Roles on board: Sail Repair

21 June 2015

Each crew member plays an important part on board to ensure that the team is performing safely and efficiently, and there are also specific roles on board that you can volunteer to take on to support your fellow team mates.

The Sail Maker crew member is responsible for the sail repair team and is responsible to the skipper for the maintenance and repair of the onboard sail wardrobe. A very important role, the health of your sails is critical to your racing success.

As the boat is pushed hard during the circumnavigation, wear and tear, and damage will inevitably occur. Sail maintenance will be conducted at sea as and when damage occurs using the onboard sail repair kit, which includes a sewing machine. However, some major repairs may have to wait until the next stopover and will be carried out there.

Crew that have volunteered and been selected for specific roles on board will be invited to attend the pre-race preparation week in August for training on how to fulfil these roles safely and to full potential.

Round the world crew member Roser Preuss, a student from Buckinghamshire, UK, took on the Sail Maker role onboard Switzerland.

Roser sat down with Clipper Race HQ to talk about the role.

Clipper Race: When you learned of the Sail Maker position within the race, what made you decide to volunteer?

Roser: I wanted to get involved with a sailing specific role and learn as much as I could about all things related to sailing. I thought I would enjoy the sewing experience – even though at that point I hadn’t had much experience in using sewing machines!

Clipper Race: How did you prepare for the Sail Maker role?

Roser: The first thing I did to prepare was to borrow a friend’s sewing machine and to start sewing as much as I could. I discovered a new hobby and started sewing lined tote bags, pencil cases with zips and really loved it. The most useful part of this was that I learnt how to set up a sewing machine and what things can go wrong!

Then there was the training that the Clipper Race organises, run by Hyde Sails. It was a one-day course where we learnt how to hand-sew rips and punctures in spinnakers, how to use the sewing machine, how to sew sliders to the mainsail and so on. We received a lot of good advice from Hyde Sails.

An important thing we did during the training was to take a lot of pictures, e.g. of how to set up the sewing machine that we were taking with us. We laminated these and made our own manual. It came in very handy later on.

Lastly I did a bit of research on my own on sail repair on the internet. Really I didn’t know anything about sail repair (or even sails) before I took on the role. So I think anyone can do it, as long as they have an interest in it.

Clipper Race: What kind of responsibilities were you given in the lead up to and during the race as Sail Maker?

Roser: In the lead up to the race I got involved in anything that was related to the sails and Vicky Ellis our skipper had a lot of input. We did things like labelling the sail bags, and labelling the panels on our spinnakers, as well as labelling the clew, tack and head of the spinnakers.

During the race I was responsible for organising all the sails, checking whether we had damaged anything and repairing wear and tear. We took a lot of preventative measures too.

Where we could see things were chafing we would try to protect with Dacron tape. We also started taking the mainsail down in most ports for maintenance. It’s a monster of a job, but once we got the hang of it the task became easier. We had a lot of support from the rest of the crew which made the job very enjoyable.

Clipper Race: How did you find the responsibilities you were given as Sail Maker, were they manageable and did you enjoy the role?

Roser: I enjoyed learning so much about a certain role, and really feel like I could look after my own sails well now. My skipper Vicky Ellis established a culture of respect for the sails and that really paid off and made my job a lot of fun. First of all we never once ripped a spinnaker during the race!

We only had to get the sewing machine out once during a race! We must have been one of the teams with the least sail breakages. Of course that made my life a lot easier. I believe sail makers on other teams had a lot more on their hands both in terms of repairing sails during races as during stopovers, and I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the role as much if I hadn’t had the backing of my skipper and crew!

Clipper Race : What would you say to people who were considering applying for the Sail Maker role?

Roser: Learn how to use a sewing machine (if you don’t already) and make good notes on everything you learn during the Hyde training. It will come in very handy!

If you get the support of your crew and skipper on sail repair your job will be a lot more fun and enjoyable. I would want to do it again, so I would definitely recommend it to anyone interesting in sails, sewing or just learning a new skill!