Sept 23, 2021
Last issue we covered types of headsail UV protective covers. All of these covers can be made of many different cover cloths, and I will give you the low down on how to choose what material is best for your application.
What makes a good cover cloth? UV protection, fade resistance, stain resistance, chafe resistance, tear and fray resistance, and good workability for installation by the sailmaker.
Above are the most common UV cover cloths used on a headsail cover. For mainsail covers, breathability is more important, so Sunbrella and Weathermax are the most common. Coated dacron sailcloth cover (DUV) is the most basic cover. It is very light weight, has good UV resistance while the titanium dioxide white coating remains intact, has only minimal chafe resistance, but is extremely easy to work with giving very smooth installations that minimally affect the sail shape.
Odyssey is a good light weight option if you need to have a colour other than white. It has excellent UV protection and good fade resistance, but isn’t the most breathable and has a similar lifespan to DUV of about 5-6 years or so in the Great Lakes region.
The sail above IS a furling headsail with a built in UV cover. If you match the cover to the sail colour, they hide in plain sight!
A tiny step heavier than the Odyssey is Weathermax 80. Weathmax is an uncoated cloth so dries out quicker and doesn’t lose protective ability as the coating wears. This is the strongest and most tear resistant cloth which also resists abrasion better than all others. This cloth also heat cuts very well with minimal fraying and can be glued down at the seams to give a very smooth installation.
Sunbrella has been used for UV covers for many decades. It has vibrant colours and longevity the same as Weathermax (both have 10 year warranties), decent wear resistance, but does tend to lose dimensional stability with time. It gets a bit floppy with age, and the significant weight does hurt sailing performance. It is also prone to fraying, so edges need to be folded under which creates very thick edges and transitions. Sunbrella used to be king of the hill, and will still be around for many more years despite the weight and fraying.
There is a last option to consider is painted on UV protection. There are some elastomeric paints that can work on very stiff and heavy large yacht sails where the expected lifespan is a year or two, but don’t provide long lasting durable protection on light and flexible small to moderate sized sails. Take a look at the warning label on a painted UV cover. If it isn’t for long term furled storage, what is it for?
Next issue we will look at care and cleaning.
Keven Piper – Sailmaker, Bay Sails, Hamilton, Ontario
Keven Piper, two-time Shark 24 World Champion, founded Hamilton, ON-based Bay Sails in 1998.