Traditionally boat sails were made from cotton, canvas or other natural material, but now most of them are made from polyester. It is the most durable sailcloth available for cruising yachts. Yachts have been used for serious racing, recreational activities, family outings etc. and hence the sails of the yachts have to be maintained. Although sail cloths are all different they all have the same enemies and defending against them will increase the life of your sails and their performance. Adequate care and attention to sail care will not only protect but also prevent and prevention is cheaper than correction.
Sails are affected by sunlight. Exposure to sunlight is helpful but too much of it causes other problems. The sun’s ultraviolet rays cause damage to sails than anything else. It is said that the sail makers use specially treated sailcloth which absorbs and blocks the UV radiation. However, when this treatment has absorbed as much radiation as it can, it can no longer protect the sailcloth. Thus one can use ‘Genoa sock’. These are raised over the rolled up genoa whenever the sail is not being used. They provide better protection than a sunstrip but they are inconvenient to fit especially when it is cold and rainy.
Chafe is another enemy of sails. The more a sail rubs against any part of the boat or spars, the sooner it is likely to show failure. There are a couple of good ways to extend the life of sails: First, avoid chafe whenever possible, if you can’t avoid at least minimize it. The obvious areas for sail chafe are lifelines, stanchions and spreader tips. Apply patches to the sails at these points.
If the water remains in the sail cloth, it can cause mildew. Treat mildew at the earliest possible moment. If you do not, it can spread quickly. There is an excellent chance of getting mildew stains off when they are new, relatively small, and close to the surface. There is little chance once they have spread and set into the fibers. It can be avoided by ensuring that the sails are aired regularly, especially after rain. This may mean unrolling the headsail at the mooring for an hour, on a calm, dry day. Short exposures to sunlight is helpful. If the boat is to be left for more than a week or two, take the sail off the rig and store it dry, or arrange for somebody to air it regularly. The best way to maintain the strength and shape of your sails is to minimize the amount of time they are flapping in the breeze. Sail flogging degrades cloth properties quickly, so every effort should be made to avoid these actions. In heavy wind, reduce sail enough so you don’t have to flog.
When not in use, your sails should be stored dry, free of salt, and folded in their sail bags. At the end of the sailing season, you should remove all your sails from the boat and clean them. Spread out the sails on a clean, non-staining surface and rinse them off with fresh water. Scrub the sails gently with a soft bristle brush. You can use a mild laundry detergent in plenty of water for dirty areas. Don’t use any bleach. Inspect your sail for broken threads, batten pocket wear, sleeve wear, and chafing around the headboard in tack areas periodically. If excessive wear is evident, contact a local sail maker for repair. A temporary repair can be made with spinnaker repair tape or white rigging tape.
Thus proper sail maintenance is easy and takes little time, but it can make a big difference in the life and performance of your sails. One should remember that a little care can maximize the value of one’s investment.
Compiled by Vishwaja Salian.