How to Care for your Dinghy Sails

When it comes to your dinghy, the sails are the driving force, so ensuring they are in the best condition will help prolong their life. Your boat and the environment your sails are in should be as safe and friendly as possible to help avoid any snags or tears. Care on and off the water is the best way to ensure your sails are in great condition for years to come.


When sails are in use

When your dinghy is in use, whether that be for racing or recreational usage, you should always do what you can to protect your sails. When the sails are in use and even when they're not, you should make sure they're not coming into contact with anything that can harm them, such as clevis pins, the shrouds and spreaders.

Reduce flogging   

When sailing you should reduce the amount of time that sails flap around in the wind, this is known as flogging. Whilst it's a given that there will be some flapping in the wind, the sail will last longer when it retains its shape. Nowadays, most sails have a resin finish, this can lead to delamination and the cloth becoming weaker due to all of the flapping. Not only this, but the sails may become more elasticated, making them less effective. If you have laminated sails, they also are not safe from flogging and should be kept out of the sun when not in use to avoid harmful UV rays. Keep all of this in mind when you next see them flogging.  

After sailing

Looking after your sails after a race or sailing is just as important as during and there are many ways you can do this…

Reduce sun damage

Not only can sails get damaged by the wind, they can get damaged by the sun too. When the boat is not in use, don't forget to put a cover or bag on the sails to help prolong their life. Ultra-violet degradation can be prevented through proper care and will save you plenty of money in the long run.

Test the cloth

Every now and then you should test the strength of the sail cloth. There are two main ways to do this, firstly, can you separate the fibres? If it's possible to do so, then it's clear that the sail is no longer in its best condition and has been subject to a lot of wear and tear. Another way to test this is by putting a large sailmaker's needle into the cloth and then attempting to drag it sideways, if the sail is still in optimal condition it will not succumb to the pressure.


Storage is another factor in maintaining your dinghy sails. Firstly, between races and storing your dinghy, when lowering the mainsail you should make sure there is nothing that will be able to damage your sail and that it won't blow out of the boat. Once you have nicely lowered and removed your sails, it's time then to store them away properly.

Clean the sails, making sure there is no salt on them, using lukewarm water if needed and then dry them. The main point to remember here is to always keep your sails dry no matter where they are stored. Moisture can increase the risk of stains and mould, which can be difficult to get rid of, so you want to avoid this. Roll up the sails on a clean surface, instead of folding them and put them in the sail bag and store somewhere dry and safe. 

Be careful not to leave sails in your dinghy whenever possible as they are very popular places for mice and other rodents to make a comfortable nest.

Following these few simple tips will not only prolong the life of your sails and save you money, but will also help you perform the best you can out on the water. Practicing proper care and looking after your sails will help you and your boat look and feel great out on the water, whether that be for racing or simply sailing.


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