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General Sail Care

Although this article is not specific to RS400 sailors you may find some points of interest.

With Thanks to Hyde Sails for allowing the RS Association to re use this article

During the Season

At the end of any sail, may it be a three week cruise or a round the cans race, you have to decide how to store your sails until the next time. We are lucky that modern materials are resistant to moisture and salt crystals, and they can be left on the boat for the duration of the season without incurring unnecessary wear and tear. But if you do have the opportunity to rinse them in this period you should always take it. Salt holds moisture into the cloth, and the crystals will chafe the fibres. Also, glued sails degrade quickly when left wet in the bottom of the boat.

Sails made from any cloth are best rolled, as this does less damage to the cloth finish than the creasing that is inevitably involved in folding or flaking sails. Roller furler systems have this advantage, although it does mean the sail is left to the battering of the elements while it is up there, particularly sunlight. That’s the importance of the sunstrip. If you leave the sail on the furler make sure you ease the halyard tension, otherwise you can permanently stretch the sail. You should never leave a sail on the furler unless it has a sunstrip fitted, even for one night. If you take your sails off the spars, roll them if at all possible, and get bags big enough that they don’t need any further folding. If they are stored down below, politely ask your crew and guests to avoid sitting or standing on them as much as possible!

The one sailcloth material that is badly affected by moisture is nylon; it loses strength and changes shape when wet. Because sails take longer to dry when salty, the best treatment for a nylon spinnaker is to take it home each time and rinse it on the drive or lawn. Alternatively, leaving the sail loose out of the bag in the forepeak is the next best thing. Don’t hang sails in the rigging to dry them, unless it is completely calm – the flogging does more damage than leaving them wet! Incidentally, none of the materials like excessive heat, so avoid leaving them in a car in the middle of the summer.

At the end of the year

Although sails can mostly be left to their own devices during the summer season, it is well worth storing them properly for the winter lay-up, as even hard wearing modern materials will not take kindly to being left damp, salty, dirty and creased for six months. The main rules are to rinse and dry the sails, then leave them loosely rolled. Wash them if possible – some dirt, like rust, can be corrosive. Once clean store them somewhere dry, cool and out of the sun. Hyde Sails offer a winter valet service that will take these jobs off your hands. In addition they will check for routine maintenance, which is outlined in the following section, and do any necessary repairs.


At the end of any season’s sailing you should have a good look at your sails to see if there are any areas that need work. And it’s a good idea to do the same check before a period of extended cruising or race regatta, particularly if you will be some distance from the services of a sailmaker.

The luff, foot tapes and bolt ropes are a good place to start. Chafing is the biggest problem, particularly if it has worn right through the cloth to the rope. It can then catch in the groove as the sail is hoisted and tear badly. If you have slides, hanks or cars, have a good look at each of them to see if there is any cracking or signs of fatigue failure (discoloration or roughening of the surface).

The attachment of any hardware to the sail is a potential problem area, because of the fastening of soft sailcloth to harder metal and plastic. The headboard, batten pockets and battens, cunningham and outhaul rings are all worth careful inspection for chafe and broken stitching. In fact all the seams are worth scanning to see if they are showing signs of wear.

Last updated 16/06/2011