Keep­ing your sails in the best con­di­tion pos­si­ble not only saves money by not hav­ing to re­place them as of­ten, but also im­proves per­for­mance.

Sailing World - - Contents -

Mor­gan Trubovich has the pro-level view of how to care for your race sails.

O By rule, on a Farr 40, our new sails have to last an en­tire year. At one Farr 40 event, for ex­am­ple, we won the Mediter­ranean Cir­cuit us­ing a main­sail that had been used for 132 race legs, a light jib that had been used for 20 up­wind race legs and a 1.5-ounce spin­naker that had done 34 down­wind race legs. With a full rac­ing cal­en­dar, this means we need to do ev­ery­thing we can to keep our sails in the best con­di­tion pos­si­ble. Sails are slower as they age, so it’s crit­i­cal to keep them young as long as pos­si­ble. Here’s how we — and you — can get the most out of your sails by sim­ply main­tain­ing them cor­rectly.

First Setup

Be care­ful re­mov­ing your new sail from its box, es­pe­cially if you are us­ing a blade to cut open the box. Nick­ing any sail is a bad start to its life with you. A lit­tle nick in a big white spin­naker could have a dis­as­trous re­sult on the wa­ter if it goes un­de­tected un­til the sail is loaded. If you are open­ing on a rough sur­face, lay a tarp first. Even if you don’t mind your sail get­ting a lit­tle dirty ( and you should mind!), you will be sur­prised at how many stitch­ing threads can be dam­aged by pulling a sail across a park­ing lot. You don’t want to chafe through stitch­ing that is hold­ing pan­els to­gether.

If your jib or main­sail bat­tens haven’t been fit­ted al­ready, be gen­tle when you fit them. Stuff­ing bat­tens too tightly into sails (rather than cut­ting them a lit­tle shorter) can put a lot of stress on the soft front ends that are of­ten in the body of the sail, where there is not a lot of struc­ture.

First Sail Check

Al­lot time to break in your new sail be­fore you race with it. This is not only an op­por­tu­nity to as­sess the shape and char­ac­ter­is­tics of the new sail, but it’s also an op­por­tu­nity for you to set the stan­dard of care for how you would like your team to treat new sails. In a race sit­u­a­tion, we may not have the abil­ity to take as good care of a sail as we can on its first sail­ing day, so every lit­tle bit counts.

Team cul­ture is built around the knowl­edge that the bet­ter we care for our sails, the bet­ter our per­for­mance will be. When we re­ceive a new jib on a TP52, Maxi 72, or Farr 40, we make it a point not to let any­one stand or sit on any part of the sail. To fur­ther re­in­force the stan­dard, if we need to check a jib on both tacks, we jibe in­stead of tack. Of course, the sail will be tacked a lot in its life­time, but why start now? Every lit­tle bit of care counts.

We take ex­tra care when drop­ping the sails. We’re not in a race sit­u­a­tion, so if we can drop a kite or jib gen­tly, we do so. Maybe you sail on a boat that bricks its jibs for rac­ing? Or on the Farr 40, af­ter flak­ing our jib and zip­ping up the bag, we fold the sail into thirds. This cre­ates a much smaller pack­age, which can help us cen­tral­ize weight down below and makes it eas­ier to pull the sail out of the main hatch. How­ever, on a sail-check day with a new jib, we leave the sail long, with­out fold­ing it into thirds un­til race day.

Once fin­ished with the day, if at all pos­si­ble, leave your sails flaked and flat, not bricked or bent or folded more than

they need to be, and make sure there is a min­i­mum of weight added on top of them from other sails. Also, avoid leav­ing them in di­rect sun­light or in ex­treme heat.

Race-day Prep

Min­i­miz­ing dam­age to our sails on race day starts with load­ing sails onto the boat. Don’t drag sails on the ground, over life­lines and stan­chions or over deck hard­ware. If you don’t feel like you have enough peo­ple to trans­fer your sails safely, get more peo­ple in­volved. Get the sails down below as soon as pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially if the sun is shin­ing, to pro­tect them from un­nec­es­sar­ily bak­ing in their bags.

We learned a lot about stor­ing sails below deck on the Farr 40. For 18 years I have kept a log of how many legs every sail does every day. This spread­sheet was very help­ful, but in the early days, there was an anom­aly that we didn’t un­der­stand. How was it that the J4 (heavy-weather jib) could look so worn out when it only had three race legs on it?

This prompted us to have a look at what was hap­pen­ing to this sail when it was down below. The J4 was a manda­tory sail to have on board for the rules, so it was al­ways down there, even if it was used in­fre­quently. This was when we learned how much dam­age we were do­ing to sails in the way we stored them, trans­ferred them to the boat and how we treated them when they were out of sight. As a re­sult, about 12 years ago, I added a new stat on our sail-us­age spread­sheet. We now record how many events for which the sail was aboard. A sail that was only used for seven legs might need re­place­ment be­fore a sail that was used for 22 legs if it has been aboard for many more events.

The les­son here is to stack sails in a way that min­i­mizes wear and tear while they are down below. Leave a path­way for the sewer per­son to get to the front hatch to drop the kite. Make room for some­one to get to the back of the boat to clear a trav­eler line or look through a rud­der win­dow. Avoid step­ping on the sails when they are not be­ing used, pe­riod.

Race Day

When we hoist the main­sail on Bella Mente we al­ways use the en­gine to back down. This re­duces ap­par­ent wind­speed and there­fore re­sults in less an­gry flap­ping as the sail goes up. If you have a bolt rope in your main­sail, make sure to guide it ef­fi­ciently into the groove. If you are pulling the sail up, make sure you can see the sail go­ing into the groove. If the sail gets caught on any­thing and starts to tear, your quick ac­tions might save the day. This could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween a small re­pair and a day-end­ing dis­as­ter. The same ap­plies to the first hoist of the jib. Have some­one help guide the sail up. The per­son pulling the sail up should al­ways be look­ing for­ward at the pre-feeder.

On the Farr 40, we never ten­sion the jib hal­yard all the way un­til we are ready to race up­wind. Even in­side the start­ing se­quence, we have our jib hal­yard down a few inches — enough to see big wrin­kles — un­til the fi­nal ma­neu­ver be­fore the start. The fi­nal ma­neu­ver could be a tack or a jibe, but the key is that the jib must be ten­sioned and then al­lowed to flap or “un­load” once be­fore the race starts. If it doesn’t flap or un­load af­ter ten­sion­ing, it will jump up too much in the first tack off the line, and you will chase your tail try­ing to get the hal­yard ten­sion right.

On Plenty, we of­ten ten­sion the jib hal­yard in­side the fi­nal 90 sec­onds of a start­ing se­quence. This might seem la­bo­ri­ous, but I have a firm be­lief that the big­gest ag­ing we see in race jibs is the luff be­ing tor­tured when sail­ing. Luff ten­sion causes a break­down in the fiber and film in the front of the sail, so as the sail ages, the draft drifts back. When the sail gets “thin on the en­try and deep in the back,” the driver has a harder time driv­ing to the sail, and aero­dy­namic per­for­mance is vastly re­duced.

Avoid stuff­ing the jib down a hatch just be­cause you be­lieve you don’t have enough time for a real flake into a bag. Stuff­ing a jib with bat­tens is a ter­ri­ble way to care for the sail. My rule is, make sure that any call to change the jib during the run comes early enough that there will al­ways be enough time to get the old sail into a bag. An­other rule is if there is a doubt about how much time there is, go for the bag any­way. You will be sur­prised how quickly the team can flake and bag the jib under pres­sure. Stuff­ing a jib down a hatch should be re­served for true emer­gen­cies — not self- im­posed time con­straints.

Be­tween races, we bag the jib. It keeps the crew from walk­ing over it, and it re­duces sun dam­age. If you have a long de­lay and have done all of your prestart prepa­ra­tion, drop and bag the jib to give it (and the trim­mers) a break, rather than sail­ing around with it up.

Event Pack-up

In 1999, in prepa­ra­tion for the 2000 Amer­ica’s Cup, our team, Amer­i­caone, had pur­chased the old Oneaus­tralia boat and its sails for use as a prac­tice boat. The boat and sails had been packed up in 1995 in San Diego and then left in stor­age. When we opened the sail con­tainer, it smelled like the sails had been sit­ting in wa­ter for four years — be­cause they had! At the en­trance to the con­tainer was a white­board sit­ting on a chair. On it was writ­ten, “To the poor bas­tards who open this sail con­tainer, good luck!” The fun­ni­est part of all was that our sail loft man­ager at Amer­i­caone had co­in­ci­den­tally per­formed the same role at Oneaus­tralia. He saw the white­board and said, “S—t, I wrote that!”

We spent the next sev­eral months ex­plod­ing the old sails one by one, and our sail loft man­ager tried to put them back to­gether. We all learned a valu­able les­son: How you put your sails away at the end of an event can have a huge im­pact on how quickly the sails age.

When we are putting sails away af­ter an event, we roll the up­wind sails, which is the best way to store a lam­i­nated sail, pro­vided that, once the sail is rolled, you never bend or fold it. Make sure your tech­nique for rolling, un­rolling and flak­ing does not do more dam­age than sim­ply leav­ing them flaked. We also de-ten­sion the bat­tens, but note in our records where the ten­sion was so that we don’t waste time get­ting back to fast set­tings.

Putting sails away dry is also very im­por­tant. Salt wa­ter can dam­age sails and equip­ment, but fresh wa­ter can also be bad for sails in stor­age. Af­ter win­ning an event in Eng­land on Bella Mente, the en­tire team helped us pack up our sails be­cause we had to fin­ish pack- up that day. It was rain­ing hard — it was Eng­land af­ter all — and try as we might, sails were put away in our con­tainer, wet with fresh wa­ter. When we pulled the sails out of the con­tainer for the next event, we were shocked at the level of mold growth. The les­son: If it’s rain­ing hard, try to pull the sails out again as soon as pos­si­ble to let them dry. This sea­son, on the TP52, we have al­ready made plans to wash and dry our new race sails reg­u­larly, mak­ing sure that they are salt- free and dry. This will keep our sails on the front line for as long as pos­si­ble. Th­ese new sails are our en­gines for the sea­son. Q


Re­leas­ing batten ten­sion be­fore stor­ing sails will help longevity. Be­fore un­load­ing them, how­ever, record the ten­sion so you can eas­ily re­set them be­fore use. P H O T O : PA U L T O D D /

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