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Fixing sails part 2

» Posted on 30 Oct 2013

Spring is coming.

The first warmer days are behind us, now the thought of the first sail in the new season is becoming more and more real. May comes around, we lower the boat on the water, rig it, put up the sails and …. oh, shit!!! It turns out that there is a hole here and a small crack there. Nothing else to do but take the sails to a sailmaker’s shop!! But sailmaker’s shops are very busy during this time of year and the payment for repairs will make your pocket lighter. May is the busiest month for sailmaker’s shops: orders, which began in the winter and spring are being finished. Deadline for the pick-up of most sails is set at the beginning of May (long weekend).

During the winter, when the old sail is taken to a sailmaker’s shop, after careful visual inspection, places are shown to the customer that have not yet fallen apart but there is a big chance of it happening in the upcoming season. Minor repairs are done for a much lower price than during the season, during this time you can also think about possible alterations of the sails for their improvement.

In summary, let’s get into the habit of inspecting sails much earlier, and not during the high season, when the sails are already on the boat!! This results only in benefits to each party.

Our concepts.

The subject of sail repair (whether it is routine maintenance or repairs for the new season – a repair is always a repair) was discussed in the March issue of “Rejs”, so I will not duplicate the same topics.

Before the new season, I would like to draw attention of the sailors to our new “idée fixe” concerning changes in the sails. Slides, full battens, lazy jacks on mainsails, furlers for foresails and mainsails. Most of us already know these solution, but not all of us know them from up close and not everyone uses them.

While on sailing vacation, it is not the time to make some major changes to the sail, because we just came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea. It is the time to develop a decision – what to change and why? Not having some of the solutions on your sails, having no contact with them so far, you can consult other users in regard to the above patents. And so, slowly, the idea turns into a plan, whose implementation is best during the winter. There is a lot to think about, even in the case of older sails. If you make an effort, you can really make your life easier on the boat, and even make it safer.

Old sins, such as:

– Flapping sail edges

– Falling apart batten pockets on the mainsail

– Tearing sail edges

– Fraying sail slides

– Eyelets falling out, etc.

all hinder the sailor’s work to a greater or lesser extent.

A winter visit to a sailmaker’s shop to repair the above elements, often brings radical solutions in regard to the alterations of the sail, which were maturing in the sailor’s mind in the summer, and after the season were confirmed by the sailmaker.

As I wrote earlier, a lot can be improved even in old sails. First of all – flapping sail edges – the simplest solution is to pull the trim rope into the leeches and mount cleats on the sheet.

Second – it is necessary to cut off the flapping sail edges in order to remove the fabric dragged over from the sail and additionally to saw in the trim rope.

In addition, short strips can be sewn on the foresail on the leech to prevent the leech from rolling to the inside. Such rolling notoriously happens in case of most older foresails. It can also be done on a genoa but here the result might not be so good – a genoa reaches far past the mast, and at every turn the strips will hit the mast.

This solution is possible but not necessarily recommended.

Third – foresail furlers – when we get tired of taking down and putting up the foresail, it is time for furlers.

Personally, I do not have a high opinion of furlers, but these devices have their pros, which means that they are often used. An old foresail can be converted for any furler, whether on wire rope, whether on an aluminium profile, without damage to the sail and without bigger problems.

Special fabric to protect against UV radiation is sewn on the foot and leech on a furled foresail (this is not a decoration, as some think). If the sail is not very worn, it’s worth doing, because the furled foresail, left “at the mercy” of the sun, reacts rather poorly to sunbathing. The photo below shows a burnt UV cover. (made of regular cloth, not intended for this purpose)








Speaking of furled foresails – strips can also be sewn on them, on the leech. They can be rolled strips, sewn horizontally (there are ones like this but rather stiff, due to which they are not very suitable for relatively light sails – 6-7m boats) or vertical strips sewn parallel to the luff. Below is a picture of a foresail with vertical strips.

Listwy pionowe na foku

Listwy pionowe na foku


Improving the mainsail.

I have already written about a flapping leech, now its time for pockets. Why do they tear so often? The first reason is improper construction of a pocket. In this case, the solution is to sew a new one, using Dacron with appropriate thickness, sewn with a UV resistant thread (it’s no longer pretentious, this is a standard!), closed in a way preventing the batten from falling out by itself. When the batten already falls out, the destruction of the pocket by the sailor himself begins in a very simple way – the wooden batten comes into action, often stretching the pocket, causing its tearing. The batten after soaking becomes a lot heavier and its inertia is large if the mainsail is flapping, which is not without effect on the funds in your pocket.

After the wooden batten breaks (which happens quite often if folding the sail with the battens) its sharp edges cut the pocket fabric when you pull it out, which usually does not occur immediately. Unfortunately, laminate battens are not as popular in sailing stores, and not everyone thinks in advance about ordering spare battens at the sailmaker’s shop.


We could talk for longer, or shorter, about virtually every element of the sail. Sailor’s thoughts regarding changes in their sails take concrete shape at different times of the year, but in summer the implementation of these ideas does not always agree with the date of execution of such a service at a sailmaker’s shop. The sun is shining, vacation time is slowly running out, there are less and less weekends, and the sail is laying at the sailmaker’s shop and waiting for its turn, which is the longer, the stronger the sun shines. With the multiplicity of adverse circumstances, the amount of repairs that are absolutely necessary to be done “immediately” causes that the sailor is not able to make them on his own, and putting them in the hand of a sailmaker deprives him of the possibility of sailing for a week or two, which for some is synonymous with the end of their sailing vacation. Sometimes the solution is an express repair at the sailmaker’s shop for a higher price (costs!!), but sometimes even this is not possible, because the sailmaker’s shop is just accepting its 68th express order and is on the verge of insanity.

Will we be wiser in this regard in the next season? We’ll see!!

Greetings from the “Narwal”.


Andrzej Kiełsznia