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Winter break for the sails: Dry, clean and as free of kinks as possible

Sails recover best from the season when they are kept clean and dry in a well-ventilated place. SeaHelp has compiled seven tips for proper sail care during the winter.

Screen sails for damage

There a small tear, there a rising seam and there a damaged area – before the sails are mothballed until the next season, they should be carefully inspected for damage and if necessary brought to the sailmaker. In the winter months, sailmakers usually have more spare capacity than in the spring, when the “new bags” are ordered or when the sails are hoisted, it becomes apparent that last year’s tear has not disappeared on its own.

SeaHelp Extra Tip: Some Sailmakers also offer sail inspection, repair and subsequent winter storage. Practical for those whose basements and garages are already occupied by other hobbies.


Spinnaker (sail) of a sailing yacht is repaired before wintering.
© Irk Boockhoff |Adobe Stock


Clean up

Biological or even organic residues on the sail – even if it’s just a little mud on the top from the last capsize – are an ideal breeding ground for fungi, which then cause ugly black spots. The best way to clean sailcloth is with clean water. If mildew stains have already formed, you can soak the corresponding areas in a mild chlorine solution with a concentration of less than one percent chlorine for about two hours. Then scrub thoroughly, but not too vigorously, with clear water and a brush.

Pack away when dry

To avoid unsightly mildew stains, only pack away sails when they are truly dry. Moisture also damages the fittings and leads to corrosion, zippers become rotten if sails are packed away too damp. And the storage place must also be dry, moderately heated and with a little air circulation.

Relieve sail

If the sail is going to be folded, the battens must be taken out beforehand. If not already done, be sure to label with a waterproof pen which batten goes where. If the sail is rolled, the battens can remain in the sail, but should be relieved so that the sail is not under tension for months.

Avoid kinks

It is best for the fibers if the sails are stored rolled up. This still works well with a dinghy sail, but at the latest, the mainsail of an average 40-foot yacht is beyond the capacity of most garages when rolled. If you can’t roll your dacron sail, you can bend it – but only as little as necessary and as gently as possible. It is best to fold sails in sheets about one meter wide, parallel to the leech. When folding, care should also be taken not to always fold at the same points, but to vary the folds so as not to always load the same points.

The foil windows in the sail must not be bent, otherwise they will become brittle and tear. Expensive laminate sails, which are mainly used on racing yachts, should also only be rolled.

SeaHelp Extratipp: Also spinnaker, gennaker and blister should not be stuffed loosely into the bag over a long period of time, but stored neatly folded. To do this, spread the sail on the ground, cut it in half and fold it over the two clew horns. Now it can be conveniently folded into sheets.

Good ventilation and light heating

The perfect winter storage for sails is dry, well ventilated and at least slightly heated. If the room is too damp, mildew or even mold stains can easily develop. Above all, the delicate sails should not be exposed to frost. Subzero temperatures will damage fibers and laminates.

SeaHelp Extratipp: If no work is done below deck during the winter months, cruising sails can also be stored neatly folded on the benches in the mess.

Label sail bags

If you have more than two sails, you soon don’t know in which of the many sail bags which sail is stored. Also, at first glance, they all look the same…To avoid the nice order with which all the sails have been neatly stowed away, dry and rolled, being torpedoed by a frantically searching crew member, it helps to clearly label the sail bags.

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