Cotton sails

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Post by kayeselle » Sat Apr 23, 2005 9:36 am

<font color="brown">Hi
I'm a relatively new sailor (about 5yrs) and have only owned a boat for a couple of years .... GP14. I have the chance of buying a set of (probably unused) cream cotton sails. I would appreciate the benefit of of your collective experience as to the pros and cons of using cotton sails and what sort of £ range I might offer.
All ideas appreciated.
With thanks
Ken</font id="brown">

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Post by Rupert » Sat Apr 23, 2005 10:18 am

Hi Ken, welcome to the cvrda. As you are on this site, I assume you are interested in how boats were "back when" and not just in sailing them. Cotton sails (and others may disagree with this) have no advantages over modern ones, save looking the part, being fun to use and being a conversation starter. As far as performance goes they will be inferior to dacron, and will be much higher maintainence. However, some at the cvrda use cotton for the events as they like to sail the boats as original, and they certainly look great and help with the period feel. If your GP was around at the time of cotton, then go for it and come and show them off at some cvrda events! As for cost, they are in some ways only worth what you think they are worth, as they are so "out of date" as to be worthless to almost all GP14 sailors. Maybe someone else on the site will be able to be more help. I'd see whether they'd give them to a good home!

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Post by chris » Sat Apr 23, 2005 10:44 am

You get a favourable handicap in CVRDA events
They are 'right' for an old boat. (they were universal to the end of the sixties)
In light winds can fall into shape well when heeling the boat.
They certainly look good - better than any modern alternatives - for a vintage boat.
They work! (but perhaps not as efficiently as modern ones)

They get wet! and therefore heavy.
They need a different approach to rigging. And probably sailing with them.
They need more looking after. ie must be dried thouroughly before puting away.
They stretch. This was allowed for and so are cut smaller than the full size.
They are probably cut for a wooden mast which will behave differently to a metal one. (less bendy). So the sails are cut differently (fullness).
Can blow apart and rip in a gale. (though they can put up with quite a battering)

Other thoughts...

Old jibs may be a different shape to modern ones. So the fairlead may need moving.
If the jib has a wire through the luff it could be galvanized not stainless. If there is some rusting it may rot the cloth but a good sailmaker can fit a stainless wire.
New cotton sails had to be broken in gently. They will stretch but can stretch in the wrong places if not careful. When first used don't tighten the main halyard and outhaul beyond just pulling the sail straight. Go for a few gentle sails in light wind. (this is according to sailing books of the fifties but makes sense).

My experience with cotton (which isn't very much) is that they sail perfectly well and for much of the time don't 'feel' too much different. They don't point as well as good modern sails and for some boats are probably cut to a different shaped outline as cotton won't hold the leech up like terrylene. Merlin and Nat 12 cotton sails can be as much as 2 sq metres smaller in real area!

I would like to see more cotton sails sailing so get them and join in some cvrda events with them!

Cost? Dunno really. apart from ones that came with Iska I've been given several merlin ones on the ' have them if you can use them' principal. but you don't come across them that often - especially jibs as the wire rots them.

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Post by neil » Sat Apr 23, 2005 7:48 pm

The guy that build Rannoch's sails wanted an authentic look without the weight/rotting problems of cotten.

R's sails are made from modern cloth but are to a traditional narrow pattern design and they look pretty good - and she has a clutch of concourse d'elegance trophies to prove it!

It might be worth talking to a sail maker to see what choice of cloth is available.
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Post by neil » Sun May 01, 2005 8:31 pm

As it happens there's some cotten GP sails on eBay ... 14536&rd=1
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