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Sailcare during Wintertime

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northsailcare.jpegIn northern Europe with its hundreds of Contenders, Wintertime is not far away. Most of you, we think, do warm their feet indoor at the stove and got a hot drink. Some fearless Champions will held there Traning also in temperatures below zero, but most Contenders are stored away for next season. But what about your Sails. These precious Artworks from Skillfull craftmanship.

How do you treat them before storing? was interessted in and got hold of an Expert. Joel McDonald from North Sails UK gave us a closer view to this topic. If you follow him, he says, your sails will last longer, and give you an advantage to the guys who leave them in the dingiyard while snow falls.

The majority of sail degradation happens whilst in use, but there are a few key tips to help look after them when laying up for longer periods. 

General Tips.

It’s important to then store them in a dry location, such as a garage or loft, not the dinghy park or in a damp & drafty shed. Avoid storing in direct contact with heating radiators, hot flues or pipes. Also prevent stacking other equipment on top of your sail. Sails will crease, which is all too visible on that first lightwind race in springtime, and damage to the fibres can have a considerable effect on the longevity of a sails life.

 Luff tape at the lower mast track end, headboard and fullbatten end. 

Further info - Specific cloth needs.


Don't let any solvents (such as diesel fuel or cleaning agents) get on them, because these will dissolve the glue and cause separation.

Dacron. If mildew occurs...

Treat mildew at the earliest possible moment. If you do not, it can spread quickly. There is an excellent chance of getting mildew stains off when they are new, relatively small, and close to the surface. There is little chance once they have spread and set into the fibres. 

Isolate mildew-infected sails, covers, and so forth, from clean sails.
The quickest and surest way to spread mildew is to rub an existing growth against a receptive surface. 

The single most popular mildew killer and remover is simple household bleach. This is also known as sodium hypochlorite, sold in the U.S. in 5.25% solution with water. This is potentially nasty stuff and manufacturers recommend diluting it quite a bit further before using. Tilex® and other "mildew removers" are mainly sodium hypochlorite in solutions of about 3%, which is still a pretty healthy dosage.


This is one of the few known, proven solvents for these fibres. Of course, this means you should not clean KEVLAR® and nylon with Tilex® or other commercial mildew cleaners that contain sodium hypochlorite.

DO NOT EVER MIX BLEACH AND AMMONIA and stand around breathing the air. The result is phosgene gas which killed and disabled thousands in the First World War. This little home science experiment continues to kill and cripple people to this day. 

For particularly stubborn, deep set stains, surface cleaning will not work. It is necessary to immerse the stain in a fungicide for 12 hours or more, to allow it to get in to where the stain is. It is not necessary to use a particularly high concentration, only to get the fungicide where the stain is. No amount of vigorous surface scrubbing will do what a good soak will do

After washing with bleach, always rinse thoroughly with plenty of fresh water. Bleach that is not removed can cause long-term structural damage that is more harmful than the cosmetic damage caused by the mildew. 

If the mildew stain does not come out after one good wash with the proper equipment and chemicals, give up. Experience shows that further washings/scourings/ treatments remove very little additional stain and
cause a lot of other damage. 

Scotchguard® and related water repellents do not have any properties that  either kill or prevent the recurrence of mildew. They may be marginally  effective at repelling some of the moisture and nutrients on which mildew
feeds, and might make cleaning easier by holding the stains away from the  fibres. There is not much evidence either way on this. 

Dettol®, a commonly available household disinfectant, is the most powerful and effective fungicide and inhibitor you can use to prevent recurrence and spread of mildew. Various health and environmental agencies prohibit the
use of stronger fungicides since the same thing that kills fungus has similar effects on higher life forms, as most of us would like to picture ourselves. 

Anything you use on a sail to kill or remove mildew and stains, will wash or wear away in a relatively short time. This is directly analogous to Yacht anti-fouling bottom paints. Although not used on Contender sails, North NorLamTM fabrics are treated with the most powerful commercial fungicide we can use without jeopardizing the health of employees and customers. It
is100% effective in preventing mildew in laboratory conditions, and demonstrably less effective in the real world. 

Joel McDonald
October 2007