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Sails are made of tough material. But even though sails are well constructed, they are designed with synthetic materials that have very little stretch. Sails are made by sewing a particular shape into a sail so that any stretch they have is minimal. You want to do everything you can to protect that construction. This is part of good basic sailing. Just like a car engine, sails power the boat so you should exercise great care with them.
When not in use, keep sails out of the sun. UV rays will deteriorate sail cloth over time so they should be in the sun only when in use. You can wash your sails with a mild soap to keep them free of salt and dirt. Don't just stuff a sail into a bag when you are done sailing. This breaks down the filler and reduces the life of the sail. The wrinkles in a sail can take up to an hour to work out, and they also prohibit proper air flow over the sail.
Smaller sails should be folded--accordion-style--or rolled after use. The clew should be on the outside of the roll for the mainsail, and the tack should be on the outside of the roll for the jib. Folding a sail will also save space on a small sailboat.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|