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Heed the Warning: Sail Horrors from the Loft Floor

Some of the sails that have graced our loft floors would make your jaw drop. The worst part is, much of the carnage could have been prevented with regular maintenance and knowing what to keep an eye out for. Read below as one of our service technicians narrows in on the two main areas to monitor to help keep your sail from being a loft floor horror.

Ultimately, the two largest factors that will impact the longevity of your sail are overall time used and how often the sail sees the sun. The thread and the body of the sail are the easiest places to monitor if your sail is starting to break down. The best way to ensure the longest lifespan for your sail is to have it inspected annually by your local loft–service pros are trained to spot the warning signs and less obvious concerns to help you keep ahead of wear and costly repairs!

The Thread

Typically, the thread on sails lasts about two to three years in salty, sunny conditions and about three to five years in low sun, and freshwater conditions. It is always a good idea to do a self-inspection of your sails before you begin the sailing season. We recommend beginning with the head, tack, and clew of your sails to make sure they are in working order. To check the integrity of the thread, pluck the threading that sees the most sun with a pick, and if it breaks, it’s time for a re-sewing. You can also try plucking the thread with your fingernail if you don’t have a tool handy. If the thread holds, it should be fine for the season. If you are lucky enough to sail year round, we recommend checking the thread every six months just to be safe. After inspecting the corners of the sail, you’ll want to check the luff, leech, and foot. If the threads break in any of these areas, especially the leech, then it is time for a resewing. 




 

The Body

UV Damage
The color of the sail is a good indicator that it’s fallen victim to the sun’s UV Rays. If the white has turned a light yellow or brown color, or the color of your UV cover has faded, it might be a good time to replace the sun cover or the entire sail. When it’s new, woven polyester is very strong. If you try ripping a new sail with your bare hands, it won’t happen unless you have a knife or a seam ripper. Often times, when the fabric is UV damaged, it will also feel quite brittle and can easily be torn by hand. If the fabric is this sun damaged, it is important to get it taken care of as quickly as possible as the material will only become weaker and more susceptible to major tears. If significant UV damage goes unrepaired, it can cause serious problems including seam failures, and it's no fun to deal with a torn sail on the water! Check your sails often for any imperfections and get some help from your local loft if you have any questions or concerns about your sails.

Here’s is example progression of woven sails from new, to sun damaged, to catastrophic failure.



Sail Shape
Many times, even if the sail material is degraded, the shape of your sail can be totally blown out. All sails stretch over time and therefore, the designed sail shape can only hold for so long. Normally, the draft in the sail moves aft towards the leech as the sail stretches and gets deeper, making the sail harder to de-power. When the sails are harder to depower, the boat heels more and there is much more resistance on the wheel or tiller. Stretched out sails can make your time on the water much more challenging than necessary. If you're having trouble controlling your sails, call one of our consultants. They can help assess the sail shape and recommend next steps, such as a re-cut.

All of these problems can be avoided by regular self-inspections and service and inspections by your local sailmaker. The solution could be as simple as re-stitching your current sail or a small re-cut.

 

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The Discussion

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