% and were much more competitive in the boat on boat situations.

Helmets off to a job well done, holding a solid 3rd place standing at the end of Thursday to keep the sled on track in the 11 boat fleet. Looking forward to the final day of racing in the Conch Republic before we try to get home to the snow and some sledding with our kids!

You can view all of the week's results here and get the latest information about the Quantum Key West Race Week here.


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