If your sails have seen better days, you may think that replacing them with new sails is your only option. But think again – high-quality, competent sail repair can make old sails look, feel, and perform like new. Even sails that have been in service for decades can be restored and refurbished to like-new condition. One of the keys to getting the longest life out of your sails is to keep a close eye on your sails and have repairs done as soon as a problem appears. Here are some things to look out for:
Stains – The bad news is that stains on sails are an unsightly but unavoidable consequence of regular use. But the good news is that the right cleaning techniques can reliably eradicate just about any kind of stain, including stubborn rust marks. Returning stained sails to their original beauty is a job for trained and experienced sail repair professionals, however – no amount of washing or do-it-yourself stain removal will give a badly stained sail that like-new look and feel. But in the right hands, professional dry cleaning using tried and tested sail restoration techniques will eliminate stains and leave your sails looking almost as good as they did the day you bought them …. even if that day was thirty or more years ago.
Mainsail, leech edge – The leech or back edge of the mainsail is often the first part of the sail to show wear and tear. Be on the lookout for these signs of leech edge problems:
– You’re having trouble setting or trimming the main.
– It’s hard to flatten the back edge of the sail
– Using the leech line only seems to cup the back edge instead of helping to flatten or quite down the back edge.
– You see visible signs of wear along the leech/back edge of the sail. This wear may be visible as tiny holes in the fabric, or in extreme cases tears along the stitching may even be visible.
If you note any of the above, it’s likely that aging and use have created a problem that requires professional sail repair. As with all sail problems, the sooner you tackle it, the better the chances of successfully repairing it will be. But even severe cases of wear can be fixed by sail restoration specialists.
Batten pockets – Battens and the pockets that hold them provide an important role in shaping your mainsail. As you change direction with the boat, the mainsail moves from one side of the boat to the other. This causes the batten to flex and bend the cloth at the end of the pocket. Over time the cloth can become weak and even tear. If not caught in time the damage can be catastrophic, tearing out the whole pocket back to the leech edge and causing major damage to the sail. This is a problem that’s all but impossible to address on your own, but it’s a reasonably simple procedure for a sail restoration professional to repair. While making a repair of this kind it would be a good time to replace the elastic in the end of the pocket to keep proper tension on the batten to help maintain good sail shape. However it is important to catch wear in this area as soon as possible, so be sure to inspect your sails regularly for this kind of wear.
Bolt rope has shrunk or drawn up making it hard to raise or lower the main and to get a nice set on the sail – This is a common problem and one that many sailors are told cannot be fixed or adjusted. However the truth is that a good sail restoration professional may very well be able to fix it. In addition, the cost for this type of repair is relatively low and it takes very little time to do.
Different sail makers use various types of line or rope in the bolt rope. Nylon is popular because it has stretch, but it also will shrink. If you begin to notice the boom seems to be hanging lower at the clew or back edge of the sail than the tack or front edge of the sail, or if the bottom of the sail seems to have a noticeable bag or extra cloth, the problem could be the bolt rope.