When your main gets old
Not everyone can afford a brand new main every season. Most people are racing with mains that are two, three or four years old. Many of these sails don't look too great. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but can you make an old sail go faster?
As mainsails age, they generally get tighter leeched, draft-aft and fuller. This means you should compensate with the following:
- Use more mast bend to remove bagginess from the middle of the sail.
- Use more cunningham to pull the draft forward.
- Be careful not to over-trim the main sheet (which would make the leech even tighter).
There are several ways you can breathe more racing life into your weathered main. One of these is to have your sailmaker retrofit to the longest possible battens. A major reason that mainsails lose their shape is because batten flogging breaks down the material at the inboard ends of the battens. Extending the battens into the low-load area of the sail can do wonders for that wrinkled, baggy look.
Another suggestion is to take photos of your main in action, and show these to your sailmaker. Often he can perform a face-lift that will move some of the draft from the back to the front again.
Treat your main well so it will stay fast as long as possible. Don't let it flog, and be sure to fold well after each day sailing.