Sail Trim:
Tips & Techniques

Sail Maintenances

How to care for your sails

Proper sail care and maintenance can increase the life of your new Ullman sails. Whether you race or cruise, proper storage and cleaning can mean the difference in speed as well as longevity.

  • Sailcloth Finishes
  • Sail Storage
  • Spreader Patches
  • How to Clean Your Sails

Sail care and maintenanceSailcloth Finishes

Over the last few years, sailcloth has become increasingly firm. The finish on cruising fabric today is what racing sailcloth was only 10 years ago. The finish or resin is subject to faster breakdown. It is important to keep the luffing of sails to a minimum, as this is an easy way to break the resin down. For the race or race/cruiser with dacron or laminated (mylar, Kevlar, etc.) sails, it is important to keep the fabric as wrinkle free as possible. It is the surest way to keep and maintain the racing edge. The best way to roll a sail is to start at the head of the sail and roll to the foot. When folding becomes necessary because of size and/or space, hold the clew and tack and fold accordion style toward the head. If your mainsail is stored on the boom, you may either roll it or flake it over the boom before putting on the sail cover.

Ullman Sail Storage

Always store your sails dry. Nylon and dacron are susceptible to mildew when stored wet. Also, heavily resinated sailcloth may soften up over a period of time when wet or damp. Nylon sail fabric can bleed when stored wet, so be careful to dry whenever possible. Dry your sails by laying them on a grassy area or hanging them up, if the wind is very light. Do not hang your sails in a breeze. Cruising sails, typically much softer than their racing counterparts, may be stuffed for weeks at a time without harm. In general, fold cruising sails whenever possible and store dry. NOTE: All sailcloth should be frequently washed with fresh water and stored as salt free as possible. Ultraviolet radiation can, over a short period of time, destroy both nylon and dacron. The use of cover materials for mainsails and roller-furling sails is a sure way to prolong the life of your sails.

Spreader Patches

It is important, especially on mylar and mylar/Kevlar genoas, to have spreader patches to protect the sail from chafe. We make every effort to apply them before the sail is built. But many times we don't have the proper location. In most cases we try to come to your boat and mark and apply the patches. If we are unable to come because of distance or time constraints, we ask you to mark the position(s) and send the sail to us. We will apply the patches and return the sail. The best way to mark the position(s) is to hoist the sail at the dock on a light wind day and either 1) send a crew member up on a bosun's chair with a marker, or 2) carefully note the location(s) relative to the seams. It is also important to properly cover the spreader tips with either rigging tape or Teflon tape. Go over the lifelines, stanchions and mast fittings such as spinnaker pole track and rings to make sure there are no sharp edges to cut the genoa.

How to Clean Your Racing or Cruising Sails

Dirt or caked salt: Use a soft bristled brush and liquid detergent. Avoid hard powder detergents and stiff brushes as they may damage the sail's finish and stitching.

Oil, grease, tar, and wax: Use warm water, soap and elbow grease. Hard stains can be removed with household bleach or common stain remover. Be careful to thoroughly remove all cleaning solvents or they will damage the finish.

Blood stains: Soak the stained portion for 10-20 minutes in a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach. Scrub and repeat if necessary. Rinse thoroughly.

Rust and metal stains: Scrub with soap and water, then apply acetone, M.E.K. or alcohol. Rinse thoroughly and dry.

Mildew: Hot soapy water is usually all that is needed. If necessary, use the diluted bleach approach. If a residual chlorine smell is still present after rinsing, a 1% solution of sodium thiosulfate will remove all chlorine traces.

Paint and varnish: Acetone and M.E.K. should remove most common paint stains. Varnish can easily be removed with alcohol. Use all solvents with care. Always rinse and dry thoroughly. Solvents and bleaches can damage nylon and dacron if not removed properly. Mylar and Kevlar sails can generally be taken care of in the same manner as their dacron counterparts. Avoid solvents whenever possible as they can break down the adhesives used to laminate the nylon to the substrate.

Please feel free to give us a call or e-mail us to discuss sailing, ask questions, or order a new sail. We are here to help you achieve your sailing goals.

If you have any questions about your Ullman sail cleaning that are not answered here, please contact us.