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Leeching the Life Away

For those of us with old boats and old sails, you know the sound. You’re sailing along on a decent breeze with the Bay more or less to yourself when it starts. You check the sky around you to see if there’s a helicopter near by, but there isn’t. That incessant humming, that steady vibration that shakes the rig, is coming from your boat — from your jib, to be exact.  

At the top of the photo, you can just see an unruly leech all bent out of shape on a 24-ft 1963 Columbia Challenger (this jib might actually be from the same year). Short of buying a new sail, what can you do?

© 2018 Nathaniel Beilby

This of course is just a symptom of a tired sail. The cloth becomes soft, loses its rigidity, and twists open near the head of the sail, causing the leech to flap and tremble convulsively. Without a leech line, and without adjustable jib leads, there’s nothing to do but watch and listen to the back edge of your sail shudder like mad. 

Is there a cheap fix for this problem, one that does not exceed the value of the item in question? Can something be done to remedy an old sail that’s reached this phase? Or is this just a simply a sign that it’s time to stop being so cheap and replace the damn sail? What do you think?

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Onboard Vestas/11th Hour Racing after dismasting on Friday. They arrived in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, on Saturday.
Jim Cotton sent us this postcard, a little the worse for wear after passing through the hands of the Postal Service.
The crews of Capri 25 My Tahoe Too! and Cal 28 Osituki enjoy an evening on the Estuary in an Encinal Yacht Club Twilight race last June.