I get new sails, but how much do they cost and which ones to choose?


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After the measurement survey and design, it is up to the sailmaker’s hands to turn a sail built with sewn ferzi into reality, a type of product in which there is still a strong component of craftsmanship. © Mauro Giuffrè/Giornale della Vela photo.

L’Fall has arrived and with it the list of work to be done on our boat: did you put sails on it too? Any shipowner in this check list will also put an engine overhaul, how many will also put a sail overhaul? Often the engine is regarded as the propulsion to be given the most attention, and the sails, which are instead the raison d’être of a boat, season after season fall into oblivion without receiving maintenance or being replaced. Yet ours is a sailboat; our wings cannot be considered a secondary propulsion. In fact, during summer cruises it may happen that we will struggle to sail in some conditions, we will see which ones, and we will be forced to hear the annoying engine noise, perhaps under the heat. Nothing fun in short.


Fall is the right season to engage in renewing our sails as well, partly because sailmakers often make attractive offers. But how do we know it is time to change them? What signs to evaluate? What kind of sails to buy and how to navigate the choice? In the report we have produced we will try to answer these questions as well, and to do so our Mauro Giuffrè went to take some photos in a sailmaker, guests of the North Sails Italia of Carasco (Genoa), who made Luna Rossa’s, to see up close how a new sail is made and touch the materials.

The sailmaker hand-finishes the “meolo” pocket of the jib with the luff that will go into the adjustment
the tension of the leech and prevent it from flapping when the wind increases. © Mauro Giuffrè/Giornale della Vela photo.

When the sails are exhausted

Many boaters think that the criterion for the durability of a sail is the consistency and tightness of the material. When a sail begins to crack or peel from wear and tear, it is highly likely that its life was actually over long before. In fact, the main criterion for whether a wing should be changed or not is the shape, that is, the position of the fat. What is fat? To simplify, we could say that it is the point at which the sail has its maximum curvature.

To find out if the mainsail or jib/genoa is still in good shape, you need to stand more or less in the center of the sail and look at it from the bottom to the top, pulling a virtual line from approximately the center of the base to the pen. Some sailmakers apply a vignette at this point, often a camera symbol, to indicate from which point to look toward the pen to check the position of the grease. This, if the sail is in good condition, should be from the center of it forward and evenly arranged. The farther toward the bow the better shape the sail is in. On the other hand, if the fat, relative to the virtual head/base line, is displaced aft or is all in the central area, it means that the wing is now close to retirement because it no longer has an optimal airfoil.

In the two photos above you can see, by looking at the horizontal shape lines, the difference between a “healthy” sail and one whose profile is compromised. The first photo shows how the sail is flat at the back and has its maximum curvature near the luff, just as a new sail should be. In the second photo, however, you can see that the maximum curvature is in the center of the sail, and the part near the forestay is flat:
the aerodynamic profile is compromised. © North Sails Photo.

Simplifying the concept, the grease placed in the front area of the sail serves to “catch” air, which then must “escape” from the sail without encountering obstacles or bends. If, on the other hand, the profile is backwards, flat in front and curved toward the stern, we will have a poorly efficient sail that will penalize our boat in virtually all conditions.


A sewn sail will not have the same kind of reinforcements as a membrane: it changes the way they are constructed and consequently finished, North Sails Engineer Michele Malandra explains the differences:


The ring mounted on a high wind jib. In the event of a broken channel, the sail can be rigged directly to the forestay thanks to the garrocci mounted on these rings. It is also these details that can make a difference in the cost of a glider. © Mauro Giuffrè/Giornale della Vela photo.

The price of a sail is not something that can be defined by a mere calculation of cost per square meter, as many factors come into play in defining the value of a sail.

First, the type of boat, its length, and its weight should be considered. Two boats that are identical in length but have different weights will have two different costs per square meter between them if they choose to purchase a sail with identical material. This is because the heavier boat will need a differently structured, heavier-weight sail to stand the test of time. A high wind jib, while having smaller square meters than a light wind jib, with the same material chosen, it will not necessarily have a much inferior piece. This is because it requires a much sturdier structure and construction than a low-air wing.


The price then varies a lot depending on the accessories: how many terzaroli coats? What kind of cues? Furling sail or not? For these reasons, the simple summary of a price per square meter, per material, is quite relative as an indication. We have therefore preferred below rather to identify a more plausible price range, devoted mainly to cruising sails and expressed in any case per square meter, broken down by type of technology employed. As for laminated stitched sails, within the indicated scissor, several racing layouts can also be included. In this list, we have not included quotations for top racing membranes: since it is a very specific product and built totally custom to the needs of the boat.

Dacron (from horizontal ferzi.
to radial):
70 to 130 euros per sq. m.

Cruising membranes:
150 to 250 euros per square meter

Sails sewn in laminate:
140 to 230 euros per square meter


30 to 60 euros per square meter

You can find the full report, with all the photos and advice on the choice of materials and their finishes, in the feature on newsstands in the October Sailing Newspaper

Mauro Giuffrè


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