The engine of a sailboat is its sails, and we need new ones.
These things are not cheap, for a 41′ boat like our Tartan, you can shell out $4000 – $9000 for a single mainsail. For a budget conscious outfitting like ours, we need to think hard about the cost, it will be one of our biggest purchases.
Sails are a very difficult purchase item though, you basically have three options:
- Buy Local. Somewhere close to you will be a local “loft”, a custom sailmaker. High quality, white glove service, keep money local, and expensive.
- Buy Big Name. There are relatively few big sail manufacturers. Doyle Sails, North Sails, Haarstick, Neil Pryde etc. These are the bigger companies who make sails, stock or custom.
- Buy mass produced. Sailmaking isn’t immune to the shift of manufacturing to lower wages. One of the biggest lofts int he world is Rolly Tasker in Thailand, and has some of the lowest prices.
It would see that the solution is simple. As with many things, you are getting what you pay for. Higher price is directly related to higher quality.
That’s where is gets more complicated.
Dacron is the most common sail fabric for a cruising sail, and there are relatively few manufacturers of it. But each manufacturer offers a variety of variations of Dacron at various price points. A very clear explanation is found on Mack Sails:
“Bob Bainbridge’s Challenge Sailcloth, offers four “brands” of sailcloth that is used by most sailmakers, big and small. Their price reflects their quality. For example, the popular cruising weight cloth, 8 oz. plus, in the least quality, Performance Cruise, is $9.78 per yard. The next level up is their High Modulus, which is $10.50 per yard. This High Modulus style is the most popular for practically every sailmaker’s cruising sails. Challenge’s premium brands are called High Aspect and Marblehead, respectively.”
And here is where the fun starts.
To get a sense of the price ranges of these three choices, here are quotes for a mainsail for a Tartan 41.
|National Sail Supply||Challenge 8.62oz High Aspect Dacron||$1,985|
|North Sails||Nordac ND82HA 1.00000||$4,017|
|Mack Sails||8.62 oz Challenge High Aspect Dacron||$3,221|
|Haarstick||8.2 MF Premium Dacron||$3,975|
|VT Sailing Partners||Dacron – Crosscut -Challenge 8.62||$3,852|
National Sail Supply is a US distributor for Rolly Tasker Sails. North, Mack and Haarstick could be considered “big names” and VTSP is our local loft.
Three of these seem to be using identical High Aspect Challenger dacron, one of Challenger’s premium brands. So it would seem that the most affordable choice is clearly the Rolly Tasker sail. It’s half the price!
So at this point the choice seems easy. So I do what every discerning buyer does, I go read some forum posts to find how satisfied people have been with Rolly Tasker. I’ll give you some quotes.
“I have had Tasker sails for over 10 years, sailed from the Caribbean to Phillipines and very satisfied.”
“i’ve bought a cruising chute, working jib, trysail and storm jib from them [Tasker] (thru their u.s. agent – national sails). i got what i ordered, on time, and the quality seems very good.”
“I too had a good experience with National Sails & Rolly Tasker, the main, a very heavy cruising one, is the best built sail I have ever owned and the price was excellent. My cruising chute, 2000 sq ft was a bargain too.”
“Bought a main from them last year and will be buying a new headsail later this year. Great quality and the fit is fantastic. Good price too.”
“I’m on my ninth sail from National Sail Supply / Rolly Tasker. AMAZING quality, fit and finish and I have never had a bad one. “
“I too ordered my Rolly Taskar sails from Dirk at National Sail Supply. I agree completely with Maine Sails description of the service from Dirk, and the quality of the sails.”
“Until about a year ago I would have fully agreed with what is said here about Rolly Tasker Thailand. However, in the past year I was talking to several people in marinas and anchorages here in Malaysia (less than 150 miles from the company location, so a lot of customers from this aera) that were between disappointed and extremely unhappy with the products or services. True, I have no firsthand experience, but the sheer number of unhappy customers can hardly be coincidence.”
“I am really sorry to say that we had a very bad experience with Rolly Tasker and National Sail. We received sails with a number of defects that even Mike Tasker said were the result of manufacturing.”
“Hanging around in Phuket the most common comment I hear is that they are amazingly consistent, but in their bad quality.”
“Poke your head in the loft if you make it to Phuket and take a tour. If you can, have a look on the inside of the tubes on which the cloth comes on and see if you notice some marked “seconds”.”
“I think the claim that Tasker is selling a lot of factory second sailcloth very doubtful at best.”
“XXXXXXXX has been to the loft and actually seen the rolls of seconds and further claims that RT is the largest buyer of seconds in the world.”
There are a bunch more like this. Either liking their affordable Rolly Tasker sails, or casting dark misgivings about their cutting cost corners and using lower quality cloth. The assertions that they buy lower quality “seconds” is almost legendary.
So what is Sailing With Kids to do? After blowing $2,600 on kids safety gear (darn kids!), our budget will take a big hit with a $3000-$4000 mainsail, and would eat up any chance at a headsail or storm sails.
If I had the money, I’d go with our local loft in a heartbeat. I’d love to keep that money local. To add even more complication, I am not buying sails for ongoing use. I only need them to last a year, Alchemy has a full set of racing sails that will stay at home for when I sell her when we return.
Anyone out there want to sponsor our sails?