The 4 Most Common–and Preventable–Sail Issues

Unfortunately, it's not an uncommon sight for our service teams around the world – damaged sails that could have been saved with a little bit of maintenance or a simple tweak. Just like your car needs regular oil changes, your sails need regular maintenance and the parts have to be installed correctly. We repair thousands of sails a year and have identified the four most common – and preventable – disasters we see to help keep your sails off of our loft floors.


Here are four of the most common – and preventable – issues we see every year.

1. Mildew, mold, and runny colors

Letting your wet sails stay furled or flaked in a sail bag creates the perfect incubator for mold and mildew to grow. All sail cloth types, when stored wet, will promote the growth of mildew, but it’s really a problem with less breathable laminated sails. Keep in mind, where you store them is also important. Damp locations also attract mold and mildew. Regardless of how it gets there, once you have mold, your sail needs a professional cleaning.

Your spinnaker needs to dry too. Nylon, when left wet, has the tendency for the colors to run together. Once that happens, we can apply a special coating to help stabilize the colors, but it can be expensive.

The simple solution: You guessed it, make sure your sails are completely dry before storing them. If you don’t always have that luxury, look into getting an anti-fungicide coating to help protect the fabric. If you’re storing your sails for an extended period of time, click here to read our tips on how to store your sails correctly.

2. Your boat tips/heels too much

Ok, this isn’t exactly a sail disaster, but if you’re not careful, it can become one. A frequent complaint is that a boat heels too much, or even tips over, in heavy air. Though there could be some outlying factors, one thing to consider is the shape of your sail. A sail’s shape changes over time with use as the fibers stretch out and wear with time. Those changes can cause the boat to heel more than it should.

The simple solution: If you feel that you’re heeling too much or are in danger of tipping over, take a few pictures when you’re using your sails upwind and take them to your local loft. The service department can then identify where your sail’s geometry has changed, then modify it to take it back to its original design shape – that will keep you moving forward instead of tipping over and causing serious damage. It can also buy you a few more years before having to replace the sail.


3. Your roller furled sail is brittle and cracking

Your sail is probably rolled on the furler the wrong way. Sun exposure shortens the life of any fabric, and sails are no different. A roller furler that lives on the headstay should have a piece of sacrificial fabric sewn onto the side that’s exposed to the sun. When rolled correctly, that piece of fabric absorbs the UV damage while your sail fabric stays protected.

When people aren’t familiar with how a roller furler works, or if the UV cover is white like the sail, it can be difficult to tell from the cockpit if the sail is rolling the right way. When it doesn’t, your sail is left exposed to the elements.

The simple solution: If you’re not sure if your sail is rolled the correct way or have any questions, call your sails consultant or the local service department. Taking some time to meet at your boat to make sure the sail is rolling properly and is protected from the elements can save you $500-1,500 in repairs later.

4. Your UV cover is peeling off the sail

The same way your sail cover is exposed to UV damage, so is the stitching that holds it in place. UV rays weaken the thread over time, eventually to the point of failure. If you’re lucky, you’ll notice frayed threads before the cover begins to peel off the sail – if not, your cover could come off while sailing!

The simple solution: Annual inspections are key, but it’s equally important to inspect your own sail on a regular basis, looking for things like small tears and frayed threads. Some people say you can go 2-7 years before you need to have your sail checked, but if your boat’s in the sun a lot, it’s best to take your sails in for an annual tune-up. Your Quantum service department will spot weak areas before they become a problem, saving you time and money on your repairs.


Again, just like your car needs regular maintenance and tune-ups, so do your sails. Don’t wait for disaster to strike. Combined with proper sail care, regular inspections by expert service staff will help prevent large problems and ensure you get the most out of your sails.


Jason Massaroni

Service Manager
Quantum Sails Great Lakes


Email_template_0000s_0001s_0001_Vector-Smart-ObjectIf you enjoyed this article, click here to sign-up for our monthly newsletter full of more great content!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Walking Away with a Trophy and Great Lessons

Despite the light attendance, Severn Sailing hosted the J/24 East Coast Regatta Oct. 30 – Nov. 1. Though the numbers were small, the competition was tight!

The weather was perfect, with mid-sixty temps the whole weekend. Friday conditions were 10-15 knots out of the north, which made for shifty but flat water. Saturday brought sunshine, power boats, and light flukey winds out of the southeast. Sunday had some more shifty conditions with the wind ranging from 7-13 knots. Annapolis is known for streaky wind and having to go to the puffs instead of waiting for them to come to you, but for the most part that wasn't the case. Overall we enjoyed some of the best conditions I have sailed in at Annapolis.

I learned a lot about sailing in Annapolis last weekend, but there was one thing that stuck with me: in shifty conditions, get on the lifted tack in a good lane as quick as possible!

The start line was short and there were only fifteen boats. Our team talked about where we wanted to start and what end of the line we favored. In the grand scheme of things, the favored line didn't matter as much as being on the correct tack right after the start. Our goal became having a clean start and, if lifted, staying until the next shift or immediately tacking onto the lifted tack. Whether we had a good start or a bad start, we always got on the lifted tack trying to lead to the next shift first.

I will say it again: be the first to lead to the next shift!

Geoff Ewenson, my tactician for the weekend, never really said that was our strategy, but after the third race on Friday I started to see a trend. Whether we could tack and cross the fleet or duck the fleet or go straight for a few minutes, we were always on the right tack heading to the mark. That is a very good feeling when driving the boat.

The other thing I really concentrated on was rig tension. With it being so shifty and puffy, my go-to plan was set up for the lulls!

Friday was windier – hardly ever dropping below 9 knots – so I stayed at 24 on the uppers and 21 on the lowers. A good gauge for when to be at this setting is when everyone is always on the rail and the backstay has to be used every so often. 

Saturday and Sunday we stayed at 20-15 because it was so patchy across the course. We never went below base unless it was super flat and super light. (I did get caught one race below base and every time the breeze came up over six knots I had no height – the boat felt stalled out the whole time.) 

The East Coast Championship Regatta in Annapolis is a staple event for the J/24 fleet. As usual, Mark Rivera and Pat Fitzgerald hosted a great event. From Dock Talks on Friday to Flip Cup on Saturday, I wouldn't ever miss this event. (And Annapolis delivered on a great Halloween party in town!) So thanks to Pat and Mark for a great weekend, and thank you to my team – Geoff Ewenson, Ian Coleman, Wilson Stout, and Collin Kirby – I will see you next year!


Congratulations to Travis Odenbach – his three race wins put him ahead early and helped him win the 2015 J/24 East Coast Championship! For full results, visit the event Facebook page

Posted in One Design Racing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Spooky Stories from the High Seas

It’s almost Halloween, and it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing witches, goblins, and ghosts. You’re not even safe on the water, where mysterious things happen to captains and crews. Here are some of our favorite ghost ship stories from around the world.

The Flying Dutchman

This unnamed ship is known for its mad, Dutch captain – the Flying Dutchman – who challenged the seas around the Cape of Good Hope. It may have sailed in 1641, or possibly 1729. No one’s sure when the fabled ship set out, but it didn’t survive. Defeated by a storm, legend calls it a cursed ship, carrying the dead and leading others to a watery grave.

Despite the myth, sailors have spotted the Dutchman for centuries. In 1835, it nearly collided with a British ship, terrifying the crew before the Dutchman disappeared. In 1881, another British ship spotted the Dutchman near the tip of Africa. As recently as 1942 it was seen near Cape Town before once again vanishing.

The Mary Celeste

Undamaged. Fully Stocked. Abandoned.

In 1872, the Mary Celeste was found floating near Portugal. Her sails were up, there was no sign of struggle or damage, yet every passenger and crew member was gone. For centuries, people have struggled to understand what happened. What would scare a crew – and captain – so badly as to abandon a perfectly good ship? If the Mary Celeste had been attacked, or if the crew had mutinied, where was the blood and signs of struggle?

After the ship was returned to port, it took three months of investigations for the authorities to declare no evidence of foul play, but the speculation continued. In 2002, documentarian Anne MacGregor launched her own investigation. Even with modern technology and science, however, we can only guess at what happened to the passengers and crew.

Le Griffon

Not all ghost ships sail the oceans. In 1679, the French ship Le Griffon, built by explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, sailed its maiden voyage from Niagara to modern day Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was the first ship of its kind to sail the Great Lakes.

The ship left Wisconsin to return to Niagara on September 18 and was never seen again. Because the Great Lakes are prone to severe and sudden storms – especially in autumn ­– most people assume Le Griffon sank, but it does still appear near Green Bay under full mast before vanishing as sailors approach. In 2014, two Michigan treasure hunters claimed to have found the wreckage in Lake Michigan, but the 335-year-old mystery has yet to be solved.


We hope you have a happy (and ghost-free) Halloween!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment