I have Capri 14 sails for sale. They are totally 80's- Flourescent colors and everything. Only used twice. Jib and Main. They were a prototype set used for building a race set. So they are almost brand new. Photos on www.slosails.com. Listed under sails. $400 for the set.
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Well just like with most things you do get what you pay for. I acquire and sell dozens of used sails every year. Granted I'm a sailmaker but I think that for dinghys most people would benefit most from buying brand new sails. You can get a brand new full set of Capri sails for a little over $600. They'll be perfect and last for years and years. It's much better than the compromise I see of most people make of buying totally trashed out sails off of some random boat that has approximately the same dimensions. The sails are already far past their useful life, they usually need repair and they aren't going to last that long.
New sails that are in better condition will really make sailing more fun.
Most people say- ‘I’m just a cruiser, I don’t really care’. But shape really does matter. It will make a huge difference in your sailing experience. If you’ve ever sailed with brand new sails you know what I’m talking about. Things you read about in sailing books will actually work. Pulling the outhaul or Cunningham on a 25 year old baggy sail doesn’t really do a whole lot. But on new sails everything you’ve read will start making sense. Basically you’ll become a much better sailor by having the right tool for the job. And through practice you’ll be able to master the skill of sailing. But it’s much more difficult to sail well with a 25 year old blown out rag.
What is the right tool for the job?
When they are first built a proper set of sails should have that nice airfoil shape. Something that Bernoulli and the Wright brothers would be proud of. From the first time out of the bag the sails will be on a downhill slide in their useful life as an aerodynamically efficient airfoil. After enough flogging and wind and use the sails will eventually become what we sailmakers call a ‘white triangle’. How long will a set of sails be at their maximum aerodynamic efficiency? Maybe a year of hard racing when the sails are built of an excellent quality cloth. How long will a sail be a ‘white triangle’ with three corners? Maybe 30 or 40 years of occasional use. (Just a note: Laser sails will last a couple of weekend regattas.-for the national/international level events.)
There are a few things to take into consideration:
How much do you sail? Are you likely to sail enough to actually wear out your sails? If you sail a lot and are going to wear them out- buy new. Even if you're a recreational sailor- if you go sailing often you'll really get your money's worth. If the boat goes out a couple of times a year at the lake house then it probably doesn't matter.
In the used sail market there tend to be two types of sails available-
1. Used race sails- These are usually in excellent condition for daysailing but are no longer in racing form. (I highly recommend buying this type) If you find the guys at the top of a class they'll usually have a whole garage full of used sails. The cloth and construction tends to be of excellent quality. The converse of buying is selling. I try to get people all the time to sell all of their old junky sails and buy just one good set. When you have a good/new set who needs spares. EBay can be the best way to sell your old sails to help pay for a new set.
2. The original sails from a 25 year old boat. These kinds of sails are absolute trash and worth about $10 or less. OEM sails are usually made of the C H E A P E S T cloth out there. So they tend to be in really bad shape. And they are also really old and likely to have UV damage, badly shrunken boltropes that can't be relaxed, holes from being eaten by rats, etc...
Unfortunatly that leaves not much in between. If you have time and look around you'll probably be able to find something.
Tips for sprucing up old sails.
1. Don't clean them (too much). Old sails can be pretty fragile- so if the dirt doesn't come off with water, maybe a little soap and SOFT rubbing with the soft side of a sponge then let it be. There are some sail cleaning companies out there that do an excellent job especially for the price. But you also may just be best off buying better sails.
2. Make sure the battens in the main are the right length and stiffness. West marine sells some decent tapered battens.
3. Bolt ropes shrink. Over time the bolt rope on the main can shrink up to 1 foot! Even on a Capri. This makes the sail a big ugly bag. There are three types of attachment for mainsail boltropes and only 1 can be 'fixed'. Two types of boltrope the rope has stitches through the rope all the way up the sail. The type you can fix has a rope that basically 'floats' inside the luff tape and is only stitched for about 4"-6” at the head and tack. The solution is to undo the stitching at the tack and or cut the rope if necessary and pull on the sail until the rope sucks inside the sleeve. If you have to cut the rope be careful not to cut too far into the sail. This is the single best thing you can do to breathe new life into an old mainsail. Relaxing the rope on your old mainsail will allow you to pull the draft forward again with the Cunningham and will also flatten the sail by several percent allowing better pointing and speed. You can diagnose a shrunken boltrope if when you apply a good amount of tension to the luff you can’t get rid of the wrinkles. You do want slight wrinkles in the along the mainsail luff but only when it’s not under tension. You should be able to easily pull them out by stretching the sail only a couple inches. On some dinghy/big boat racing sails the sailmaker will leave 6” or so of rope sticking out at the tack. Then when the rope has begun to shrink the stitching can be cut and the rope will still go as far down as it should.
So now to answer the real question of how much used sails are worth? The key to keep in mind is that a brand new set of sails with good quality US made Dacron cloth for the Capri can be had for a little over $600. The all out race sets from the major sailmakers cost about $1200 new.
What is the condition of the sails you are buying? Do they need repair? Unless you are able to get the sails for free it usually isn’t worth buying dinghy sails that need repairs. You would be much better off just spending the money on better sails in the first place. Unless it’s obvious that the holes/damage was a one-time deal and is not systemic in the sail. If the sail has boltrope problems- usually the sail isn’t worth it as a boltrope/lufftape will cost $80-$100 to replace on a dinghy. Battens are another. Repairs around the batten areas will cost around $20 per batten. There is no point in spending $150 on repairs for a junker. If the sail was left in the sun you’ll be able to tell because the material will have yellowed. This is especially noticeable in the corner patches. UV damage is not repairable and affects the whole sail.
Do the sails actually fit the boat you have? If they weren’t for a Capri 14.2 don’t buy them. DON’T BUY SAILS THAT DON’T FIT!!! There is no payoff for dinghy sailors to have sails recut. You don’t go to the autoparts store and buy an oil filter based on the length of your car. It’s just as bad of a way to buy sails. If they didn’t come off of the boat you have they won’t fit. It’s that simple. A recut simply changes the edge lengths of your white triangle but you can’t easily recut the aerodynamic shaping of the sail without being invasive and thus expensive.
Well. Don’t spend more than about $150 if you are buying ‘White Triangles’.
Sails that don’t fit your boat are worth $000000000000.00 (nothing)
Sails that need repair might be worth a little. But they usually need repairs for a reason. And they are likely to be worn out anyways. Be sure to subtract the cost of the repairs from the purchase price.
Used race sails are probably worth 50% or less of their original value after one season of racing. If sails have only been out of the bag once or twice then you may consider paying a little more than 50%. With a real racing cloth the use is very evident. You could spend up to $600 for a racing set in excellent condition.
I would be hesitant to pay more than about 30% of the price of a new set for more heavily used older daysailing sails. So don’t spend more than about $150 for a set of white triangles.
If you can buy well built new sails keep in mind that they will most likely stand up to years of heavy use with no troubles at all. Your sailmaker can also work with you on which cloth will be the best for your needs in giving you the best balance of cost, speed and longevity.
Just my 2 cents.
San Luis Obispo Sail and Canvas