Mainsail from Hell

Poorly Constructed Sail
from Somerset Sails

new mainsail not to specs

new mainsail not to specs



The specs called for a “cruising  mainsail” with a 6″ headboard and 24″ roach for a 14 tonne vessel averaging 5000 NM each year.  Somerset Sails quoted the sail that way, but we got nothing like that. Instead we got a very poorly made sail.

When Jack telephoned and asked why we did not get what we ordered, Martin Padilla, the owner, said it was our headsail that produced the power, the mainsail was just a steering vane. And when Jack protested, Martin yelled, “You don’t know anything about sails.”

We always wanted a mainsail with a large roach, and by golly, when buying a brand new sail, especially one with full length battens, we should have gotten what we paid for or at least been consulted. Therefore we suggest that you Do Not Buy a sail from this loft or you may get a poorly made sail like this one and get abused when you complain.


A poor sail by a man who claims, “I served my time at North Sails.”


Twisted LuffWhy are the slides higgedly-piggedly? If Somerset Sails had laid them out correctly we would have been able to pull the first reefing cringle down to the reefing horn. Tides Marine recommend 2′ spacing between their slides. Somerset set some at 1′-6″ then others at 3′-0″  Somerset put slides on the reefing cringles, against the track maker’s recommendations, instead of leaving them free to engage the reefing horn.

Second issue here: They punched holes straight through the panel seams. Why weaken the seams further? There is no reinforcing tape on any edge.
When reefed, the luff rope is out of play, therefore all the vertical tension is then taken by that simple sail fold-over and those seams could let go after the sail has gone a few thousand miles.

P1040440Is this a proper clew on free footed mainsail doing 5000 NM each year?
We believe it’s way too small, there should be web strapping spreading the load.
Banyandah weighs around 14 tonnes. Would you trust this to claw off a lee shore?


Leach has NO Reinforcing

The batten pockets are one layer of cloth – nothing more. Battens Pockets are places of high wear and yet this “heavy duty sail” has the poorest and weakest. Why?

None of the sail’s edges are reinforced. All are a simple wrap-over of the sail.
On “cruising sails,” a sail that is used on a daily basis and does a lot of miles, it is standard to reinforce the edges to stop a seam from ripping as thread and cloth weaken with age.
Martin said, “Three step stitching is strong.” We say, “Three step stitching still chafes.”

Luff - No Reinforcing - Panel seam exposed to wear

Luff – No Reinforcing
Panel seam exposed to wear


Martin put slides on our tack reefing cringles which makes it rather hard to reef our sail without taking the slides off the track or using web straps. We thought a better layout of slides would get around this, but Martin said Tides specify slides at reef cringles. Wondering if this is so, we wrote to Tides Marine. Here’s their reply:

Jeff Strong, CEO Tides,
This is completely wrong.  We never recommend sail slides “at the reef cringle”.  There is usually a slide just above or below the reef point.  We recommend that the installer use our 2” reef slides at THESE points rather than our 1 3/8” intermediate slides…never at the cringle.

Tides Marine have been GREAT throughout this process. They promptly made up a sample track for us to trial fit, sent it air express at no charge, then when we gave them the OK, they made up a beautiful one piece track that easily slid inside our old track.

No headboard - No webbing

No headboard
No webbing



This is the head that Somerset Sails made for Banyandah, when we had specified, and paid for, a 6″ headboard.

This head definitely needs strops of webbing  to transfer the load to the built-up layers. But the cringle is so small it will be hard to fit proper webbing.



Number 2 Reef

Number 2 Reef


Do you see how the sail has crinkled and bunched up below the reefing eye? That is because the luff rope is no longer restraining the vertical pull from the halyard. All the stress is now being taken by the simple fold over seam.

And because the edges are NOT reinforced, when the stitching wears and the cloth ages, points of failure will be created.

Notice also how small the reefing cringles are? All the cringles are tiny.




Why don’t we just return to sail to Somerset Sails?

Many have asked why we don’t just return the sail, telling us that Martin has a return policy – Here is a copy of what Martin wrote to us

REMEMBER – We are in Australia – Somerset is in New York.

“The sail would have to be in our hands, here before we would issue a refund… We only discount the sail track systems to customers who buy sails from us, so I insist that you send it back as well or pay full price for it.”

Of course the sail track system has been installed, and the cost for shipping the sail back to New York is over $300. Therefore it is best for us to strengthen the sail best we can and then move on.

* Comments from other sailors


Mainsail from Hell — 8 Comments

  1. helpful post. I live in NY and was recommended to try this loft. Not now. Thanks for your candor.

    We paid a cheap price for a very cheaply made sail when we thought we were getting a good deal on a well made one, which is what we need down here in the Southern Ocean. Being verbally blasted by the owner when we complained put him straight in our bad books. FYI after a year and 7000 miles, the mainsail looks rather sad.

  2. I’m sorry you have had such a terrible experience. Last summer I bought a new headsail from North sails. On the very first sail we got t boned by another boat putting a large rip in my brand new sail. When I called North they said to get it to them quickly. I found they not only repaired the rip they replaced whole panels. The only cost to me was the shipping. This is the way a sail loft should treat it’s customers.

  3. Hi Jack,
    YOU ARE NOT AN HONEST MAN????? is he kidding!
    Martin of Somerset Sails owes me $7947.37 for cloth and hardware going back from February 2011
    I have been a sailmaker and been in the industry my whole life, won’t comment on the sail?
    Honest man? he’s got some nerve!

  4. G;day Jack & Jude it sucks to be ripped off ,I have been there myself . I recently bought a sail that was too big for my mast on both foot and luff I also had to fit slides on it as well, what I used was a 50 mm s/s ring on the clew and put in webbing fanning out over in an arc from the ring and sewed them to the layers of reinforcing I had also sewed on and it works a treat on my loose footed main,for my reefing points I did the same thing after my sail reinforcing patches I sewed two 50 mm rings about 60 mm back from the luff edge one on each side of the sail and then the webbing fanning out to take the load , and this works for me as from the rings i made a webbing loop with a smaller s/s/ ring which fits over the reefing horns on my goose neck . I hope this may be of some help ,you have a fantastic blog keep up the good work regards Andy

  5. Hi Jack,

    That’s a shocker! I do not claim to know too much about sails but I definitely know a shoddy job when I see one. Is it not possible to find a professional sail maker who can inspect the sail and write a report on the shoddy nature of the job and then make a claim through fair trading?
    It will all be behind you one day soon, just the bit in the middle getting in the way.

    I hope you can work something out.
    All the best

  6. without going into all the other stuff, that’s the worst looking mainsail I;ve ever seen. full of bag already, no chance of getting any shape or power into that!
    Is this guy a fair-dinkum sailmaker, or just some wally who picked up a sewing machine!

  7. Hi Jack,
    Have followed your adventures for a while with a degree of envy. Keep living the dream! Sorry about the massive disappointment with the main.
    Happy Sailing.
    Between Boats!

  8. Oh Jack and Jude, that is a shocker and I’m sorry to see that happen to you guys. As a fan of your writings (own Two’s a Crew, Tassy cruising guide and SA cruising guide) I am disappointed you have been treated so shabbily.
    Can you get the mainsail resown with extra reinforcing along the luff and batten pockets? On my Hood mainsail I have slides at the reef points and just use some Spectra braid through the cringles to pull it down to the horns. Seems to work just fine. Can’t do much about the Roach though. If I was there I’d help out with my Sailrite sowing machine, however I’m still far in your wake at Port Lincoln and won’t be leaving until Wednesday for KI and then Tassy.
    Hoping you find a good solution.
    SV Freespirit

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