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The Most Common–and Preventable–Sail Issues

It's par for the course that as sail age they'll need attention and reparis, however, there are a number of issues that come across our loft floors that could have been easily prevented. 

Just like your car needs regular oil changes, your sails need regular maintenance and inspection. 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.

Chafing/Rubbing Damage

While we all do our best to adjust or at least tape up any potential trouble spots on the deck and rigging, conditions and sail trim can often reveal chafing issues that might not have been identified in pre-sailing prep. Weather the sail is rubbing against something on the rigging or deck, or regularly trimmed too tightly against the spreaders, this repetitive strain can cause serious damage. If caught early, the professionals at your sail loft can make adjustments or reinforce the area of the sail in question. These reinforcements protect the sail, thus extending it’s life. 

UV Exposure

Sun exposure shortens the life of any fabric, and sails are no different. If you have a roller furler that lives on the headstay, the edge of your sail 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. 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 will save you from expensive and avoidable service invoices later on.

Failed Stitching

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 UV cover begins to peel off the sail – if not, your cover could come off while sailing.

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. 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 repairs.

Loss of Sail Performance 

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. If you feel that you’re heeling too much or are slower than you used to be, take a few pictures when you’re using your sails upwind and take them to the 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. This will keep you moving forward, reducing excess heel and increasing your on-water enjoyment!

Mildew, mold, or Running 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. If you don’t always have the luxury of drying your sails before storing them, reach out to your local loft for information on Sailkote and other products that combat 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 to bleed colors. This is a good indicator that the sail hasn’t been properly dried, and could be damaged or moldy. Cosmetically, extra coatings can be applied to stop colors from running more, but can be expensive. Noticing the problems early on and getting your sails to a loft for inspection can make the difference between a small repair bill and a major replacement cost.

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.

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