Fast Tip…by Dana Sims….Sail Care

FAST Tip – Sail Care Dana Sims
F.A.S.T = For A Safer Trip FT15-02

What can I do to preserve sail quality and extend sail life?

Sails are the most expensive wearable item on a boat. Like tires, batteries, and brakes on your car, sails wear and eventually need to be replaced. They are expensive. There are things that each of us can do, every time we sail, to prolong the life and quality of the sails we use. If you are out in the middle of Lake Huron (or Kent Lake, or Lake St. Clair) and have a major sail failure, it is going to be a long trip.

Applying to both Interlakes and Keelboats:
“Flogging” – avoid it. Our sails are made of a Dacron (polyester) weave, impregnated with resin. Resin gives the sail that stiff feel and helps the sail hold its shape when on the wind. Flogging of any type and for any duration will break down the resin allowing the Dacron weave to stretch. Once the weave stretches the sail will lose its ability to hold shape, especially in strong winds. Obviously, the less time that sails are allowed to flog, luff, or flap (whatever word you want to use), the better. Trim it, tighten it up, change sailing direction, bring it down — whatever it takes.
Wet sails.
Try not to put sails away wet. Wet sails may allow the growth of mold and mildew and cause sail deterioration. If you must fold or furl sails wet, then dry them when possible. If you find wet sails in a dock box, lay them out to dry before putting them back in the box.

On a run or broad reach? Make sure that the sails and boom are not too far forward and making contact with the side shrouds, spreaders, or any other standing boat rigging. The contact and rubbing will damage sails and rigging.
Dacron is the most widely used sail material and is a great material, but it is negatively affected by exposure to UV rays – sunlight! Interlake sails are vulnerable to UV rays, especially along the leech near the clew of a flaked sail when the boat sits at the “J” dock or in the slip for long periods of time without its sail cover.

Oh, and just a few more comments – try not to sharply fold the windows, and please, never drag sails on the concrete!!

And yes, I have seen people do this.
On our keelboats:
“See the blue”: The blue material that is visible when keelboat headsails are roller-furled is not just there for a pretty appearance. That blue material is called Sunbrella® and is there to protect our sails from UV rays. The same material is used for the covers on our main sails. Sails should be covered when not in use. If you are not using the main sail for a while, throw the cover over it. Done sailing for the day, button it up. Also make sure that the blue material shows when the headsail is on the roller-furling. If it isn’t, then the head-sail is rolled backward and the Sunbrella cannot do its job. It does happen – at one of our Annual meetings, I recall seeing a
picture of a proud Team on one of our boats in the North Channel. First thing I noticed was a backward wound jib (no blue showing).

Thank you to Jack Townsend and Thomas R. Baker for input on this topic.

Any question, comments, or suggested topics can be sent to

“FAST Tips are written by ASI members for the ASI membership, and apply to the operation of ASI vessels. While the contributing members may not be experts in a particular sailing field they are experienced members who have developed some “best practices” and wish to share them with their fellow members

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