Check sails

With the sailed rinsed/washed and dry, it's worth checking each one for:

  • Damaged/broken stitching
  • Damaged corroded cringles and lacing eyes
  • Holes
  • Cracks in polykote sails.

It's not difficult to repair most problems like this. You can just re-sew, either by hand or machine short sections of stiching. Damaged cringles are best removed and replaced (cringle kits are available). Holes can be patched, you local sailmaker will often have a suit red polyester sailcloth and will sell you an offcut. Spinnaker repair tape is stocked by a lot of chandlers. You can buy sticky backed polyester material, which stick on sail numbers and letters are made from, in a variety of colours from your local sailmaker. This is very useful for patching, making numbers or sticking on tell tales. In some cases (e.g. a hole in a batten pocket), just a stuck on patch may be fine. 

Polykote sails are prone to cracking along the weft or weave of the fabric. Often this happens were stress is concentrated for some reason. Along the edge of a sail number or letter, along the bottom of a jib where reinforcement ends are common locations. I often use sticky backed polyester for these repairs, or a soft red sailcloth. Sailcloth patches, or sticky backed ones on jibs need stiching on.

This is probably a good opprotunity to change the sail numbers or nationald letters on you mainsail if they are not the correct ones.

Rinse main & jib

Washing sails, particularly sails made from hard sailcloth, such as polykote, is difficult without introducing creases and folds. Often just rinsing the sails is sufficient and this is best done by hoisting  them on a calm day and spraying with a hose. Might be worth spraying the top while it partly hoisted to make sure it is throughly rinsed. Scrub off any obvious mud and dirt and then leave them hoisted to dry.

Sails should be rolled, mainsails at right angles to the leech  so the seams and battens are parallel to the direction of roll. Jib can be rolled at right angles to the leech or the luff.

Remove fittings

If you are unfamiliar with your boat’s fittings, it may be worth taking photos or notes of where they were before you start. Keep the fixings for a fitting with it, so when it comes to re-fitting it later, you have the correct size bolts, washers, nuts or screws to hand.

Check rigging and loose gear

Check rigging and loose gear. Originally (60s, 70s, 80s) Mirrors were supplied with galvanised steel wire standing rigging which rusts & should be replaced. Check splices & generally look for signs of wire strands breaking. Avoid kinking wire rigging by keeping it loosely coiled.

Mirror running rigging from the 60s & 70s was utterly basic - 3 strand cotton sheets and hemp halyards. I would recommend replacing this, unless you are trying to maintain the original features of your boat. Ropes should be heat sealed or whipped so there are no frayed ends. Worn ropes should be replaced, and you may wish to replace some rigging to get better performance (e.g. modern low streach line for halyards & forestay tie, thinner jib sheets,..). See our running rigging guide for recommended thicknesses & rope types.

Burgee staffs should be checked for straightness & straightened if necessary. I use Falker burgees which have an effective counterweight, which work even if the boat is heeled, so a good idea to check you burgee balances correctly.

With rigging & loose gear washed & checked, it can be stored away ready for refitting.

Wash/clean the sails, covers, alloy spars, rigging and loose gear

Standing rigging (shrouds, forestay, other items made of wire) just needs to be wiped over with an oil soaked rag.

I soak running rigging (sheets, halyards, contol lines,…) in a solution of washing powder for a week & then put them in a pillow case with the end tied up, wash them in a washing machine and then dry them.

Other loose gear can generally be washed with hot water & washing up liquid & dried.

Superspars have kindly provided this advise on maintaining alumium alloy spars (and the alloy sections of a gunter mast)

Once dry, items with moving parts, such as burgees should be lubricated with silicon spray (e.g.WD-40). Ball bearing blocks etc should be lubricated with McLube, a PTFE spray, light machine oil or silicon spray.

Sails made from hard sailcloth, such as polykote, are probably best just rinsed. Sails made from soft sailcloth, and spinnakers can be washed, carefully in the bath. Untie the jib sheets and wash them with the other ropes. Take care not to crease sails if you can avoid it. I would wash in fresh water alone. If sails are really dirty, then try some hand washing powder (e.g. Dreft) in the water. Rinse sails and then hang to dry,again avoid creasing as far as possible.

Nylon undercovers are usually not too bulky, so can be washed in a washing machine. More bulky covers, such as boom up, need to be washed in the bath. First make a mental note of areas which are particularly dirty. I fill a bath with hot water and hand washing powder, put the cover in, agitate is for a bit and they leave it soaking for a few days, agitating it from time to time. Then I scrub the surface with a scrubbing brush, trying to scrub the whole surface, paying particular attention to areas you know are dirty. Maybe leave it soaking for a bit longer and repeat the scrubbing. Then I drain as much water as I can and re-fill the bath with fresh hot/warm water and scrub it again. Then empty the bath and refill it to rinse the cover. Repeat this a couple of times and then dry the cover on the washing line.

Latest forum posts

    • Full Bermuda rig (spars, sails) for sale
    • Alle Roodbergen from the Netherlands has a full Bermuda rig for sale. * Superspars Bermuda mast and boom in good condition, fully rigged and new shrouds * Superspars spinnaker pole * Flyaway pole system * Full set P&P sails: main, jib and blue spinnaker Price: GBP 600. Delivery in April 2019 in the UK Please contact Alle Roodbergen at or Tel. +31641321250

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