Sail Repair—Patching Small Rips & Holes

Here at Sailrite®, we want you to be well-prepared, self-reliant sailors. Rips and tears happen in sails, battens fall out, and hardware comes free. With the right knowledge and tools, you can make repairs and fixes to your own sails, both in emergency situations and carefully on the docks. We’re going to share a multi-part series here on the blog with repair techniques for fixing the most common problems. Today, we’re focusing on small rips and holes.


We’re defining a “small” rip or hole as a hole 6 inches or under and a rip 12 inches or under. Small rips and holes like this can easily be patched. If your sail has a large rip, you’ll want to consider why the rip occurred before patching it. If the rip was caused by damage, you can use a large patch or even replace the entire panel of the sail. If the rip was more spontaneous, it’s likely that your sailcloth is getting worn and it might be time to consider replacing the sail altogether.

The instructions below are for making permanent repairs to your sail. If you’re in an emergency situation and you need a temporary repair until you can take the time to sew a proper patch, we recommend using adhesive backing strips. Sailrite stocks Dacron®, Laminate and Ripstop repair tapes that you can affix to both sides of your rip as a fast patch. Patches should be sewn on later to better secure and more permanently fix your tear.

For your patch fabric, use the same fabric (or a slightly lighter weight) that your sail is made out of. Non-adhesive backed tapes can be convenient for patch applications. Their smaller size makes them easy to work with and easy to store.

For this repair you’ll need:

  • Patch fabric
  • Scissors
  • Basting Tape
  • Thread
  • Zigzag sewing machine

How to Patch a Rip or Hole in a Sail

  1. Cut a patch that is 1” larger than the rip on all sides.
  1. Using Seamstick basting tape, baste the patch in place. If you’re repairing a rip, try to keep the ripped sides as close together as possible.
  1. Sew around the perimeter of the patch with zigzag stitches.
  1. Turn the sail over. Carefully cut out the frayed, ripped edges of the fabric so a clean edge is left next to the stitches. Doing this step last helps to maintain the shape of your sail.

Here’s a video that shows this same process being done on a rip in a spinnaker. Since the rip is close to the edge of this sail, you’ll notice we add extra stay tape along the edge of the sail to nicely finish that side of the patch.

You can find all the necessary sail repair tools and materials, including our Sail Repair Manual written by Sailrite founder, Jim Grant, at

Be sure to keep an eye out for the subsequent posts in our sail repair series that will be coming out in the coming months. Subscribe to the blog to be sure you don’t miss a post!

  1. Sue said:

    I have had some luck holding the edges of the tear together with blue painter’s masking tape on the far side, and then removing after the patch is taped in place.

    • Nikki said:

      To help keep the shape? That’s a cool idea, Sue. Thanks for sharing!

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Josh,

      We don’t currently offer Dr. Sails. We’ve tested it before on new Dacron and it didn’t stick but rarely would new Dacron need to be repaired. We’d love to know if any of you have had experience with this product.

    • Sue said:

      I just watched the video. It seems to me that applying adhesive backed ripstop sail repair tape is much easier. The video also shows a nylon sail repair, which may be why it did not adhere well to Dacron.

      • Josh said:

        Hi Guys, thanks for your replies. I used DrSails to repair offshore a tear of 4 meters in my mainsail (Dacron) and it worked great. This is the reason why when I saw this post I was wondering if you commercialized it.

        Regarding sail repair tape, my experience is not good. You need to clean and dry the area and the shear strength is very poor. Therefore, it generally ends up falling apart. Easier does not mean functional offshore.

      • Sue said:

        Good to know! Experience with a product is always best. Thanks!

  2. Mike & Paula said:

    Thanks Jim Grant, for being an inspiration. Bought your paperback book in the 1970’s on how to modify a sewing machine to sew sails and have never looked back. Starting with a C scow. Islander 32 and now Irwin 42 we have done 100% of canvas and sail work ourselves, of course with sailrite materials.
    Thanks; Mike & Paula, Florida

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