Keven Talks Sails: Sail Care for the Sailor

SinC Sail Care Keven Piper

June 14, 2023

At the sail loft, we are always busy repairing and maintaining sails. Much of the damage we are fixing can be prevented with some simple sail handling tips.


Reduce Flogging

Flogging and flapping of sails degrades the structure and integrity of sail cloth. Our in-house cloth testing regime involves impact fluttering sailcloth that simulates aggressive tacks and flapping. In a ten minutes impact flutter session, up to half of the strength can be beaten out the sailcloth.

Fig 1 – Impact Flutter Tester







Fig2 UVDamageReduce Sunlight Exposure

UV rays are the worst enemy of sails. With furling headsails, make sure the protective cover is on the outside of the roll! (Don’t laugh, every marina has some with the cover on the inside) With mainsails, keep the sail cover on as much as possible to protect from the exposure.

Fig 2 – UV damage














Fig3 LeatherSpreaderBootsEliminate Chafe

Check your rig by wiping it down with terry cloth rag. If it snags on anything, fix it. Sometimes it is a Phillips screw head with a burr from a slipping screwdriver, often a split pin, or a light fixture. 

A file, a dab of silicone and some rigging tape will usually fix it. Try making leather spreader boots that slide nicely along sail cloth. Plastic tape or pvc boots can melt to the sail on quick tacks.

Fig 3 – Leather spreader boots







Fig4 WipeoutChange Sails and Reef

When you are overpowered with too much sail, you stretch and flutter your sails which leads to a shorter sail life. This is slow as well as hard on the equipment. Put up a smaller jib when it is windy and reef the main to keep the boat well balanced. Sailing sideways isn’t as fast as it feels!

Fig 4 – Wipeout







Leech Lines

Tension the leech lines just enough to stop any fluttering of the sail leeches. Make sure you let them off when you are done sailing and douse the sails for storage. Leaving them tight leaves small ridges that lead to sail bruising and horizontal wear lines.

Left: Fig 5 – Tight Leech Lines

Right: Fig 6 – Wear Lines

Fig5 TightLeechLinesFig6 WearLines


Fig7 HalyardTensionHalyard and Outhaul Tension

Having halyard tensioned correctly takes a load off of the mainsail slides and reduces wear on stitching and boltropes. A correctly tensioned headsail will have better shape and furl smoother with less wear on stitching. Ease them off after use to preserve the sail shape.

Fig 7 – Properly tensioned halyard














Keven piper 400Keven Piper, two-time Shark 24 World Champion, founded Hamilton, ON-based Bay Sails in 1998. Email:











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