In the UK the winter is really starting to settle in, the Christmas decorations are up, and all the old songs are on the radio. Yacht racing around the country is coming to an end and boatyards are filling up as boats come out of the water for the winter.
There’s plenty to think about when it comes to your boat, including what to do with your sails, how to best preserve them for 2019, or whether it’s time to review your sail wardrobe looking at your sailing plans for next year?.
Here are some pointers to help start your discussions, and remember our team are always available to chat about anything sail related if you have any questions.
How old are your sails?
When sails ‘work’ it can sometimes be hard to see if you are getting the most from them still and perhaps more importantly are they helping you get the best from your sailing boat.
Age is not always a factor, but it’s a good place to start, other areas such as general wear and tear, and their shape when hoisted should all be taken into consideration.
We suggest you get them checked over by people in the know, and perhaps even have them laundered. This will make sure all the salts and air pollutants are removed from the sails and that they are dry and ready for winter storage. Having your sails laundered means any maintenance can be done by checking the luff rope and leach lines, the head, tack and clew, and any hanks if applicable. Winter checks and laundering increase the longevity of sails and identify any issues that may stop you from going sailing next time you go down to the boat.
If I was to buy new sails where do I start?
Sails are an investment and when you have time on your side in the "off" season it's good to review your options to help you achieve your sailing goals. Whether that be the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019, offshore, around the cans, double-handed or crusing along the coast, now is the time to ask yourself if your sail inventory will keep you competitive through the wind range and angles and help you get the most of your boat next season.
The obvious option is like for like, replacing your existing sails with identical new ones. However, this may not be the best option for you. You should gauge ideas about what’s available on the marketplace in terms of new materials, design options or added features that can perhaps improve performance or ease of handling.
A balanced boat is a happy boat, and to improve balance perhaps a new mainsail would have one or more of the reefing points in a different place, to either take in more or less mainsail when reefed so the boat will handle better in the winds you typically sail?.
Looking forward of the mast to your headsail. Again, looking at your usual sailing area and the typical wind strength does your headsail work as well as it could?. To keep your boat balanced are you sailing everywhere with the headsail slightly furled?. If you are, this is the time think about a smaller sail which will affect the boats performance and balance in a positive way, making it easier to handle and faster.
Does your existing headsail actually set properly when furled?. We can add foam luffs to help flatten out the sail when reefed. Again, perhaps you could make the sail slightly smaller and raise the clew to give you much better helm visibility?.
Modern materials allow for greater choice and flexibility. A furling genoa could be replaced with a furling jib and would not only make the boat easier to handle but when you look at the wind strengths you generally sail in it may make little or no difference to the performance of the boat. What works for one style of boat design does not always work across the board, experience and design programmes help our analysis, and ensure you get the best sail for your boat.
If you have a nice sprayhood to hide from wind, rain and spray, and this is the year for a new mainsail, could you have the sail designed with a slightly shorter leech to give you more clearance over the spray hood?. How would that affect sail performance?. These are all things we can analyse and feedback to help your decsion making process.
Do you race?
Sails shrink and taking the simple steps to remeasure them could save you points on your rating. It’s always worth checking, you could be in for a nice surprise. It might also be a good time to look at your sail inventory and see if you have the best options for your boat, crew and ambitions for the type of racing planned for next season.
Let us start your winter checklist by making sails a priority as they are the engine of a sailing boat and good ones will transform the performance of your boat and quality of your sailing for next season.