SPECIFIC SAIL NEEDS
No matter what your sails are made of, there are a few guidelines you should follow to prolong the life of each particular sail.
Head Sail Care
The most common sail damage is caused by using headsails, particularly light No. 1s, in too much wind. If a puff comes through unexpectedly, ease the sheet to keep the sail from loading up too much. If the increase in wind is sustained, change to a heavier sail. Another common cause of damage is tearing or splitting caused by backing the sail against the spreader. The first thing you should do is have spreader patches installed in the proper locations. Also make sure the spreader ends (and the forward stanchion tops) are well-protected with leather and/or tape. Even with these precautions, however, the sail may fail if it's backed hard on the spreaders.
Here are some good ways to prevent failure:
- Make sure your jib trimmer casts off the jib sheet early enough on the tacks and doesn't overtrim coming out of the tack.
- Don't use wheels, rollers or pads that extend the spreader tip beyond the shroud (less protrusion means less damage).
- Inspect seam stitching in spreader areas periodically.
- Keep the leechline tucked away in its pocket, not flying free.
- If you have a grooved headstay, be sure to use the pre-feeder so you won't rip the luff tape.
- Don't trim on the sheet until the halyard is all the way to the top.
Mainsails take a lot of abuse because they are used in all conditions. Therefore, it's especially important to treat them carefully in order to maximize their useful life. As mentioned, the most important consideration especially with a Kevlar main, is to avoid flogging. Always trim the sheet hard enough to settle the sail and prevent hard flogging of the leech.
Some other ideas:
- Keep the leechline tight enough to stop flutter.
- Don't pull too hard on the Cunningham of a laminated sail.
- Make sure the battens are inserted properly.
- Use colored sailties when reefing so you won't miss them when unreefing.
- Make sure the reefing line is led so you don't pull too hard on the foot.
- Spreader patches will help the main last longer when it is eased against the rig for running.
Nylon is relatively stretchy, so it's able to absorb large loads without breaking. However, spinnaker material is quite light and can easily fail from use in too much wind. Explosive refilling after a collapse is definitely a problem. Another common cause of failure in spinnakers is tearing on sharp objects. This often happens on sets or takedowns, so be sure that these areas are catch-free. You should also be sure that your genoa halyards are free of "meathooks" and that the pulpit doesn't have any snags.
One Design Sail Care
Like all other sails, avoid flogging. Sometimes, such as when starting, this is unavoidable, but in between races you should definitely drop your sails instead of letting them flap. It's a good idea to break new sails in for a few hours before using them in racing conditions. Yarn-tempered sails should be rolled when not in use. If your sail has a window, avoid storing it in high-temperature areas like car boots/trunks. A good way to keep sails salt-free is to put them up on a CALM day, hose them off and let them dry in place.
At the end of the season, if you bring your sails to your North Sails Service Centre, we can check them over and do any necessary repairs. Though all sails age with time, properly cared for sails will give you much more value for your money than those left flogging in the breeze.
HOW TO AVOID MILDEW
- Ensure that the sails are aired regularly, especially after rain. This may mean unrolling the headsail at the mooring for an hour, on a calm, dry day.
- Exposure to sunlight is helpful but too much causes other problems.
- Do not put away damp or salty (the salt attracts and retains moisture), and store in a dry location.
- If the boat is to be left for more than a week or two, take the sail off the rig and store it dry, or arrange for somebody to air it regularly and especially after rain.
If mildew occurs...
Treat mildew at the earliest possible moment. If you do not, it can spread quickly. There is an excellent chance of getting mildew stains off when they are new, relatively small, and close to the surface. There is little chance once they have spread and set into the fibres.
Isolate mildew-infected sails, anchor lines, covers, and so forth, from clean sails. The quickest and surest way to spread mildew is to rub an existing growth against a receptive surface.
The single most popular mildew killer and remover is simple household bleach. This is also known as sodium hypochlorite, sold in the U.S. in 5.25% solution with water. This is potentially nasty stuff and manufacturers recommend diluting it quite a bit further before using. Tilex® and other "mildew removers" are mainly sodium hypochlorite in solutions of about 3%, which is still a pretty healthy dosage.
CAUTION: DO NOT use BLEACH (Sodium Hypochlorite) ON KEVLAR or NYLON, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!!!
This is one of the few known, proven solvents for these fibres. We have seen people poke their fingers easily through spinnakers rinsed in chlorine-treated (same as bleach) swimming pools. Of course, this means you should not clean Kevlar and nylon with Tilex® or other commercial mildew cleaners that contain sodium hypochlorite.
CAUTION: DO NOT EVER MIX BLEACH AND AMMONIA.
The result is phosgene gas which killed and disabled thousands in the First World War. This little home science experiment continues to kill and cripple people to this day.
For particularly stubborn, deep set stains, surface cleaning will not work. It is necessary to immerse the stain in a fungicide for 12 hours or more, to allow it to get into where the stain is. It is not necessary to use a particularly high concentration, only to get the fungicide where the stain is. No amount of vigorous surface scrubbing will do what a good soak will do.
After washing with bleach, always rinse thoroughly with plenty of fresh water. Bleach that is not removed can cause long-term structural damage that is more harmful than the cosmetic damage caused by the mildew.
If the mildew stain does not come out after one good wash with the proper equipment and chemicals, give up. Experience shows that further washings/scourings/ treatments remove very little additional stain and cause a lot of other damage.
Scotchguard® and related water repellents do not have any properties that either kill or prevent the recurrence of mildew. They may