How To Look After Your Sails To Prevent Damage

Maintaining a sailboat, regardless of the type, involves a lot of work but no job is quite as important as looking after your sails. If they are not kept in tip top condition, they will underperform and will ultimately need replacing much more quickly.

There are two main things that will cause premature damage to your sails; the sun and flogging.

 The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to improve the lifespan of your sails and avoid unnecessary damage. In this guide, we’ll show you some of our top tips!

One of the biggest causes of premature damage to your sails is the sun. Now, while we can’t take the sun out of the sky, we can offer protection to the sails when it is moored or anchored. But we’ll go into this in more detail later on.

The UV rays from the sun will quickly cause your sails to weaken through the process of breaking down chemical bonds within the atoms of the sail. This is all a bit science-y, we know, but understanding how the high energy of UVB rays can affect your sails is likely to give you the boost of motivation to take good care of them.

As well as the unfortunate effects of the sun, your sails are also susceptible to damage from flogging. When the sails are in use and they flap excessively, this will quickly wear down the resin finish. Once this has degraded, the degradation of the overall strength and integrity of the sails won’t be far behind.

The good news is that modern technology vastly improved sail handling so flogging should only really occur in an emergency situation. That said, you’ll still want to limit this as much as possible as even just a small amount could potentially be damaging.

What Are The Best Ways To Prevent Damage To Sails?

Understanding what causes damage to your sails in the first place is a great way to help sailors find  the necessary precautionary measures. We have some great advice for maintaining your sails, so keep reading to find out more.

1. Protect Your Sails From The Sun

As we have discovered, UVB and sometimes, UVA rays can cause undue damage to your sails. The solution is simple; buy sail covers. While these are also prone to sun damage, the process will take much longer so they’ll afford your sails some decent protection. Plus, they’re less expensive to replace.

One of the great things about sail covers is that they allow you to leave the sails rigged between uses. However, if the boat is going to be out of action for a while, it is highly recommended to remove the sails and store them below deck for maximum protection.

It is also worth mentioning that other elements can play a part in the degradation of your sails. Leaving them out in stormy or windy weather, for example, is a surefire way to reduce their quality more quickly. Your sails come in a protective bag so when they’re not in use, put them back inside for safe keeping.

2. Protect From Sharp Edges

Your yacht might look sleek and beautiful but there are many pieces of hardware that have sharp edges. These are capable of causing significant damage to your sails so you’ll want to make sure they are covered. It’s worth having a good look around to locate any hidden threats and one of the best ways to do this is to use some spinnaker cloth.

Wipe the cloth over various surfaces on the boat and take note of any areas where it snags. These can be covered with some strong tape to offer protection to your sails.

It is also worth pointing out that blunt objects could pose a risk of damage as well so don’t take it for granted that these don’t need to be covered.

Moreover, if you really want to avoid chafing which could result in holes, you’ll need to give the sails extra protection. Most will come with reinforced areas that are likely to be exposed to things like spreaders but don’t just assume that this means these areas won’t become damaged.

3. Get Your Sails Recut

The lifespan of your sails will depend on their quality but as a general rule of thumb, sails will last between 1700 and 2700 hours. Of course, if you treat the sails too harshly or don’t maintain them well, then this lifespan will be reduced.

Naturally, sails will degrade over time and one of the things that happens first is that they lose their shape. When this happens, controlling your steering becomes much trickier. However, it is possible to have your sails recut which will prolong their life. It’s best to work closely with a sail maker and document changes so that they can assess the best time to perform the recut, if it is needed.  Typically speaking, you could do this as many as two times per sail.

4. Keep Track Of The Condition Of Your Sails 

It is entirely possible to have your sails checked by a professional and you should aim to do this at least one a year. A lot of services will come and remove the sails, take them away and return them to you so you don’t need to lift a finger.

That said, it can be useful to learn how to inspect the sails yourself…you know…just in case. Doing this involves working in a location with good light and that is free from any moisture. Lay the sails out flat and start from one end, closely inspecting every part of the sail.

You’ll be looking for things like loose stitching or areas that have begun to weaken or have suffered abrasion. If you notice any kind of damage, it is vital to have this seen to as soon as possible. It can be tempting to leave minor issues for another time but things that initially seem insignificant can quickly turn into much bigger and more expensive problems.

Conclusion

Without sails that are fully intact, you’d have a really hard time controlling your boat. It is important to have a good maintenance schedule for the sails and this involves understanding what could potentially cause damage to them.

With flogging and sun being among some of the most serious factors, it pays to ensure that your sails are fully protected, especially when they are not in use.

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