Mylar is also known as PET film. This polyester-based material is used as a laminate in sail making. The Mylar is typically laminated between sheets of woven cloth, so the resulting sail has a soft feel. It is normally used on boats under 60 feet in length. This is a strong, lightweight material that is good for racing sails. However, it’s somewhat fragile, so if you’re using Mylar sails, you need to take some precautions to maximize their useful lifespan.
• Just as with any sail, you should not allow the sail to flog unnecessarily. Your sail can literally beat itself to pieces if left uncontrolled. Flapping in the breeze breaks down the laminate and speeds the delamination process.
• Your sails have a wind range based on the size, shape and weight of the sail. You shouldn’t exceed your sail’s wind range, as you can cause damage or have a blow out along stress points.
• Make sure your Genoa has spreader patches positioned in the correct places. If they’re incorrectly placed or they are missing, measure and mark chafe points and apply patches before taking the boat out again. Sure, it’s a pain, but the cost to replace that sail is certainly worth a little inconvenience to prolong its life!
• Mildew can be a big problem with Mylar sails. Because it’s a laminate, moisture slowly seeps between the layers making up the sailcloth. Given a warm, moist, dark environment like folding or rolling up an improperly dried sail, mildew is a happy camper. Make sure to properly dry your sails before storing them. If you’re sailing in salt water, hose down your sails to remove any salt. Salt absorbs moisture, so it’s difficult to completely dry a salt-streaked sail.
• Solvents break down the adhesives used in creating Mylar laminate sail material, so they should be avoided whenever possible. Look for the least hazardous, mildest cleaner and allow your sails to soak. Sometimes patience, not elbow grease, is all you need. A milder solution used for a longer soaking time can save a lot of work. It’s also less detrimental to the fibers of your sail.
Sails are an expensive proposition, so it’s important to care for them properly. Yes, they’re big, cumbersome and a real pain, but the alternative is thousands of dollars that may be spent prematurely by not giving your sails the attention they deserve. Go ahead, take the time to care for your sails properly, and you’ll be rewarded with clean, attractive sails that will last for years.