Sail delamination

First, the mainsail begins to delaminate and about a week later we discover that the genoa also begins to delaminate. This blog is about the difficulty of getting new sails and why our relatively new EPEX sails are delaminated.

We have 3 year old EPEX sails from Elvström Sails. We are very happy with how they have worked in terms of sailing, however, I am now more hesitant about laminate sails from a repair perspective because it seems that it is not possible to sew in them as in sails with woven fabric such as dacron or Hydranet.

Fortunately, the delamination was gradual and we discovered the problem at an early stage. It seems as if the delaminations have started at the luff where the sail has been furled and then spread along the joints between the outer laminates. There is also minor delaminations further back on the sails and minor vertical delaminations that occur when the sail is rolled up or folded when the sail is placed in a sail bag.

Since it turned out to be a problem with the glue that was used to glue the different layers in the sail, I do not know how long a laminate like this lasts when the glue is good. The good thing is that Elvström Sails took responsibility for the problem and manufactured new sails within the framework of the 3-year warranty they have on EPEX sails.

The effect for us was limited sailing ability for a few months, and an uncertain wait for new sails the weeks before we had planned to sail back to Europe in early May. I tried to fix the biggest delamination in the genoa with double-sided adhesive tape, but it was impossible to get the different layers in the sail smooth on the limited and windy space that the foredeck is. In addition, the threads in the middle layer had been pulled obliquely and the outer laminate had been stretched, which meant that it was not possible to obtain a smooth repair.

The sequence of events

February 14, I discover the first signs of delamination after an up-wind sail between Tobago Cays and Bequia in winds around 20 knots. I email Hallberg-Rassy for advice on how to best fix it.

February 16, Hallberg-Rassy answers that I should contact Elvström Sails which I do.

February 22, Elvström Sails gets in touch and wonders if I can send the serial number that is at the bottom of the neck.

February 23, Sends serial numbers and pictures of the delamination to Elvströms.

February 24, Elvström Sails announces that the glue they used in the sail is faulty and that they will replace it with a new sail within their warranty commitment which is 3 years. They will send a new sail to their partner in Antigua. In this situation, they tell us that the genoa does not need to be replaced.

March 5, After sailing up to Barbuda in 25 knots wind, I discover that the genoa is delaminated in several places, the same with the mainsail. Probably this delamination started already during the sailing from Bequia to Antigua which also had fresh winds and we sailed with torn sails.
Elvström Sails announces that the genoa has also delaminated. Since both sails have now started to delaminate quite a lot, my confidence in laminate sails has decreased and I wonder if they can make new sails in Hydranet instead of EPEX.

March 5, during our stay at Barbuda, I try to fix the largest delamination in the genoa with double-sided adhesive tape. The result is bad because it is not possible to lay the sail flat enough and that the layers in the laminate have stretched differently and can no longer be made flat.

March 12, Elvström Sails announces that we can get Hydranet in the sails and they are expected to be ready to be sent from Denmark on March 19th. Thank you Elvström Sails, much-appreciated flexibility. This is the advantage of buying from reputable companies.

March 25, Elvström announces that the sails are ready and that they will send them as express air freight.

March 30, Elvström Sail sends tracking numbers for both sails.

April 8, Elvström’s partner, AF-Sails announces that the sails are in Antigua but that the customs do not have the invoice document. I will contact Elvström who will arrange this.

April 09, AF-sails delivers the sails to the pier in Falmouth Bay where we load them in the dinghy. It blows too much for us to be able to easily mount them without the risk of anything being damaged. In a few days, the wind will decrease and we plan to set them up instead.

April 11, Now we have changed anchorage to Nonsuch Bay and the wind is weak enough to set up the new sails. We discover that the mainsail is not for our boat!
It’s for a Hanse 505. I send an e-mail to Elvströms about it and they reply that they will see what happened.

April 12, Elvströms tells us that our sail has been mixed up with one for a Hanse 505 and has been sent to Barcelona. They need to arrange for that sail to be sent to Antigua. We will return the incorrect sail to AF-Sails as soon as we can. Now we are about to run out of time to get the sail in time for the Atlantic crossing beginning of May.

April 16, Back in Falmouth Bay and leaves the Hanse mainsail to AF Sails for return to Barcelona. We find out that our mainsail has been sent away from Barcelona today, but not to Antigua but to Denmark. It became too cumbersome with customs to send the sail directly from Barcelona to Antigua.

April 27, AF Sails delivers the new mainsail to the jetty in Falmouth Bay, this time it’s right. We can start our Atlantic sailing as planned on May 1st.

As sailors, we do not lack things to do. During the sail exchange, we had several other issues to deal with. The power plant has stopped working and been repaired (capacitors). We have also had a minor cable fire in an electrical cabinet in the engine compartment which has also been repaired (bad cable connection), and the foot block for the mainsail’s outhaul has broken and been repaired. More about this in later blogs.

Up next

Despite problems with our sails, we enjoy life and in the next blog, you can follow us to Barbuda.

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