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down if the sails are allowed to flog in use. Careful handling on the boat will dramatically increase the longevity of the optimum flying shape. Most cruising materials including Dacron and Spectra fabrics as well as spinnaker fabrics do not require any special care when folding for storage but it is good practice to flake sails as neatly as possible wherever possible. Hard finished racing sails need to be rolled after use rather than folded. All covers will also deteriorate if left to flap so ensure they are tied up properly. It is usually best to tie any- thing down properly to avoid unwanted flapping. Shrinkage - laminate sails shrink with age due to UV


exposure but most of it is due to handling. If you race your boat IRC or Byron then it is well worth re-measur- ing your sails each season to maximise your handicap


and ensure you are not being penalised for sail area you do not have anymore. It is not commonly understood but cover materials also shrink with age. Some materials less than others. Much of this phenomenon is unavoidable but if wash- ing covers yourself avoid using too warm a water and domestic washing machines. Washing in the bath or with a hose pipe is normally better advice but the best advice is to have the covers professionally laundered. UV Exposure - exposure to UV light can ruin sails


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faster than you think. A Polyester (Dacron) headsail rolled away on a roller reefing unit without protec- tive UV strips will last around 4 or 5 years on average even in these northern latitudes before the material is absolutely rotten - at which point the sail will tear with the greatest of ease. It is therefore imperative that sails are removed or protected from UV exposure whenever and wherever possible. Mainsails should always be covered, headsails should have a sacri- ficial strip fitted to the leech and foot if the sail is going to be left hoisted (and rolled away) for any periods of time or a Genoa cover hoisted around the sail instead. Lazi- ness or cost cutting really is a big mistake! Careful fabric selection is the key to long lasting cov- ers. If the boat is not being used for a long period of time then items like spray- hoods, dodgers etc should be removed to maximise longevity. Dirt, salt and sand crystals - although mostly cosmetic, atmospheric pollutants such as soot, bird droppings, and especially salt and sand can be very detrimental so cover material. They can trap or at- tract moisture to the surface of the fabric and will increase the likelihood of mildew spores and ultimately algae growing on the sail or cover. Make sure the sails and


covers are dry and stored neatly to avoid the build up of moisture and therefore mildew.


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