As we approach the time of the year when most people are thinking about laying-up their boats for the winter it is important to give some thought to your sails. All too often we see furling genoas being left up all winter whilst the boat is ashore; the same goes for mainsails that are left on underneath their sail covers. This of course means that the sails are at the mercy of the elements for extended periods of time; not only that but the tightly bound and folded sails combined with a damp salty environment become perfect breeding grounds for mould and mildew. We strongly recommend therefore that if the boat is out of use for any period of time, especially over what can be a long and harsh winter at the very least they should be unbent and stored somewhere dry. If you are in a position to rinse and dry the sails yourself and inspect them closely prior to folding them away that’s great but if not we are happy to take care of the whole process for you.
Sail repairs and service by professionals
Regular maintenance of your sails by skilled sailmakers can significantly enhance their working life, saving money for the owner and ensuring reliability when it is needed most. Sails operate in a hostile environment where sail and pollutants can cause serious damage to even the best kept sails. Similarly, constant wear & tear requires careful repair and maintenance with an end of season overhaul being essential for the longevity of your sail wardrobe. It is important that any damage, no matter how small is repaired as quickly as possible in order to prevent further damage occurring.
Recuts and retrofits
A simple recut can improve shape and give a new lease of life to a ‘tired’ sail. With improved shape comes improved performance and handling, something that is well worth thinking about whilst the sail is off the boat anyway. Retrofit extras include UV protection, luff flatteners for shape retention when genoas are partially furled, changing from hanks to luff foils, altering batten configurations, adding reefs to mainsails etc.
OneSails recommend that any sails that are salty or damp get sent to a sail laundry prior to winter storage. The laundry process will remove any salt and any other airborne pollutants which may harm the sails if left for any period of time. This in turn helps to prolong the overall life of the sail. It also has the added benefit of making the sails easier to work on if any service work is required, and means that they will be dry when they are put away for the winter. If they are put away whilst damp, they are more likely to attract mould or mildew and will not be in a pleasant state when you come to bend them back on next season.
The specialist sail laundries are essentially large warehouse type buildings. The sails are cleaned by a variety of processes. A few older sails that have either gone soft with age or which have a soft feel by design get washed in large industrial washing machines. There is very little (if any) in the way of detergents or bleaches that gets added at this stage, the sails are simply rinsed to remove any salt. The vast majority of sails and in particular racing sails don’t go into the machines. They are laid flat on a smooth concrete floor and hosed down with fresh water from a pressure washer with a special attachment. Whilst the sail is on the floor any spot cleaning is done to remove any green algae, mildew, grease etc. At this stage some chemicals such as mild detergent solutions will be used where necessary. If chemicals have been used, the sails are then rinsed again. Once the sails have been cleaned they are then hung up to dry before being folded and returned to the sailmaker.
Whilst we highly recommend sail laundry for any sails that are being stored for any length of time, the process does have certain limitations. Although the sails will be returned from the laundry dry, salt free and in an ideal state to be worked on or stored, the process is not a cure all that will leave the sails looking ‘as good as new’. Stains such as mildew, grease and rust may be removed if they are treated straight away but will stain the sail permanently if left for any period of time. Other typical stains are from diesel or machine oil. These cannot be removed fully and will always leave a stain though laundering them will remove any smell and surface residue. It should also be noted that there is no guarantee that stains including mildew, mould or rust will be removed during the laundry process.