The other ingredient to a good day on the water (other than wind that causes flogging) is sunshine. Unfortunately, as stated earlier, many fibers are extremely UV sensitive and lose much of their strength from constant exposure to sunlight. All fabrics will eventually break down, some quicker than others, so making an attempt

"Ultimately, a compromised sail inventory is not only bad for performance; it can affect the safety of both the boat and crew"

Mainsail covers not only make a boat look neater, but they add life the sail ,especially in hot climates where ultraviolet light can damage sails.

to keep sails covered when they are not being used will pay dividends down the road. In Chapter 2 we learned about fibers and the degree to which they are able to resist UV degradation. The following list, ranked from worst to best in their ability to resist UV degradation, are the fibers mentioned in Chapter 2:

Technora Kevlar Vectran Nylon Pentex

Dacron/Polyester Spectra/Dyneema Carbon fiber


Fortunately for cruisers, other than carbon (which is of no use because of its brittle nature) the fabrics most commonly used for cruising sails - Spectra, Dacron, Pentex, and nylon - are ranked relatively high. That's not to say you shouldn't take care of the sails. Indeed if you plan to spend a lot of time in the Tropics then you really need to take extra care when it comes to protecting your sails from the highly damaging effects of ultraviolet rays. This means keeping the sail cover on the main when it is not in use, and the headsails in their bags. Also consider adding strips of UV material to the leech and foot of your roller-furling sails if you have not already done so. You should remember, however, that even these covers lose their ability to protect the sail from the sun. Boom covers and sunshields get threadbare over time and as the fabric ages the sun will be able to penetrate through to the sail. For real bullet-proof protection you might consider having a mainsail cover built that has a foil liner on the inside. The foil liner is the same

On a rig like the one on Drum, chafe patches were a must and can be clearly seen in this photo. In addition to having the patches someone was sent aloft daily to check for chafe and other kinds of wear and tear.

material that is used for making space blankets and it completely blocks the sun's harmful rays. An investment in a bullet-proof cover and UV-prohibiting films and adhesives when the sails are new will also help extend the life of the sail.

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