Sail Care and Maintenance
Sails can be quite expensive to replace, so it’s worth taking some time both during and at the end of the season to show them some love and help maximise their life. In this guide we will point out the main ways in which sails can suffer damage, and the best ways to mitigate these.
WEAR AND TEAR DURING USE
This is where sails suffer the most damage. If a sail is flogging or flapping for even a short length of time it can cause damage. The trick here is often as simple as making sure the sail is set correctly and that you sail sympathetically.
If you are new to sailing, a book such as ‘How to Trim Sails’ can be a really good investment. It will also normally get you from A to B faster. Check that things like leechlines are all set up and working correctly, and learn how things like car positions and backstay tension can affect the way your sails work. If you notice that your sails rub on things during use then it’s worth taking steps to prevent this becoming an issue too.
Spreader Boots Sail Wheels Hanks Battens
Spreader boots and sail wheels can help. If you notice that any of your hanks are damaged replace them quickly - a broken hank puts extra load on the remaining ones, and damaged battens should be changed as soon as you notice them too.
UV is a silent killer when it comes to sails. UV present in sunlight will slowly start to break down your sails over time, so it’s important to ensure that they are covered when not in use. Furling foresails often have a protective UV strip that protects the sail when it is rolled up. This is a sacrificial strip, so will need replacing periodically. Do this at the first sign of any damage, as they tend to fail quite quickly when they finally let go!
INCORRECT SAIL STORAGE
Sails made from modern fabrics are generally pretty resistant to rot, but they can attract mould and mildew if put away wet. Lightweight nylon sails can also alter shape slightly if not allowed to dry, so make sure you hang spinnakers to dry in somewhere sheltered such as a garage. Salt tends to hold moisture and increase the likelihood of mould and staining, so we always recommend giving your sails a wash and rinse when they are to be stored for any length of time. Wessex Sail Cleaner is great for this. Be careful where you store your sails too, things like mice can chew them if you aren’t careful, so it might be better to use your loft instead of your garage. If you run a heater or dehumidifier on your boat during the winter it’s actually probably best to just leave them aboard.
One last area not to overlook is transporting sails. A folded sail can leave a very vulnerable edge, and a rolled sail should never be stood on its end on a surface such as concrete. Make sure you have a sturdy sail bag for moving sails around, and never drag them on a rough surface.