Superyacht sail care tips from the sail makers
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 14/01/2020
Whether your sailing superyacht owner elected for a sailing yacht to enjoy the seas as they were meant to be experienced; for their classical romance, eco-friendly nature, or for regatta use, the sails are the vital and distinctive element of any sailing superyacht.
Having spent time aboard any sailboat or yacht, you will know more than most, the importance of proper sail care and maintenance. As such a big investment in time and money, sail crewmembers should have the utmost love and respect for the sails.
Yachting Pages presents superyacht sail care tips as told by professional sail makers – perfect for the beginner sail crewmember.
Superyacht sail care tips
Needing much love and attention, the level of sail care can truly make a big difference to the life and performance of any yacht’s sails, whether they’re Mylar, Kevlar or nylon.
Alongside the annual servicing and maintenance schedule, an everyday sail care routine should be adopted to prolong the life of sails on board.
Proper sail care helps sails to keep their fast racing shape. Most of all, proper sail care should reduce the risk of unexpected failure and help to keep repair and replacement costs low. It’s therefore important to adopt a positive attitude and learn the ropes early on in your career on board with these well known sail care tips:
1. Avoid flogging your yacht sails: It goes without saying that the best way to maintain the shape and strength of your yacht sails is to avoid the time they are spent flapping around in the wind.
- Sails should always be kept taught to avoid cloth degradation
- Always drop your sail rather than let it luff in the wind
- Motor with your sails down unless they can be filled
With this in mind, sailors should not move full throttle into the wind when hoisting up the main sail:
- It should be kept trimmed so it doesn’t flog
- Sail should be reduced in heavy winds
- Leech lines should be kept tight and tucked away to stop humming and fluttering
- Replace lost or broken battens on the main sail to minimise flutter
2. Reduce sail chafe: With flogging in mind, it’s also important to eliminate or at least reduce the chafe of sails against any part of the boat or spars to extend the life of the sails.
- Regularly check spars and rigging for sharp edges, taping all hardware
- Particular attention should be paid to the front of the mast, which claws at the jib leech and genoas on every tack
- Avoid dragging sails over non-skid decks and along the dock
3. Don’t exceed the recommended wind range of your sails: The quickest way to destroy a sail is to use it in stronger winds than it was intended for use in.
If in doubt, or when installing new sails:
- Liaise with your sail maker or sail loft to understand the recommended maximum wind speed
- Check the clew of each racing headsail to see if it has been marked by your sail loft or previous skipper
- If not in place, record the maximum range on the clew for all crew to see
Remember, when speed is not your priority, you could always hoist an older suit of sails to save your ‘best’ sails for when it really matters! Every hour spent on your sails will reduce its lifespan and performance.
Cleaning and storing superyacht sails
It goes without saying that regular cleaning, routine maintenance and proper storage is key to good sail care. With this in mind, be sure to:
- Regularly check your sails for small holes and tears, as this can be the start of a large tear
- Inspect the stitching, especially in areas of potential chafe
- Check for areas of delamination
- Reduce sail exposure to prolonged and direct sunlight
If you spot any holes or tears, or areas of deteriorating stitching and lamination, be sure to take sails to your sail loft for professional repair. Furthermore, always:
- Wash sails with fresh water when they get salty and avoid harsh chemicals
- Ensure sails are completely dry before storing them, especially if this is for a long time
- Beware of colour bleeds from dark sail bags onto lightly coloured sails
- Flake and roll sails in to sail bags to reduce long-term creasing, never stuff
- Avoid folding sails on the same creases every time
- Store each sail carefully in its respective sail bags, out of heat and sunlight and away from mildew-infected equipment
- Treat any mildew with a bleach and water mix as soon as possible to avoid its spread, but never use this mix on Kevlar or nylon sails!
On a calm day, sails can be hoisted and washed and dried in place on the rig, but be careful of washing/drying spinnakers on the mast as they can easily catch and tear on the rigging.