Questions and Answers

Please enter your question in the box below. All legitimate questions will receive an email answer. The best and most relevant questions will be added to our Q&A section.

Thank you,
Harry Pattison, President
Elliott / Pattison Sailmakers, Inc


Q: What is the best way to clean my sail? I have a 6 year old Dacron mainsail that has gotten kind of dingy over the years and it also has a few stains. One spot looks kind of oily and a couple of places it has rust stains.

A: The best way to clean the sail yourself is to lay it out somewhere like a driveway and wash it with soap, water, and a soft brush. Something like Simple Green works well. This will take off most of the dirt and oil spots. For the tough spots you can use a one part bleach to ten parts of water solution, (1:10). For rust stains you will need to use oxalic acid. You can buy it at most supermarkets in small bottles that are used for removing rust stains from fabrics. The stuff I use comes in a brown bottle and is called "Whisk Stain Remover". You just put it on and let it sit for a bit, no scrubbing, and it will oxidize the rust stain. Afterward you always want to rinse the sail really well to remove any cleaning residues. Let the sail dry be leaving it laying out, turning it over from time to time to get totally dry. One of the worst things you can do to a sail is to hoist it up and let it flap around in the wind to dry.

If the sail is really dirty, stained, or mildewed you can bring it into the loft and have it professionally cleaned.

Q: My new mainsail has a loose foot and I have never sailed with one before. What are its advantages and how should I be using it? It also came with a long strap that has Velcro on both sides that was attached to the clew. What is it for?

A: A loose footed main gives you a much wider, and easier, range of adjusting the amount of shape there is in the bottom part of you mainsail. With just the outhaul you can pull the foot tight making the main much flatter, or ease it off and make it as full as you want. Generally going up wind in medium air when you are not overpowered the out haul should be ease enough so that the foot of the  mainsail in the middle is about 3" to 4" away from the boom. As the wind increases tighten the outhaul to make the sail flatter and reduce power. In light air and choppy conditions you can ease the outhaul a little more to make the sail fuller and more powerful. Do the same thing on reaches and going downwind.

The Velcro strap is to hold the clew down to the boom in place of a slug that slides inside the groove on the boom. It should go through the clew ring and around the boom at least 3 times and tight enough so that the clew ring is just above the boom. The reason we provide them is that they will slide on the boom much easier and with less friction than an outhaul slug slide.

Q: I have a Catalina 30 and am looking for a new furling genoa. What is the best cloth and construction for the sail if I use it only for recreational and local cruising?

A: For your boat and your use I would stay with a good quality Dacron cross-cut genoa. It is both the most affordable and will give you the longest life. Something in the 6.5 oz. range should last you for 10 to 15 years depending on how much you sail. It will need a UV furling cover sewn on the leech and foot to prevent UV damage while the sail is rolled up. You may also want to consider adding a foam luff pad which reduces the extra shape as you partially furl the sail. This allows the sail to be "reefed" down to a smaller size as the wind increases and still keep a very useable shape.

Q: I am looking to replace my 10 year old #3 jib on my Lapworth 36.  Here is a page on my boat  With the jib car on the rail, the sheeting angle is very broad so I am thinking of installing an inboard track.  I have some choices.  I can take a high cut sail and thread it between the upper and lower shroud or I can get a low cut blade sail and bring it inside all the rigging.  The forward lower it the interferer that needs to be worked around.  This gives me three options with three different sheeting angles.  My question is, what is an ideal sheeting angle for a boat like mine?  Do you have a recommendation vs my three options? This is a very old boat but I do race it in beer can races races and classic wooden boat races.  I would want the sail to be useful for both racing and day sailing.  I do not cruise in that I do not go anywhere overnight, just sailing for the fun of it.

A: For an older boat that doesn't have a modern keel there is no reason to sheet the blade tighter than 11 or 12 degrees. However that will still mean a sail that just comes to the mast and can be sheeted so that the leech is inboard of the spreaders. You should be able to sheet it outboard of the forward lower and inboard of the upper shroud. In heavier air when you need the blade the leeward forward lower will be loose enough that it won't prevent the sail from being sheeted in tight. The sail should be full hoist on the luff and the clew should be around 14" to 16" off of the deck. It is important that at least the front 1/2 of the foot comes down to the deck to seal it off.