The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Sail Care Q&A


What’s the best way to pack and store sails? I am unable to fold the hank on sails properly on deck, in a blow, solo. So I somewhat stuff it in the bag. Then on a nice and calm day, I will dry them by hoisting, and try to fold it as neatly as I can (not very neatly), before putting it in the bag.

Should sails in general be folded? Folded in the same spot every time, or is it preferred to fold it differently every time? Do they need to be rinsed and dried?

Member Arne


People get really worked up about sail care, but as long as they are woven how you fold them is not that important, although folding is generally better than stuffing, but not a lot, as long as the bag is big enough that you don’t have to jump on it to get it to fit.

If it were me with hank on sails, I would get a couple of sausage bags made, like race sailors use, and then zip them into the bags prior to taking them off the headstay and stow like that without refolding. Any decent sailmaker will be able to make these for you.

The two things that really hurt sails (of all types) are UV (sunlight) and flapping (flogging), so the key to long life is to always cover them and not let them flap any more than you must.

When I was sailmaking I always rubbed my hands in glee when I saw customers hoisting their sails and letting them flap in the sun to dry them perfectly.

Damp is not much of a problem, although it can cause mildew, but better that than a lot of flapping or sun.

If the sails will be stored for a while, hosing the salt off, drying, and folding is worth it, but again, we want to minimize the flapping and sunlight.

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Neil McCubbin

We sailed our current Milvina (Passoa 47) for 8 years with hank-on headsails and the previous 40 footer for 9 years too. We always stuffed the sails into a bag, never folded.
We still do it with our reacher and spinnaker.
To make stuffing easy, we had the sail bags made with same circumference as our fore hatch, and hung the bag inside, so we essentially stuffed the sail through a hole in the deck. MUCH easier than stuffing on deck, holding the bag open.
One warning, it takes threats and an iron-clad contract to persuade a sailmaker make a sack to a defined circumference. We have had to take several back over the years. All too big because the sailmaker thought he was being nice by “giving us a bit extra”