Features June 2005 Issue

Update: Discount Options for Sails

A flurry of e-mails in support of Atlantic Sail Traders prompted us to re-examine a veteran supplier of discount sails and set the record straight.

In our March issue article on "Discount Sail Options," we were unable to offer readers details about the products of one well established discount sailmaker and broker—Atlantic Sail Traders. Bud and Betty Fahrer, who along with their son Steve, are the proprietors, couldn't respond to our queries, we later learned, because they were out of the country. In 2001, Steve was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, and at the time of our e-mails and phone calls, the Fahrers had accompanied Steve to China for experimental surgery.

Because of this unfortunate timing, we offered what information we could glean from the company's website, and then wrote that we couldn't recommend Atlantic Sail Traders due to the company's lack of response. This struck a chord with more than a dozen readers, all loyal customers of the firm who each sent us e-mails relating the positive experiences they'd had buying sails from AST. That prompted us to contact the company and learn more. We now amend our statement and offer the following details so that readers can be better informed about the products and services offered by this company, which has served sailors for 20 years.

Atlantic Sail Traders deals with a broad range of customers owing to the fact that the company is also a full-service loft making cruising and racing sails. A full 50% of AST's business is used sails, but unlike many lofts this size, there is a full-time sail designer on staff. Betty Fahrer allows that some of the company's sails are built in Hong Kong through a long-standing arrangement with a large sailmaker there, but the majority are built on site at the company's facility in Sarasota, FL.

Betty offered us quotes on both used sails and new ones. She first proferred a used Sobstad mainsail that closely matched our requirements, though it was a little short on the foot and slightly long on the luff. It had a rope luff and was rated as "Good" by AST, meaning that it was judged to have 70% or 80% of its life left.

Made of 6-oz. cloth, the sail had three reefs, but only partial battens. Betty told us that they could make alterations for an additional $75 so the sail would fit our sail plan. "We do this type of alteration all the time," she said. Without alterations, that sail was $485.

Before quoting on a used headsail, she cautioned us about the need to get precise pin-to-pin measurements for the luff length, and be sure of the correct luff tape size of our headfoil. She also instructed us on how to do that, and offered to send luff tape samples so there'd be no mistake. Then, she suggested a "Good+" UK Tape Drive headsail with UV cover, spreader patches, leech and foot lines, and reinforced corners for $770, but cautioned us that this sail was more suitable for club racers than cruisers because it shouldn't be kept on the furler for more than a few days at a time. She also mentioned that the company's inventory changes rapidly because they also buy sails, so clients are encouraged to check back frequently if the right sails aren't immediately available.

A more suitable option for our requirements would be one of AST's new sails. Those all come with triple stitching, radial corner reinforcements, leather chafe guards, leech lines, draft stripes, telltales, and a sail bag. "All of our sails are computer designed to insure good shape and performance," said Betty. "We only use top-of-the-line Contender Super Cruise Dacron. It has a UV inhibitor to make it last longer and has a great history of holding up well over a long period of time." All sails come with a 30-day, no-questions-asked inspection period and a 2 year warranty.

Betty quoted a new mainsail out of 7.4 oz. cloth for $1,368, with a fair sized roach ($1,284 without the roach). The new headsail would be $1,403, and delivery would take four weeks.

These prices are very competitive relative to those offered by the other discount sailmakers we evaluated, and AST's clear interest in customer satisfaction can't be overstated. We're pleased to recommend Atlantic Sail Traders.

Contact - Atlantic Sail Traders, 800/946-3800, www.usedsails.com.

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