SJ23 Tech Tip F21, (Updated 2022-08-26) Hal Mueller, Bill Sweeney, Bob Schimmel, Mike Raleigh


Replace Your Sails - Loft Contacts, Tight Piston Hanks.

"In the spring of 1998 I decided to replace the mainsail and 110% working jib on my boat.  I called several big name sail makers for bids, asking for their "Chevrolet/economy/cruiser" line of sails.  I specified that I was looking for cruising grade sails, including full batten main, mostly for day sailing, occasional trips, and perhaps some local club racing in the future.  Both Ullman and Sobstad recommended that only the upper battens be full length.  Ullman pointed out that the top of the sail wears out first, and a full-length upper batten slows that process.  In addition, it gives great shape, while full length lower battens don't have as dramatic an effect as they restrict the shape adjustments that can be made during a race. 

All of the vendors were within about $50 of each other.  One of them has an office about 120 miles from the lake I sail at.  Their salesman/sail maker came to my boat to measure the rigging and spent a good bit of his Sunday morning teaching me about various sail designs.  We talked a lot about jib lead placement.  He also concluded, as did Mick Roberts, that the genoa track (abeam the cockpit) is too far aft for a small jib.  We kicked several possibilities around.  His favourite was to mount tracks on the edge of the cabin roof and run the sheets inside the inner shrouds; he believes this will give the best possible performance.  (See Tech Tip F06).  Almost as good, but easier to deal with, would be tracks paralleling the cabin, mounted roughly as far out as the chain plates.  I will install the tracks, a standard West Marine item, after the jib arrives.  In the meantime, I noticed that my 115% jib sheet blocks are removable from the cars, so I'll clip them to the toe rail for now.  I want to make several general points:

  1. Most sailors aren't sail makers and we don't know how to measure them or the rigging properly. 
  2. The sail representatives who do this for a living are happy to come to your boat to do their job.
  3. The "big name" vendors are not as expensive as I figured they would be.
  4. Our boats are old.  There have been many advances in sail design since they were designed.  A competent sail maker can help us benefit from those advances.

SPECIFICS - And now the specifics.  The working jib that North Sails made for me looks nothing like the original.  It is full hoist to the masthead and is quite narrow.  Instead of a short stubby sail, I now have a long thin sail, sort of like the wing of a sailplane.  I've noticed that the boat heals less, feels less laboured and is more comfortable in the wind conditions when I need a working jib.  The boat goes faster too.  It really dances across the water instead of wallowing through the waves.  See Note 1.  Now for those of us who are PHRF racers, there might be a penalty since the sail suit no longer complies with the "class rules" (on the other hand, there is no class association in any formal sense).  The boat has never been measured nor raced in PHRF, so I don't know the answer to this.  North Sails got my business and I was quite pleased with the results."  Hal Mueller. 

NOTE 1:  The style of jib that Hal is referring to is called a blade sail.  A friend of mine has a blade for his SJ28 and he swears by it.  He has both control and performance in the weather that Hal talks about.  Unfortunately I have to take his word for it since he sold the boat.

In 2003 a bunch of us who sail Wabamun Lake invited Dave Miller from the North Sails Richmond, BC loft to speak at our club meetings in Edmonton.  Dave offered the following tips;

  • A racing mainsail is generally loose footed for ease of adjustment.  It is easy to induce a baggy shape for calm upwind performance or to catch and push for downwind speed.  Not so a mainsail with bolt rope contained in a boom groove.
  • The shape of the back third of a mainsail is the most important.  The tell tales should always fly free.  This eliminate vortices which equate to drag.
  • A mainsail should have at least two reef points to prevent stretching the cloth in really strong winds.  Don't exceed 200 of heel.
  • Full battens extend the life of a mainsail as they prevent flogging.  The top two battens do the most to support the roach and minimize flogging.  A mainsail without battens is simply no good!
  • A spinnaker is generally made of nylon or Mylar.  Store it dry to prevent colour bleeding.

Bob Schimmel.

In Fall of 2020 Bill Sweeney decided to replace his aging jib with a North Sails blade instead of a factory dimension jib. 

The left drawing shows the factory 110% jib on a furler. 
Luff 20' 6", foot 9' 1", Leech 18' 2".  ~80 ft2.

The right drawing shows a blade Kerry Poe of North Sails, Portland designed some years ago for another SJ23 with a furler.
Luff 24' 10", foot 8' 6", Leech 22' 4".  ~95 ft2

NOTE - Its quite likely this is the same design Hal Mueller bought from North Sails, Portland in 1998.  Not only will this jib work better with the main, it can roll up correctly on the foil since it is a full hoist jib.  See Tech Tip F10 & Tech Tip F10b.


LOFT CONTACTS (1998), Hal Mueller

San Juan sail specifications are available from Tech Tip H02, Hull & Rigging Specifications.

  • Ullman Sails - Newport Beach 1(714) 675-6970.
    Main with 1 reef, $701.  If the top 2 battens are full length, $749.  Can use either 5 or 6 oz Dacron.  He recommended 6 oz Dacron, $881.  5-6 week delivery.   I also have an Ullman 150% genoa that I'm very pleased with. 
  • North Sails Portland, Oregon - 1(503) 282-4282.
    6 oz Dacron Main $690, $747 with 1 reef.  I didn't note whether this was full batten.  Jib $759, 6 oz Dacron.  Sails are made at the San Diego loft.
  • North Sails Vancouver, BC - Unit 5, 11911 Machrina Way, Richmond, British Columbia 1(604) 271-2111. 
    Online quote is available. 
  • Sobstad Sails - San Diego, 1(619) 226-2422.
    "Club Racing" Dacron" main - 1 reef, 1 top batten full, other battens 50% deep, 5.6 oz Dacron, $811. 
    Jib, 6.6 oz Dacron, $776.  (7 weeks delivery).
  • Minney's Yacht Surplus - Newport Beach, CA, 1(714) 548-4192. 
    I picked up a used spinnaker and heavy weather jib from them.  Both sails were as described but they found a 1/2" tear in the chute and deducted $25 from the price.  Nice.

_________________  OTHER LOFTS WELL WORTH CONSIDERING, (2021). ____________________________

  • Precision Sails - Precision has an incredibly accurate measuring system to order your new sail.  It guarantees 100% fit & performance which is why they are trusted by YouTube's largest sailing channels.  Located in Sydney, BC, Canada. 
    - In 2022 Buddy Wright ordered new sails; Main $700, 150% Genoa $900, 115% jib $700.  "I ordered their most budget friendly cloth with no add-ons.  The thinking is that the sails will rot from age long before they wear out, given the few number of hours per year and the very light winds that I intend to use them in". 
  • Rolly Tasker Sails - International sail maker.
  • Lee Sails - Located in USA and Canada.
  • Peak Sails - Order.  Located in Florida, USA.

The folks in the J24 or any other fleet that has strong, active competition, tend to buy new sails when they think they are past their peak performance.  Buying a used sail from them is cost effective even if it involves a bit of re-cutting.  You can spend hundreds of dollars less.  A tip:  If you buy a genoa that can use some re-cutting, have them place the clew about 2' off the deck for a 140%-150% jib.  What you get is a sail that twists less on a reach or when slightly eased, and it tacks more easily.  Your sail maker can explain this. 

An Etchells 22 jib is a wonderful replacement for the stock short-luff jib of a SJ23.  Other classes are potential donors as well, so any discoveries are good for everyone.  Glen Moore. 

Good Jib, Cheap - The fore triangle of a San Juan 23 and a J24 are the same size.  Both use piston hanks to attach their jibs to the forestay.  We picked up a lightly used, 150%, Pentex/Mylar genoa from a J24, a nice sail for not much money.  Note that we hadn’t even moved the spreader-tip wear patch when the photo was taken.  Also notice that the sail is the low-footed “deck scraper” you want as a racing sail.  A 150% Mylar genoa from a J24 shown at right fits an SJ23 perfectly even to the point of using the existing blocks and deck tracks.  Mike Raleigh.

TIGHT PISTON HANKS (2014) - To measure Panache's 150% genoa for conversion to roller furling I stretched the luff between two posts in a church basement and then discovered why I couldn't remove the wrinkles.  A wide open basement with a clean floor is almost as good as a sail loft as its much easier to see a problem with the sail stretched on the floor compared to being hoisted on a mast.  Turns out the metal eyes for the piston hanks were crimped right behind the bolt rope (limiting movement) and the piston hanks were crimped too tight around the bolt rope (preventing movement).  These two factors prevented the Dacron cloth from spreading evenly along the bolt rope, resulting in the wrinkles you see below.  For all the years I owned this sail I could never smooth out nor flatten its shape with halyard tension.  Even a 4x1 purchase in the basement was not enough to remove the wrinkles.  Its fullness is the reason I pulled it down as the wind piped up.  The full shape was great in light air though.  After I released the claw on each piston hank the sail cloth spread out smooth and the tension easily flattened the draft.  It may sound incredible but this problem affected this sail for at 30+ years.  So much for the cloth being stretched like all the local sail repair people said!  After this discovery I realized my 110% working jib from a different manufacturer had the same problem, so it received the same fix. 

If you have piston hanks on your jib, make sure they are free to rotate around the bolt rope.  This ensures superior sail shape to match the wind speed with minimum halyard tension.  A wrinkle free Dacron sail will pull much better, similar to a smooth de-iced aircraft wing.  Your jib halyard should never be so tight as to replace the forestay tension.

2014 (Before Furling, Above) -
This is my first day sailing Panache after taking a year off to heal my injured shoulder.  Very flaky winds but happy to be on the water again.  The jib halyard is as tight as the winch can pull it.  This sail trim is typical for the previous 30+ years.  Great for light air but was quickly replaced with the 110% jib when the wind piped up. 

2019 - In Spring 2019 Panache's 110% & 150% jibs were modified to roller furling by the North Sails loft in Richmond, BC.  They also repaired the leech of my genoa and added a foot tension line.  I'm pleased with the results since they are now totally glass smooth (wrinkle free) and either one pulls Panache like a team of horses.  OK, like a 426 hemi.  I know, I'm dating myself. 

UPDATED 2022 (After Furling, Below) - After years of trying to get together, my photographer friend returned for our "dance on the water" to capture this post furling photo for a comparison.  It shows the improvement from a wrinkled sail with hanks above to a smooth sail with furling below.  Its difficult to believe this is the same sail.  There is barely 50 pounds pull on the jib halyard and the backstay tensioner is tight.  I'm sailing at just over 6 knots and the wind was absolutely perfect that day with flat water.  By the way, the genoa is just as smooth at 2 knots, but sailing at 6+ knots is way more fun.  (Thanks Dave J).

NOTE - If you ship your jib to be modified, do yourself and the people in the loft a favour and attach a name tag to your sail AND sail bag before you ship it.  This way the loft can identify your sail when it is separated from the shipping label or the sail bag.  This simple task reduces the risk of loss and how you stand a good chance of getting your own sail back!  Also, attach a letter of instructions to your sail with supporting photos.  Its a simple way to eliminate guess work and receive what you ask for in a prompt manner.  Just saying!   Bob Schimmel.

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