Ask Sail: Repairing Small Tears on Sails

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DEALING WITH SMALLER SAIL TEARS

Q: I recently discovered a small tear in the Dacron mainsail on my Pearson Ensign. Not sure how it got there, but I can only assume the sail snagged on something at some point. The tear is roughly L-shaped, about 3in to a side. What’s the best way to repair something like this?

Kevin Seals, Ambrose, MI

BRIAN HANCOCK REPLIES

I am afraid you have left out the most important bit of information, the location of the tear in the sail. If it’s in a low-load area, like the body of the sail, you can probably get away with just covering it with a small sticky-back patch. On the other hand, if it’s ripped in a high-load area, like close to the leech, you will probably want to do a more substantial patch and you will definitely need to sew it. For a sticky-back patch, you can either have a square patch that covers the rip, or you can do two rectangular patches. Either way, make sure that the sail is clean and that there is no salt on it. Use soapy water, or even water with a little ammonia added. Patch both sides and—this is important—be sure to round the edges of the sticky-back patches, since a pointed edge is much more likely to start to lift if something chafes against it. Finally, make sure that you rub the patch as hard as you can to get that adhesive to warm up a little from friction. It will stick better that way.

If, on the other hand, the rip is along, say, the leech you can still use sticky-back, but I would do at least two layers to a side: the first one just covering the ripped area and the second one a little larger. Your local sailmaker could also run a sewing machine over the patch, or if that’s too much of a bother, you could do some hand-stitching

January 2018

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