Sails are a very important piece of equipment on your sailboat and should be at the top of your annual maintenance list if you want to preserve the longevity of your sails and the value of your boat. Properly maintained sails can increase the efficiency of your boat allowing you to maximize your speed on the water and the overall enjoyment of sailing your boat. A little care needs hardly any skill, takes a little time, but can substantially increase the life of your sails. Here are 10 easy tips to extend the life of your sails.
10 – Keep the Sails Out of the Sun
When not in use, keep your sails out of the sun. UV light is extremely damaging and can really shorten the lifespan of the material. Boats with a furling system can furl the sails when not in use. Be sure that the UV strip is the only part of the sail that remains exposed and the actual sail itself is tightly furled under this protective cover. Non-furling sails can be stowed away or covered. When no cover is available, make sure to remove, bag, and stow the sails below the yacht’s deck.
9 – Use Sun Covers
Think about using covers for your sails. Many owners utilize a sewn-on sun cover to protect those furled sails. WeatherMax and Sunbrella have some of the best options for covers. Some lightweight covers can reduce your weight on the boat, but they don’t provide much UV resistance. Most of these sun covers last for a few seasons before they need to be replaced. Like any other part of the boat, inspect them throughout the season. If they need to be repaired, get that done immediately. Its much cheaper to replace a sun cover than it is to replace the sail itself!
8 – Clean the Sails
After UV light, salt is one of the worst enemies of sails. Not only can it damage the sail material itself, but it can also cause friction and resistance when trying to furl your sail. Clean the sails periodically to maintain them. Boats in saltwater should wash their sails more frequently than those in freshwater. Particular sails need more cleaning than others. For example, the mainsail will probably need less washing than the headsail. Run your finger over the foot to see if you pick up any of that salty residue. If there is salt, your sail could use a deep cleaning.
7 – Maintain the Shape With a Recut
Over time, sails will stretch out and lose their shape, making it harder to point and steer. If the sail gets too stretched, it may bunch up when furling, making it harder to unfurl – especially common for in-mast furling mainsails. Recutting the sails can restore up to 90 percent of the sail’s original shape. You can usually have recutting done once or twice during the sail’s lifespan. If you want to track changes in the sail’s shape, take pictures of them at the start of every season. Those photos will help you know if the sails need to be recut.
6 – Inspect Your Sails
All sailboats need to have a thorough yearly inspection, including the sails. Find a clean place where you can lay the sail flat. After that, inspect every inch of the sail. You should immediately repair loose stitching and abrasions. Minor problems can turn into more significant issues. You might want to allow an expert to inspect your sails. Many sailmakers will take off your sails, transport them to the shop, and examine the entire piece. These experts can quickly repair any issues if they spot problems. Ask your yacht broker if they can help with a professional reference for your sails.
5 – Secure Your Rigging
Some pieces of hardware are sharp enough to cause harm to the sails. Even a blunt object like a spreader can damage your sail. Take a look at those spaces around your sails and see what should be covered. You can also take some spinnaker cloth and rub it across the surface of your boat and the rigging. Any place that snags needs to be taped down. Use self-fusing silicone tape to secure those areas and protect your sails.
4 – Look at Your Leech
A leech can tell you a few things about your sails. Make sure there is no excess leech luffing near the hinge point, or it can create a tear in the sails. You want to ensure you have the right amount of leech cord tension to prevent any damage. A loose luff cord will hum in the wind. If there is a crease across the leech, you need to have a professional sailmaker fix it, or it can cause a tear in your sails.
3 – Make Immediate Repairs
Most catastrophic failures can be traced to minor problems. Whether you notice a chapped spot or a small hole, get it repaired as soon as possible. Small repairs can save you from many headaches and hefty repair bills. Don’t delay on those repairs. When you spot a problem, make sure to get it repaired or replaced.
2 – Shield Your Sails from the Elements
Sun and salt are not the only elements that are hazardous to sails. Sails on a furler can be damaged from storms and high winds. The lifespan of the sail is often affected by the seasons and maintenance levels. If you are not planning to sail for a season, stow away your sails. With that, you can extend their lifespan. Find out about stowing options by contacting your sailmaker or yacht broker.
1 – Fold and Bag Them
Folding and bagging your sails is one of the easiest options to extend their life. All new sails come with a sturdy bag. Utilize those bags to protect your sails when you don’t need them. Along with bagging the sails, they need to be properly folded too. There is no point in bagging the sails if you throw them haphazardly into a bag.
With these top 10 tips, you can prolong the life of your sails. You don’t want to replace these sails on a regular basis since they can be costly. You can have functioning sails that will last for several seasons by taking a few extra steps.
Let Us Find a Yacht for You
At Yacht Brokers of Annapolis, we can help you find the right yacht for your next purchase. We have an extensive inventory of boats. Our team can even give you a few pointers to maintain the lifespan of your sails. Schedule a consultation at 410-206-2755.