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Don't Let Your Sails Get Burned

Nobody likes getting sunburned, and neither do your sails. Quantum's service experts explain the importance of UV covers and how to protect your sails from the effects of the sun.

If not protected properly, sunburned sails can tear in use, stranding you, your friends, and your family. Even seasonal UV exposure in the northern latitudes can cause serious problems in a short amount of time. Ultraviolet (UV) covers help protect your sails and your sailing season; think of them as sunscreen for your sails. Here are some tips to keep your sails sun-safe.

WHY ARE UV COVERS IMPORTANT?

If you have a furling genoa or mainsail, you probably keep it on your rig for an extended period of time, leaving it exposed to the elements, especially the harmful sun. Over the years, the sun will begin to burn out the sail’s leech, and sunburn will appear on the sail. These sunburned areas weaken over time, and the stress on the sails can cause the threads to break in the weaker areas while sailing. A proper UV cover can protect your investment from the damaging UV rays of the sun.

HOW DO I TAKE CARE OF THE UV COVER?

A common misconception about a UV cover is that when it is installed, it will last forever. Not true; the sail cover needs to be maintained to last. 

Something that most people overlook in maintaining their UV covers is how often they need to be re-stitched in order to last. While the UV cover can last anywhere from four to eight seasons – depending greatly on exposure and maintenance – the thread may last only half the lifespan of the cover, as it degrades faster than the cover itself. Bringing your sails into your local Quantum Sails loft to have the covers re-stitched will increase their lifespan and, ultimately, the lifespan of your sails as well. 

You’ll know it’s time for a sail inspection when the thread on your webbing or UV cover doesn’t pass the pluck test. Take an awl or similar tool and pluck at the stitching in the area suspected of damage. Strong thread should stretch and pull. If the thread breaks easily, it has been degraded from UV. You’ll want to see your sailmaker ASAP. This short video clip demonstrates how healthy thread behaves compared to sun-damaged thread.

Another mistake most sailors make is keeping their sails hoisted on the boat for an extended period of time. It’s important to drop your sails and, whenever possible, keep them in a cool, dry place between sailing trips. To prevent the UV cover from deteriorating, wash your sails with fresh, clean water on a regular basis, then let them dry completely before refurling (Washing and drying is very important for your sails, especially after a rainy season.).  

When leaving the boat, take extra caution to make sure your sails are set and won’t come loose in strong winds. An extra sail tie could help prevent your sails from flogging, which will also protect your sails and UV cover from extra wear and tear.

WHEN IS IT TIME TO SERVICE A UV COVER?

UV covers degrade with UV exposure and use. While a UV cover in New England may last anywhere from six to eight seasons, that same cover in the Caribbean may only last three to four seasons. 

It’s important to inspect your sails at the beginning and end of every season. If you’re lucky enough to sail year-round, inspect your sails during a less busy sailing time of year. It’s still crucial to keep up with day-to-day wear and tear. See if there are any chafed or damaged areas on your sail and UV cover. Be sure to check the side of the sail opposite the UV cover, and if you see any color change in that area, it’s time to replace the UV cover ASAP, as the discoloration means the current UV cover has become obsolete and is no longer protecting your sail against the sun. Delaying that replacement can cause extensive damage to the sail. 

WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU SUGGEST FOR A UV COVER?

We recommend Sunbrella UV Cover fabric. The sewing machine thread we typically use is 138 Dabond thread for UV covers − it's thicker than what our competitors use, and, thus, lasts a bit longer. We can also use UV stable thread, such as Tenara or SolarFix, but it's considerably more expensive and may not always be the best option.

PROTECT YOUR SAILS

Other ways to protect your traditional non-furling, day-sailing, and racing sails include a horse-blanket style mainsail cover. Making sure your mainsail boom cover fits properly, without edges peeking out, is critical before going into cruising or regatta season. Contact your local loft to order one today.

Our SailPack flaking systems use an integrated canvas stacker to protect the sail when stored. These sacrificial covers are designed to take the brunt of weather and UV, so check it thoroughly for chafing or wear, and drop the cover off at your local Quantum loft for our canvas experts to repair or replace.

Refresh a tattered headsail cover, also known as a jib sock or genoa sleeve, to protect your sails. Each is custom-designed to be hoisted over the top of a furled headsail to safely hide it from the sun and help secure it in a strong breeze. It’s essential equipment for boats stored on mooring or at the pier.

Sail storage bags and turtles also keep the UV rays from further degrading your inventory. Often racing sails that aren’t being used for the day are left exposed on the dock until returning from racing. Don’t leave an exposed sail on deck or dock longer than necessary. Always flake, roll, bag, and store your sails to prolong their life by preventing UV and other damage. 

HOW CAN I SCHEDULE A SERVICE OR GET MY QUESTIONS ANSWERED?

Contact your local Quantum Sails loft or visit our service page.

Request a quote

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