We seem to have spent a lot of time in recent months discussing spending priorities with folks getting ready to go cruising. One thing which continually surprises us is the how low good sails are on the list.
For all sailors, but especially for those who are heading offshore, a good basic suit of sails is as important as ground tackle and way more important than the type of dinghy aboard, fancy electronics, inverters or generators.
The difference in performance and comfort between a well shaped set of working sails, which hold their shape throughout a given wind range, and an old baggy set, is huge. The better sails keep you sailing more upright, reduce leeway, require less maintenance, and stand up better to the odd blow. The increased boat speed is more fun, and helps to reduce weather risks by getting you into port more quickly.
Surprisingly, in most cases the cost differential between really well built sails and those that are designed for casual weekend use in light airs is typically in the 10 to 15% range. Over time, this added investment becomes a saving as the sails last longer.
And if you are thinking of trading to a newer, faster yacht? Consider upgrading the sail inventory on your existing boat first. If your sails are not up to par, there will be a huge difference in performance with new sails. Odds are, if you have a sluggish 37 footer and put a really good suit of sails on her, she will outperform a much larger boat with lousy sails.