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Sail Care Tips


The sails are the driving force of your dinghy and there is much that you can do to ensure that they last as long as possible. You need to ensure that your boat is as sail friendly an environment as possible, that you take good care of your sails whilst they are in use and finally that you store them away correctly after use.

The Boat – Look closely at all areas of your boat that may come into contact with the sails and not just the obvious areas like the shrouds and spreaders. Look for any sharp edges such as cotter pins and tape them up with electrical tape. Any screw heads that have become sharp, perhaps through the use of an ill fitting screwdriver, should be filed back smooth.

Check the foredeck for any sharp objects or places where the jib or spinnaker can tear or jam, also check the spinnaker chute for anything which the spinnaker could snag on. Look inside the cockpit to check if there is anything that could damage the mainsail when it is lowered on shore between races, make sure the sail cannot blow out of the boat.

In use - When racing in very windy conditions consider whether you need to use your best sails. In club racing you could consider using an older set of sails rather than your best suit

Reduce as much as possible the time your sails spend flapping in the wind (flogging). Modern sails have a resin finish which decays in the constant flapping and the cloth becomes weaker and more elastic as a result, and laminate sails work harden which also shortens the life of the sail. This in turn allows the sail to change from its designed shape and lose some of its efficiency. Put another way, you go slower!

After sailing – If you are sailing on saltwater then you should try wash your sail down with fresh water. Though modern sail cloths are resistant to salt, the salt crystals retain water, consequently your sails will not dry out completely and will absorb any moisture in the atmosphere next time you sail, and therefore will be heavier.Also the salt will start to corrode any of the metallic fittings on the sail (even if they are stainless steel).

Storage – It is important that, wherever possible, sails are thoroughly dry before being put away. If it’s not too windy and it is dry, you could leave them up to dry them, before putting them away. However, don’t forget you must avoid flogging.

They should be rolled and not folded. Also by rolling them you are able to leave the battens in.

It is a common misconception that battens should be removed when putting sails away. In fact when you next use the sails and you put the battens back in, you run the risk of them not sitting properly on the elastic sewn into the bottom of the pocket. If that does happen then there is a strong possibility that the batten will wear a hole through the sail.

When rolling the sail, start at the head and make sure that you roll them in a direction that is parallel to the batten pockets so that the battens lay flat within the roll.

Try to avoid laying the sails on ground where they may pick up dirt. Whilst you can wash your sails it’s far better if you can avoid getting them dirty in the first place. It may be possible to carry them to a clean area of ground, if not you can roll them whilst they are resting on the boat.

Ultraviolet light will attack your sails so it is important to reduce their exposure to sunlight as much as is reasonably possible. This is not as big an issue on dinghies as it is on yachts, where owners tend to furl the jib at the end of a days sailing, rather than taking it down. If that is your preference then a sacrificial strip, ideally made from a dark coloured cloth, should be sewn along the leach and foot of the jib.

Mice love sailcloth as evidenced by the number of sails we repair that have a beautifully “drilled” set of holes through a rolled sail. Tempting as it is to store your sails in your dinghy, try to avoid it if you can.

If you lay up your boat for a length of time and especially over winter then you should; make sure your sails are clean and dry and take them home. If the sheets are still attached; remove them, give them a good soak in warm soapy water, let them dry out thoroughly and store them for the next season. The sails should be stored in a clean dry place, where they are not in danger of having things stored on top.

If you want to clean your sails, you need to make sure that you do not do any damage to them in the process. Here is a link to some comprehensive information on cleaning it’s towards the bottom of the page on the North Sails website. http://www.uk.northsails.com/SAILCARE/SailCareTips/tabid/7056/language/en-US/Default.aspx

Finally, we are happy to have a look at your sails and discuss with you any repairs that they may need, “a stitch in time”.


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