Spring is here, which means it’s time to bring your sails out of hibernation and give them a thorough once over before your first spring cruise. Assuming the sails have been properly washed, dried and stored at the end of last season, some simple checks will ensure you have a trouble free start this season.
Lay the sails out on a clean and dry floor. Check both sides of the sail for overall condition, and then follow these more specific checks:
1. Mildew: If your sails have been stored in humid conditions, they may have mildew growth. There are mildew removers on the market, but these can cause material and stitch thread damage, so check with a trusted sailmaker before applying anything to your sails.
2. Edge tape wear: The edges of a sail are finished with a folded and stitched fabric tape. These hold the leech, foot and luff lines in place. Check for holes, tears, UV degradation and thread deterioration.
3. Leech and foot line wear: The thin low stretch lines running along the leech and foot of the sail control sail flutter damage. Check the securing points and cleats, pulleys, etc. These are not expensive, so replace if necessary.
4. Batten pocket damage: Look for chafing, tearing and general damage. If a batten accidentally comes out of a pocket while you’re sailing, it can inflict serious damage on the sail.
5. Corner deformation: Inspect the stainless steel rings for deformation or sharp edges. File down and clean as needed. Also check the soft webbing corners for chafing. All corners are hand stitched across the reinforcements with a thick thread to prevent twisting forces from pulling the corner off. Check the state of the thread and re-do if necessary.
6. Panel join damage: Most sails are made of individual panels, which are glued and sewn together. These joins keep the sail together, so carefully check these for signs of damage.
7. UV damage: Ultra violet light damages most sail materials. Look at the integrity of your UV cover. If it is painted, run your hand over the surface to feel the condition. If it is a material cover, scratch the surface to establish the strength of the woven fibres.
Once you have carried out these checks, you can proceed to check the attachment points of the sail to the rig (sail cars/bolt rope, outhaul, reef blocks, halyard) with these simple steps:
1. Check hardware to ensure all lashings, bolts and washers are present and in good condition.
2. Check the position of the reef blocks on the sail and on the boom. Ensure the reef lines are correctly led and go to the correct reef block.
3. Control lines have many hidden meters inside spars. Mouse them out and check them visually.
That’s it; you are all set for a smooth start to the season! If your sails weren’t properly washed, dried and stored at the end of last season, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further tips.