Sail Maintenance

Sail Care and Maintenance Tips

  • Avoid prolonged flogging of sails. Flogging and leech flutter can degrade a sail’s performance before its time. Minimize motoring into the wind with flapping sails. After hoisting sails, trim promptly and steer a course so the sails fill rather than flog.
  • Adjust your leech line to eliminate leech flutter (tension it just a touch more than necessary to stop the flutter). The tension needed will change as the breeze increases and as the jib sheet is adjusted. Do not over-tension the leech line; if the leech becomes hooked, ease it off. Proper placement of genoa cars will also prevent leech flogging on your genoa .
  • Use your sails in their designed wind ranges. If you don’t know the recommended wind ranges for your sails, contact your North sailmaker.
  • Avoid unnecessary contact between sails and standing rigging. Avoid releasing the genoa sheet late in a tack. Backwinding the leech against the windward spreader tip will distort the leech and can split your sail.
  • To combat chafe, be sure to cover spreader ends, and check there are no exposed split pins, cotter pins, or other sharp edges around the mast, foredeck, lifelines, and turnbuckles. These can chafe and/or tear your sail.
  • Make sure your sails have extra reinforcement in areas of high chafe. Spreader patches on overlapping genoas and mainsails, as well as extra chafe protection on headsails where they come in contact with mast mounted radars and stanchions, will extend the useful life of your sail.
  • When leaving the boat, ease the jib halyard, main halyard, and outhaul to prevent permanent luff and foot stretching. Releasing batten tension also reduces distortion at the batten ends.
  • Limit exposure to the sun for extended periods of time. UV rays are one of your sail’s worst enemies. Roller furling genoas should have UV-resistant material covering the leech and foot. If you store your mainsail on the boom, make sure it is always covered when not in use.
  • Rinse your sails with fresh water and dry thoroughly before storing, to prevent mildew and color bleeding in spinnakers. Rinse fittings in fresh water to help prevent corrosion. Store dry sails in a well-ventilated location. And remember, making sure they are dry is as important as the initial rinse. Wet sails create mold issues.
  • Avoid folding sails on the same fold lines so that small creases don’t become permanent.
  • Remove mildew stains on polyester, Spectra/Dyneema or Vectran sails promptly. Use a mild household bleach solution with water and a soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly. DO NOT USE BLEACH ON NYLON, ARAMID, OR LAMINATED SAILS.
  • To remove oil/grease stains, scrub with Simple Green and a soft brush, then rinse. Follow with a mild soap scrub and rinse to remove the Simple Green completely from the sail. Be careful not damage the sail with excessive scrubbing. Depending on the stain, you may not be able to remove it completely.
  • Removing rust stains is tricky. We recommend that you contact your North Certified Service expert for treatment. We may not be able to completely get rid of it, but we can make sure the area is still in good working order.
  • Regularly rinse sail bag zippers or lubricate with silicone spray.
  • Patch minor tears as soon as possible with a pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA). Avoid using duct tape!
  • Check nylon/polyester downwind sails a few times each season for small tears. Catching small holes early can reduce the chance of them becoming bigger tears later on.
  • Spray luff tapes on both genoas and mainsails as they slide up the track, using a Mclube-style lubricant. This will help clean the tracks and make hoisting and dousing easier.
  • Check battens for splintering. Splintered battens should be replaced, or at least taped, so the splinters don’t harm the sail.
  • Check luff slides and other hardware to make sure they are still securely attached to the sail.
  • Check seam stitching to make sure it is still intact. UV can quickly damage certain threads.
  • Have your North Sail Certified Service expert inspect your sails at least once a season. Regular inspection will prevent small problems from becoming big ones. You can also ask your local loft to create an onboard sail repair kit for your specific sails.
  • Keep a sail log. Photographing your sails on a regular basis and logging the hours they are used will help you and your sailmaker evaluate your sail inventory seasonally. Your sail photos can also be digitized and analyzed using North’s SailScan computer program. Contact your participating North representative for details.

3Di/3DL Sail Care

Taking care of your 3DL/3Di sails will help you get the most out of your investment. In addition to the tips above, here are some additional sail care tips that will make a big difference in the life and performance of your sails.

Although mildew doesn’t adhere well to 3DL and 3Di, it can still be a problem if sails are put away wet. You can discourage mildew growth by thoroughly rinsing both sides of the sail with fresh water and drying sails before storage. Make sure to rinse hardware as well. On larger yachts, hoist or unroll sails when there is little or no wind until they are completely dry before rolling up or storing. To minimize UV damage, avoid drying sails in direct sunlight.


Avoid storing sails with tension on the battens. Either release or remove battens for long-term storage. Our recommendation is to ease off tension but keep the battens in the pockets, so they don’t get misplaced.

3Di/3DL Sail Repair

Although we recommend that any torn 3Di or 3DL sail be brought into a certified North Sails Service center for repair, it is possible to do a temporary repair yourself with a glue-on PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive). The majority of small repairs can be done with one of three materials, which are all available at any NS service center:

  1. Insignia cloth (commonly called “sticky-back”), for patching non-load bearing small tears
  2. Cuben fiber, available in both sheets and tape, for load-bearing repairs
  3. 3Di PSA, available in small sheets from a North Sails service center

To make a temporary repair, choose the appropriate PSA and then follow these steps:

  1. Clean the area thoroughly with a solvent (acetone or denatured alcohol) and allow to dry.
  2. Cut the patch so that its edges extend slightly beyond the tear.
  3. Peel off the paper backing and install the patch.
  4. Apply pressure by rubbing over the entire patch with the shiny side of the paper backing. The more you rub, the better the patch will stick.

Any onboard repair should be considered temporary and taken to a North Sails service center as soon as possible. For help with larger repairs, or if you don’t know which PSA would work best for your repair, contact your North Sails representative.