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Three Sail Care Tips to Save You Money

Learn to sail like a pro with these cost saving sail care tips. If you want to learn how to sail like a pro, then you need to know the best way to keep your sailboat sails in great shape.

The last thing you want are sails that don’t provide you with speed, power, and performance. Make this simple inspection before the sailing season begins and after it ends.

Tools you need for these sail care tips

  • Pencil
  • Ribbon (bright colored)

Check the Seams and Pockets

Your sailmaker lays one panel on top of another to span the width of the sail from luff to leech. Each panel overlaps the other with a seam of from 1/2″ to 1″. Next, two to three rows of zigzag stitching are run down each seam to hold the panels together.

Look all along these seams from luff to leech for any areas of broken sailmaking thread. Circle those with a pencil (this will not stain the sail and can be removed in an instant).

This will help your sailmaker find those areas later on. Continue along each seam from the foot (bottom) of the sail to the head (top) of the sail.

Go to the leech (trailing edge) of the mainsail and check each batten pocket. Of all the areas that wear out, batten pockets get the #1 spot. Circle any areas along the batten pocket that show broken thread or chafed spots.

Mainsail Seams and Hardware

Check the luff (leading edge) of each sail next. Chafe (worn spots) can cause weakness. This weakness affects your luff hardware. On the mainsail, there are three ways that the sail feeds into your mast slot.

On small sailboats, a rope has been sewn into the luff from the tack (lower corner) to the head and along the foot of the sail. This rope, called a “boltrope” strengthens the cloth. The boltrope feeds into the slots inside the mast and boom to hold the sail in place.

On larger sailboats, holes are punched at intervals of 6″ to 9″ just behind the luff and foot boltropes. Next, the sailmaker installs a brass grommet (ring) into each hole. Then mast attachment hardware, called slugs or slides are attached to each grommet.

Sail slugs are used to attach a mainsail to a boat that has a slotted groove inside the mast and boom. The sail slugs are fed into the slot one at a time.

Sail slides are used to attach a mainsail to mast and boom that have external tracks that run along the outside of the mast and boom.

You need to check each grommet for wear and each slug or slide for cracks or distortion. If a luff slug or slide breaks while sailing, this can cause the sail to rip across a seam. Tie a piece of bright-colored ribbon through any grommet, slide, or slug that shows damage or looks like a potential problem.

Genoa and Jib Sail Wear

Furling Genoas may be convenient, but they wear like the dickens because they are kept out in the weather, exposed and vulnerable. The sacrificial leech cover that rolls over the Genoa to protect it when furled needs to be replaced when it shows signs of wear.

You also want to check all along the luff. Furling Genoas often have a stainless wire inside the luff sleeve that runs from the tack to the head. This wire feeds the sail into the metal extrusion of your furling gear. After a few seasons, you might see chafe spots along the luff where the wire rubs against the cloth. Mark these spots with your pencil.

Now you know just what to show your sailmaker when you take your sails in for an overhaul. This can save you lots of big repairs and huge amounts of money in the future when you catch small problems right now!

Learn to sail with more confidence when you know the best way to inspect your costly sailboat sails. You will be able to sail all season long worry free with more speed, power, and performance than ever before–wherever in the world you choose to sail!

Captain John shows you the sailing skills you need for safe sailing anywhere in the world. Sign up for a FREE issue of the highly popular “Captain John’s Sailing Tips” newsletter and learn how you can get instant access to over 425 sailing articles, sailing videos, newsletters and more at SkipperTips.

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