A sail’s lifespan often depends on how you care for them. Understanding why sails degrade lets you protect them to ensure they last as long as possible. Sun exposure, the amount of wind you sail under, and how you store your sails impact their health. Proper sail maintenance and care can help extend its useful life. Conserving your sails’ life is vital for protecting your investment, ensuring performance, and preventing you from capsizing. This article outlines six tips for making sails last.
1. Optimize your sails
Improving the quality of your sails through a few investments can increase its life. You can add a reef, patches, and a UV strip to protect the spreaders. Leverage the winter season to consult an experienced, professional sailmaker like Far East Sails to determine the best modifications to enhance your sails’ performance while increasing their useful life.
2. Keep your sails from heat and sunlight
While keeping your sails from the sun, especially when sailing on a sunny day, is nearly impossible, you can protect them whenever not in use. You can store them in a UV-resistant bag or keep them in a temperature-controlled or cool room for long-term storage.
3. Consider a recut to maintain the sail’s shape
Sails age over time, becoming stretchy and losing their shape. This makes it difficult to point, steer and control the heel. However, a recut can help you restore your sail to more of its original shape.
You can do this once or twice over the sail’s life. Tracking sail enables you to identify any shape changes as soon as they occur. Consider taking photos of your sail every year when out sailing, then share them with your sailmaker to analyze the shape changes and advise you on the best course of action.
4. Don’t motor with luffing sails
On the days when there isn’t enough wind to fill your sails, you may be tempted to motor sail to get a sailing feel while making headway. Nonetheless, if you can’t fill the sails with wind, consider keeping them down as you motor. Luffing your sails in the wind while exposing them to the heat isn’t good for them, and if you make it a habit, your sails’ life reduces over time.
5. Wash and dry your sails before storage
While it isn’t practical to rinse your sails with fresh water each time you go sailing, it would be great to periodically rinse them of grime, dirt, and debris whenever possible. However, if you expose your sail to salty water, consider rinsing it immediately with fresh water to remove the salt crystals.
If they rub against the sail material, they’ll weaken it. Always ensure that your sails are dry before storing them to prevent them from sitting with moisture in storage.
Here’s a good video that shows you how to properly wash your sails:
6. Get your sails inspected regularly
Consider getting your sails examined at least once a year to identify any issues before escalating. If you’re inspecting the sails yourself, look out for troubled spots like loose stitching or abrasion. Alternatively, you can have your sails thoroughly examined by an expert and bring up any performance problems you might be experiencing.
If neglected, sails can deteriorate quicker, necessitating a replacement and impacting your sailing experience. Use these tips to get the most out of your sails.