Accomplish sail repairs at sea.  Whether you are racing or cruising, keep all your sails functional and performing well for safe and timely passages.

Basic sail patching:
There are two basic approaches for a puncture or tear in a sail. The one generally used in a loft is called a cut-away patch: the damaged area of the sail is covered with new, strong cloth on one side of the sail. Then the damaged area is cut away from the other side of the sail, leaving a single layer of strong cloth with just a ˝" overlap at the edge of the patch. The second approach is easier at sea and quickly makes the sail functional again until it can be properly repaired in a loft. In this approach, the damaged area is covered with adhesive-backed cloth on both sides, sandwiching the tear within. The initial preparation of the sail is the same for both approaches and is described below.

Cloth type and thread alignment
  It is important that a cut-away patch have the threads aligned parallel to the original threads in that area of the sail. Otherwise, there will be distortion in the sail once it is wind-loaded. Similarly, the weight and cloth type of the patch material should be as close as possible to the original sail. If it is too light, it will break. If it is too heavy, it will distort the sail. A high-stress area will often have graduated layers of cloth to increase the strength. This will occur at a corner to support hardware installation or at an area of specific concentrated chafe.  If a tear occurs at the edge of such a layered patch, the repair should be expanded well into the sail to reduce the chance of the tear recurring.
High load/stress areas
  Tears at hardware installation points often indicate a problem with the way the sail is set. Reef points tearing out indicate the tack and clew were not sufficiently taut to support the center points. Tears at jib hanks could mean the luff was not sufficiently tensioned. Torn batten pockets are often results of the batten not being snugly held in the pocket or the sail being allowed to flog.  Try to re-set the sail in a way that minimizes the loading or chafe in that spot.
  If your sail tears from luff to leech, your repair should duplicate the same broadseaming or curve that was originally built into the sail.  Try to match the original seam edges together and tape temporarily to hold the shape while you apply sail repair tape or sew the seam.
Know your sails
  Become familiar with all of your sails. Check your sails carefully before any voyage and analyze possible wear or failure points. Include in your sail repair kit the various types of cloth and hardware appropriate to your particular sails. If you want help, call to make an appointment to bring your sails in for evaluation and recommendations on repair kit items. We are happy to advise, repair, and assemble a sail repair kit appropriate for your specific boat and travel plans.
Preventative Measures
  Once you have analyzed wear and failure possibilities, consider preventative work to reduce the risk of catastrophic failure later. Sacrificial patches at high-wear areas such as spreaders and pulpits can save many anguished hours at sea. Remember that the spreaders will chafe a different part of the mainsail when it is reefed. If you plan to spend considerable time reefed, you might add spreader patches to protect the reefed sail as well. Leather at hardware stress points will decrease the chafe of shackles through rings, reef lines across mainsail leeches, and hanks or slides rubbing on boltropes. Consider re-stitching or triple stitching seams, especially at the leeches of mains and jibs. Flogging or chafe from topping lifts or shrouds can cause subtle, but significant damage.



Observe how the sail was originally constructed in an area similar to that being seamed. Consider whether the original method of construction needs reinforcement. If so, cover the cloth edge with a piece of adhesive backed Dacron cloth and re-sew. If the thread is worn or sun damaged, it can be re-stitched by machine or by hand.

  1. Insure cloth is salt-free and dry.   Treat with alcohol to displace moisture,  if necessary.  Remove old thread pieces.

  2. Pin out seam in original shape. Use needle holes, wear pattern, etc. to re-establish the original relationship of cloth edges. If the seam is not split yet, but is in danger of coming apart, FIX IT NOW! To do so, run pencil along seam edge, draw strike-off marks, then pull the seam apart and remove the broken threads.

  3. Pin the seam out and put double stick tape on the bottom layer of cloth, pull off paper backer, and lay top cloth in place. When you are sure it is lined up correctly (no ripples in one layer, even tension on both pieces, ends of seams are same lengths as original), press top cloth down firmly smoothing cloth into place.

  4. If sewing by hand, sew / / / / /, then back in opposite direction, using original holes, to form a zigzag stitch. This allows the stitch line to stretch with the cloth. If necessary, punch holes through thick areas of cloth with an awl. Use the awl to mark off holes at regular intervals of 1/4" or 3/8" for even stitching. Use appropriately strong thread, doubled if necessary. Pull tension on each stitch as you sew. If sewing by machine, sew seam, using original stitch holes if possible.

  5. Cover repairs with adhesive-backed cloth tape if seam is in a high chafe area.

Patching holes

ALWAYS FIX THE SOURCE OF WEAR - Abrasion? Puncture by sharp object? Insufficient reinforcement for strain on sail?  Whatever it is, fix it to prevent further damage.


  1. Repair small holes in unstressed areas using adhesive Dacron tape or cut cloth.

  2. Dry sails as thoroughly as possible, using alcohol to displace moisture. Adhesive does not stick well to damp cloth.

  3. Cut two patches of the appropriate size. The patch should extend beyond the hole by 2" to 3" in all directions.

  4. Pin the area as flat as possible using thumb tacks, or ask someone to kneel on the area and secure it with his or her hands.

  5. Lay the tape on the sail and pin it or hold it in place. Remove the paper backer and press down well. Turn the sail over and apply the other patch in the same place. Rub down firmly.


  1.  Try to separate long jagged tears into a series of straight lines. Most tears run parallel to threads in the cloth.

  2.  Pin or flatten area to be repaired. Line up the cloth in its original position. If this is not right, the sail will not be flat. It is worth taking time to get it right. Tape together with masking tape—just enough to keep the edges together while you make the patch.

  3.  Draw the patch on the sail. Keep lines parallel or perpendicular to threads in the cloth if possible. Put double stick tape around line. Do not remove paper backer yet. Cut around inside of tape with hot knife or scissors.

  4.  Use cloth that is closest in weight to the original sailcloth. Lay it over the hole with the threads aligned the same way as the original cloth. Pin it out flat through the sail.

  5.  Draw the outside edge of the tape (you can see the tape through the patch cloth). Unpin patch material, lay it on a flat surface, and cut around line using the hot knife and straight edge. The patch can also be cut with scissors; run the hot knife along the cut edges.

  6.  Place patch over hole, align everything, and pin down except for one edge. Remove tape backer from this edge and press down patch. Work around patch until all edges are stuck. Press down well. You can also make strike-off marks in case the patch comes unstuck while you are sewing.

  7.  Sew around patch as for seam repair. Use a small needle and a zigzag stitch.


For problems with hardware (slides, webbed rings, etc), try to duplicate original method using hand sewing techniques. Punch holes first with an awl if necessary. Use palm to push needle through cloth and pliers to pull it back through the material. Avoid wiggling the needle to help pull it through the cloth. The needle will break at the eye and/or the thread will chafe.

If the fabric is partially intact, first try strapping the existing ring. If that will not work, cut out old ring using the new ring as a pattern. Hot knife edges of cut, tape web straps 7-14" long on each side of sail through the ring, tensioning the webbing, as it will stretch under load. Ring should be snug against the sailcloth when complete. Sew through sail and both layers of webbing using zigzag stitch as above. Make awl holes to allow needle and thread to pass through layers without abrading thread.

        A. Inspect ends for roughness. Sand or cover with end protectors or chafe tape.
        B. Insure batten length matches pocket so that end is in reinforced area.
        C. Tape pocket tears with duct tape minimally until you can repair properly.


SEAMING PALM, best quality #2 SPUR GROMMETS, CUTTER, 3/8", SETTER, # 2
HAND SEWING NEEDLES, assorted sizes(20) FID, Wooden, 6"
SHEARS, 8", bent trimmers STAINLESS STEEL SHACKLES: 3/4", 1"
HOT KNIFE, BUTANE, cloth cutting tip BATTEN POCKET ELASTIC, 1 1/2"


1 1/4" x 1/4" and 2 1/2" x 3/8"

DACRON TAPE: 3"x 3.9 oz, 6"x 8 oz, 2"x 5 oz,

3"x 8 oz, 6"x 8 oz

SEAMSTICK TAPE, 1/2" LEATHER, Chrome pearl
SEIZING WIRE, stainless, 1/16" TUBULAR WEBBING, Strapping, 1"
ADHESIVE DACRON TAPE: 2" x 2 oz, 3"x 3.8 oz, 6"x 8 oz REPLACEMENT HARDWARE to match existing: SLIDES, SLUGS, HANKS, PROTECTORS
SPINNAKER REPAIR TAPE: 2" x 25' LEECH LINE, Dacron, #505, 1/8", Kevlar, or Spectra
UV Resistant THREAD, V92, bobbins or spool UV Resistant FLUID, "303", 8 oz pump spray
Waxed Handwork THREAD, V346 RAWHIDE MALLET, # 1, 2 1/2 lbs.
RIGGING TAPE, Self-bonding, 1" x 15' ALCOHOL (first for the sail, then the sailmaker)