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some more tips

Still on the topic of sail care, also this article is more about “sail care” than “sail maintenance”. The reason is that, here again, I’m trying to widening the view and focus on how to keep your set of sails in good conditions for a reasonable period of time.

My first article on this topic was about precautions to be adopted when fitting out your boat in order to reduce unnecessary risk of damage and sail safely. In this second article, I will give you some tips on how to make the best of your sails arrangement during navigation and, after that, some basic maintenance rules.

Experience tells us that the worst enemy of sails is their misuse.

Each sail has been designed to withstand wind stress, stress induced upon mast and equipment, sea waves and – above all –a specific wind range. Knowing the wind range is essential for sail proper use and stowage.

A proper knowledge of sails and of their performance characteristics is useful to preserve the correct shape during navigation and avoid unnecessary and even damaging tension or “fluttering”.

Be careful not to sail against the wind to prevent leech fluttering and flapping as this may put sail performances at risk. It is a good idea to set sail immediately after hoisting with billowing sails. Very important is to adjust leech tensioning to avoid fluttering. Tension it a little more than necessary to prevent leech fluttering.

The tension needed changes as wind strength increases and the jib sheet is adjusted. Do not tension the leech line excessively: if it gets hooked, ease it off. The proper placement of genoa travellers will prevent leech flogging on the genoa.

During navigation, check manoeuvring carefully to be sure sheets work properly and sail efficiency is optimized. Wrong manoeuvring under strong tension conditions may cause deformations difficult to repair. At the end of your cruise, loosen halyards to prevent permanent stretching of the luff. The same applies to the mainsail luff. Then, release batten tension in order to reduce batten ends distorsion.

Also sail washing and cleaning are of primary importance: after sailing rinse sails with fresh water. Store your sails only when they are completely dry to prevent mildew formation and spinnaker colour bleeding.

When the sails are totally dry, store them in well-ventilated areas. Making sure sails are dry is as important as their initial rinse, as wet sails create mildew problems. Due to my experience, I recommend not to fold sails along the same fold lines to avoid small creases become permanent.

As mentioned above, removing mildew stains is quite tiresome (once again, make sure sails are dry before storing them). Apply a Spectra/Dyneema or Vectran mild household bleach solution with water and using a soft cloth to remove mildew stains from polyester sails. Then rinse thoroughly. Do not use a bleach solution on nylon aramid or laminated sails. Remove grease or oil stains by scrubbing with a soft brush and a biodegradable degreasing soap, then rinse.

Let’s focus also on mainsail and genoa covers. Zippers may not slide smoothly due to salt: a good habit is to rinse with fresh water not only the sail but also its cover. Lubricate sail cover zippers regularly to make them work properly.

As for any other equipment or accessory, care and prevention are highly important. Check seams and chafe areas. The sooner a damaged seam is repaired, the less it will affect the shape of the sail, especially of reaching sails, where tension can rapidly increase in a short time.

Not only seams have to be inspected: check also for small tears in spinnaker and asymmetrical sails cloth. Repair tears before hoisting but if you notice them after hoisting I recommend to lower the sail as soon as possible and patch the tears with some tape.

As seen in my first article, a wide variety of adhesive materials is available, which are very useful to have on board in order to avoid bigger troubles. Of course a patch isn’t a definitive solution and only a sailmaker can provide a proper repair.

At the end of this second article I share with you the same conclusion of the previous one: what described above are not complicated procedures but – once again – good sense tips that will help you to fully and safely enjoy your sailing.

See you at sea. Fair wind to everybody!

Osculati Srl
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