Professional skipper Simon Phillips shares his tips on how to get better value from your sails

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A little care needs hardly any skill, takes a little time, but can substantially increase the life of your sails. Professional skipper, Simon Phillips shares 10 tips to get more from your canvas.

Avoid flogging

Sails flogging in the wind

Credit: Graham Snook/YM

The best way to maintain the strength and shape of your sails is to minimise the amount of times they are left flapping. Flogging rapidly degrades the cloth, therefore every effort should be made to avoid it.

 

Protect from UV

Sails that have been damaged by UV

Credit: Graham Snook/YM

Direct sunlight is a sail’s worst enemy as it eventually breaks down the cloth. For furling headsails, ensure the UV strip is on the outside when it’s furled. Keep a cover over your mainsail when it is not in use

 

Prevent chafe

A yacht sailing in the Solent

Credit: Graham Snook/YM

Chafe wears through sails. Check the ends and aft edges of spreaders and stanchion tops. Tape up split pins, sharp halyard exits and protruding screw heads. Check the front of the mast as tacking drags the foresail across it.

 

Wind range

A man lifts up a block

Credit: Graham Snook/YM

Sails stretch and lose their shape if you have too much canvas up for the prevailing conditions. Being overpowered also leads to being out of control and will slow your boat down, so reef when you know you should.

 

Leech lines

A man adjusting sails on deck

Credit: Graham Snook/YM

Ensure these are correctly adjusted to stop any fluttering in the main and headsail leeches. Fluttering will quickly degrade the cloth and damage the stitching. Both main and headsails are likely to have leach lines, so use them.

 

Halyard and outhaul tension

A man wearing red jacket winching

Credit: Graham Snook/YM

The right halyard tension takes pressure off mainsail cars and sliders, protecting the stitching. It extends a genoa’s life and improves pointing ability. Ease halyards, outhaul and reefs after use.

 

Battens

A man and a sail on a yacht

Credit: Graham Snook/YM

Check batten pockets at both leech and luff ends to make sure the battens are secure and to inspect the stitching in these areas. Check the battens too, especially after an accidental gybe, as they can snap.

 

Mast track

A man looking up a mast on a deck of a yacht

Credit: Lester McCarthy/YM

Keep the mainsail track and cars clean and free of dust and grit to prolong their life. Lubricating with a dry lubricant, such as a silicone spray, will greatly reduce friction for the cars and make the sail easier to hoist.

 

Headsail foils

A man holding sails on a yacht

Make sure these are in good condition, with no burrs, and that the foil sections are tightly bolted together and perfectly aligned. This eliminates bolt rope tears and lets you hoist and lower the sail without damage.

 

Storage

A woman wearing a blue jacket flakes a sail

Credit: Pete Oswald/YM

Flake the main differently every time to prevent permanent creases. Light creases will come out. Stow sails clean, salt-free and dry, ready for use. Dry a spinnaker before stowing, as darker colours bleed into lighter ones.