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When to replace your UV strip

The UV strip (also known as a sacrificial strip) protects the leech and foot of your sail from the sun whilst the sail is furled, allowing you to have the sail up all the time.  Without this protection, you would be cutting your sail down every few months as your leech and foot rotted away.  It can be expensive to replace, but it’s still cheaper than a new sail.

Replacing your UV strip should happen more often than most people believe.  This is because a UV strip works similarly on your sail as sunscreen works on your skin.

So, let’s look at how sunscreen works.

There are two factors that are important to keep note of when wearing sunscreen, the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and how long it remains on the skin.  We are used to seeing SPF30 or SPF50 sunscreen.  But what does that actually mean?

The number after SPF refers to how much longer it takes for your skin to burn.  For example, you sit out in the sun for 5 minutes and come back inside because you started to burn, however; if you put on some SPF30, it means that it takes 30 times longer to burn.  Now, some maths:  5minutes x 30 = 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours before you start burning.

But wait! The sunscreen bottle claims that it is 4 hours water resistant.  Well that’s great, but it has absolutely no bearing on how well the sunscreen protects you, just how well it sticks to your skin, (there’s a reason why it’s recommended that you refresh your sunscreen every 2 hours).

Now back to the UV strip.  Many cloths that are used for UV strips come with a manufacturers warranty of between 7 – 10 years (less if the cloth is red).  In sunscreen terms this is equivalent to the water resistance time, or the length of time that the sunscreen stays on your skin.  Sure, the cloth can last that long, however; it doesn’t mean that it is protecting the cloth under it from UV rays for that long.

I have found over the years that the actual protection from UV is actually less for most colours.  And yes, the colour of your UV strip matters.  Most colours will only last between 5 – 8 years (less for red,  seriously, don’t use red).  For black and navy blue, you can get close to the 7 – 10 years.

This leads to the question; how can you tell when you need a new UV strip?

The first option is to look under the UV strip (best done when you have a hole or some of the stitching has come undone).  If the sail has changed colour on the leech (often they go a bit yellow on a dacron sail) then it’s time for a new one.  If you can see the colour change from the opposite side of the sail from the UV strip, you’re overdue.

The second option is to look at how faded the colour of your UV strip is.  If it’s heavily faded, it’s probably time for a new one.

Last option is to see if you can easily tear your UV strip.  If you can, you are well overdue.

Checking your UV strip regularly can help prevent you needing new sails sooner. It ensures the UV strip is still doing it’s job of protecting of your sail. If you have a red UV strip, consider changing this colour to navy blue or black when you’re due for a new strip. This preventative measure may cost more now, but it will end up costing less long term as you won’t need to replace your sails as often.

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