Cotton sails

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Michael4
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Cotton sails

Post by Michael4 » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:46 pm

As N12 Planet gets closer to the water my thoughts turn to appropriate clothing for her wooden mast.

Her commodious sail wardrobe (thanks to all previous owners, Chris, Steve etc!) contains three cotton mains and one cotton jib with an intact luff wire amongst lots of more modern stuff.

I thought that the older a cotton sail the narrower the material. Indeed a sail with seams close together looks very much 'of the age'

But having spread them all out on the lawn I am now confused...

The Ratsey main from 1949 has seams at approx 16.5 inches as does the jib which although it does not have the same order number has one that is quite close.
The Jeckells main from I know not when... has seams at 7.5 inches (from what I can tell by old stitching marks the boat number started with an 8...hence 1950 onwards)
The Ratsey main marked 1960 also has seams at 7.5 inches. 1960 seems late for a cotton sail.

So, if you get my drift, I am a little confused. Was wider material available earlier and was it then superseeded by the narrower stuff? And when did cotton sails stop? MR 950 (1959) has original Ratsey sails made from 'Vectis' cloth. My oldest Tideway sails are all Dacron/Terylene or whatever it is called and date from the early '60s.

Not a question of life or death but I'd like to know so that I can bore anyone who has the temerity to ask!
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Chalky
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by Chalky » Fri Jul 15, 2016 5:17 pm

Hi, if it helps I've checked the original sails for Bobtail N760, also from 1949. Jeckels main and jib both have seams of about 7 1/2 inches. The jib is mitre cut.

Regards
JC

Michael4
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by Michael4 » Fri Jul 15, 2016 6:42 pm

Thanks, that sounds like what I would expect (I am no expert). I will have a second look at the main with the 16.5 inch seams and double check that what I have read as 1949 is indeed1949...
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SoggyBadger
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by SoggyBadger » Fri Jul 15, 2016 6:51 pm

You might find that the ones with 7.5 inches between seams have false seams i.e. the cloth is simply folded over and sewn to look like a seam. This was done in the belief that the more seams there were, the less the stretch.
Best wishes


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JimC
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by JimC » Fri Jul 15, 2016 7:38 pm

IST very vaguely remember that at some time Ratsey had some kind of special cloth available that wasn't available to others. Probably a complete red herring though.

Michael4
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by Michael4 » Sat Jul 16, 2016 1:29 pm

JimC wrote:IST very vaguely remember that at some time Ratsey had some kind of special cloth available that wasn't available to others. Probably a complete red herring though.
Was this 'Vectis' cloth? An early dacron/teryelene or whatever

However this doesn't quite work because the earlier (1949) Ratsey has the wider cloth

Soggy Badger's comment regarding false seams sounds promising. Can't really tell which seams are false and which are real without unpicking...

Apols for going on, this is a topic about which I know nothing.
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roger
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by roger » Sat Jul 16, 2016 4:48 pm

I was always under the impression that the seams were close together to allow for stretching. A large gap between seams would stretch very differently to those close together thus allowing for sail shape to be maintained.
I really haven't a clue what I am talking about though.
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Stephen Hawkins
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Sun Jul 24, 2016 3:03 pm

Michael,

For every day sailing, look for the terylene sails that are already marked 672, they are your best bet. The 672 cotton mainsail was getting a bit threadbare, and it was usually used with a small terylene jib, I acquired another cotton main and jib from another old boat as a pair, but had not got to swapping the numbers over on the mainsail. This set, is your best bet for cotton sails, but you will need to the numbers swapped. The spars should be able to handle the marked up everyday sails, as long as you don't go out in too heavy weather.

Steve
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PeterV
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by PeterV » Sun Jul 24, 2016 4:44 pm

In Paul Elvstrom 's book he describes how his cotton Finn sails had seams 4" apart because it stopped the cloth stretching diagonally and so kept the shape better in stronger winds, so it's quite likely that the narrower seamed sails are either better quality or later.
PeterV
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Michael4
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Re: Cotton sails

Post by Michael4 » Wed Jul 27, 2016 11:11 am

Stephen Hawkins wrote:Michael,

The spars should be able to handle the marked up everyday sails, as long as you don't go out in too heavy weather.

Steve
Steve, I have seen the lateral crack in the mast near the hounds so will behave appropriately. The worst doesn't seem to run through too far so it should be OK.

Fortunately 'Cweed' gave me a wooden mast of the same dimensions (but heavier) last year so if the worst happens I am covered.
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