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New Season Sail Check

April 4, 2013

When your boat comes out of the barn and spring prep begins, it’s a good time to take a close look at your sails to make sure they’re ready for another season. Use this inspection checklist to guide you through the process. Early identification of minor problems gives you time to take corrective action before they become major issues.

Sail Cloth
Sun damage can be detected visually and by hand. Sail cloth that feels and looks like tissue paper may be beyond repair. Pull on the cloth with the grain and across the grain of the fabric. If you can tear it, see your sailmaker for an evaluation or new sail quote. For laminate sails, lay the sail out flat or in large sections and rub your hands across the surface feeling for scratches or gaps. Scratches may indicate localized film cracking that can be difficult to see and is a common symptom of an aging laminate sail.

Stitching
Check the stitching on both sides of the sail; stitching on machine-sewn sails will usually give out before the sailcloth. Scraping at the stitching may reveal weak or sun damaged thread.

Hardware
Check spur grommets, pressed rings, eyelets, boltrope, and batten pockets for corrosion and damage to surrounding cloth. Also check the condition of stitching on hand sewn rings and reefing eyelets. Check all slugs, slides, shackles, hanks, and wire for corrosion, cracking, wear, or any other damage that can end a day of sailing. It’s a good idea carry spare replacement hardware with you on the boat.

Batten Pockets and Battens
Pockets should be hole-free and working as designed. Check each batten pocket by first inserting a batten and applying a little tension to it. The batten should not be allowed to float around loosely in the pocket. Pockets with elastic should provide enough resistance to hold the batten against the leech edge. Finally, visually inspect your battens for chips and cracking. Flex them slightly while sighting down the surfaces, as some cracking is not visible while relaxed. See your sail service provider if you can’t get sufficient tension on your batten pockets or need a replacement batten. 

Reinforcement Patches
Multiple layers of sailcloth are used to strengthen the corners and edges of the sail. Make sure these areas are in good condition and do not show signs of damage that can be caused by strain and chafe.

Headboard
Check the headboard for corrosion, halyard shackle chafe, and the condition of rivets. Check the reinforced edge where the sail cloth meets the headboard; flexing in this area can cause damage over time.

Reefing Points
Reefing points should be in a straight line slightly lower than the reefing tack and reefing clew and spaced 18” to 24” apart.

Roller Furler UV Cloth
Start by checking the sewing on the leech and foot edges of the UV cloth. These areas are always exposed on a furled sail and will be good indicators of the thread condition on the remaining cover material. If you can break the sewing with your fingernail, it’s time for a re-stitch. Some discoloration or fading of the cloth is normal after a few years of use. When inspecting the fabric, look for any holes or signs of chafing, and use the same procedure for checking sail fabric.

Note: There are many fabric choices for UV coverings; a common one is Sunbrella, which is quite a bit heavier than UV Dacron. This added weight can distort sail shape, especially on smaller boats. For this reason, UV Dacron is often the preferred choice.

Sail inspection should be done at least once each season. If time or space are limiting factors, contact your local Quantum loft for this service. Inspections and small repairs early on can often prevent large repair bills later.

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