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Old 18-04-2013, 14:50   #1
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Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Last week we were forced to abort our visit to Antigua for the Classic Sailing Week because our mainsail head car broke and damaged the track for the third time. We decided to return to Puerto Rico to effect repairs. The saga is chronicled below:
  • In April 2012 the original head car popped off, breaking off both tabs on one side and damaging the track while doing so. This was apparently caused by worn ball bearings, which our rigger recommended replacing every 4 years. Ours had 9 years of heavy use on them.
  • 4-7 Dec 2012 - Replaced damaged track and head car with a different design while boat was hauled out for hurricane season
  • 20 Dec 2012 - New head car popped off track breaking two bottom tabs
  • 4-7 Feb 2013 - Replaced damaged slide on new car and repaired damage to track by sanding out scratches
  • 9 April 2013 - Discovered a loose Torlon bearing in cockpit during transit from St. Martin to Antigua. Removed head car to discover 1/4 of the bearings missing.
  • 10 April 2013 - Inspected track and discovered damage at reef positions
  • 13-15 April 2013 Transited to Puerto Rico on Genoa only
  • 18 April 2013 - Replaced damaged track and head car with triangular version similar to original
The two major lessons learned from this experience:
  1. Replace the bearings in the mast track every 4 years (see my post: Help...Losing my Balls! - (Fredriksen Cars).)
  2. Sometimes design changes are not for the better. The replacement the supplier sent (left photo below) had separate attachment points for the halyard and sail which tended to twist the car away from the mast with tension on the main sheet. Hopefully the new replacement (photo on right) will eliminate that problem with only one attachment point.
Has anyone else had similar problems? We may need to build a case against the supplier for the faulty design.
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Old 20-04-2013, 07:03   #2
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Latest word from the factory in France is that we need to replace the ball bearings with Torlon rod bearings to make up for the slide being 1 1/4 inches shorter than the original. Still sitting in port awaiting their shipment.
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Old 20-04-2013, 07:11   #3
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

This is not that uncommon. I had similar head issues even on my Tornado. It is important that the geometry of all of the parts is such that loads are, as much as possible, distributed evenly along the track and car. If one end has most of the load the life will be short. Sometimes, changing to a new mainsail with slightly different headboard will do it.
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Old 28-04-2013, 15:34   #4
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholson58 View Post
This is not that uncommon. I had similar head issues even on my Tornado. It is important that the geometry of all of the parts is such that loads are, as much as possible, distributed evenly along the track and car. If one end has most of the load the life will be short. Sometimes, changing to a new mainsail with slightly different headboard will do it.
Exactly the point . Unfortunately, the only things we changed were the track and head car.

Update: On 4/23/2013 we replaced the damaged head car with a new one with rod bearings instead of balls. On 4/25 we sailed in light winds to Culebrita, about 20 miles from the marina where we had done the repairs. The next day we sailed another 25 miles to St. John, USVI, also in light wind. On arrival, I inspected the head car and noted wear on the tabs on the port side of the car slide after only 15 hours of sailing time. I immediately called the rigger in Puerto Rico who asked me to e-mail US Spars, the provider of the replacement track and cars, and request a car slide in the same configuration as our original. I did so and included pictures of the car showing the wear streaks.

Obviously there is a fundamental problem with our track/car system that allows contact between the slide and the track. I am trying to get the supplier to figure it out but so far have only received an offer to replace the slide with another one and to contact the French manufacturer to see if they have an answer.

This is getting very frustrating and has now cost us well over a B.O.A.T. unit in slip fees, not to mention two weeks cruising time.
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Old 28-04-2013, 19:59   #5
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

At this point, I suggest that you visit the top of the mast on a totally windless day while the main is up. Take a camera and observe what is going on. It sould be obvious. I have also had success using binoculars to see without climbing. You may need to do this at a slip so you can get far enough to the side to see it at the best angle. If you can't get a rigger to figure it out, try a sailmaker. So far, it leems the only solution offered is bigger bearings rather than addressing the underlying problem.
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Old 29-04-2013, 06:25   #6
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Mark (Nicholson58),

You and I seem to be the only people interested in my problem, including the supplier/manufacturer of the track and head car. Your suggestion of viewing the sail from the top with the sail up has merit as well as bit of a challenge.

I have asked the supplier for a "top-to-bottom" review of the entire track/head car system to determine the problem that is allowing the tabs on the slide to contact the track. They will need a few days to work with the factory in France to come up with a solution. In the meantime, we'll enjoy the US and Spanish Virgin Islands, again, while working our way back towards Puerto Rico.
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Old 04-05-2013, 16:32   #7
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Yesterday the wife called US Spars and found out that the Torlon rod bearings mentioned in my previous posts are 6 mm in diameter and that US Spars didn't have any of the right size so they machined down 6.5 mm rods using a belt sander.

Is that amazing? Even my wife, who is not mechanically inclined, realized that was not good engineering practice.

Still awaiting final resolution with the factory engineers. At least we're enjoying Culebra while waiting.
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Old 05-05-2013, 00:12   #8
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

I hope they had the grace to make "quote" marks in the air when they said "Machined".

To me machining implies using a machine tool - in this case, a lathe.
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Old 06-05-2013, 09:28   #9
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

They did not have a lathe, hence the belt sander technique.
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Old 06-05-2013, 14:15   #10
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

DY:

I assumed that was the case, but that's no reason for them to use the term "machinining"

That's reserved for people who DO have a lathe (or a mill, or whatever is needed)
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Old 06-05-2013, 15:51   #11
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Even on our monohull, those top slugs of the headboard used to get big loads. Our sailmaker talked us into totally doing away with the headboard, and used strategically placed spectra webbing tape to reinforce the head of the sail. The sail is still too new to see how this will work long term, but it did noticeably change the geometry at the top of the sail, finished with a s/s welded ring at the top for the halyard shackle.

What I'm wondering is whether there's something intrinsic to the design of the head of your sail that is the basis of the problem? The reason I'm wondering it is because you mentioned having similar wear/damage at the places on the mast where the headboard slugs lie when the main is reefed, as well as at the masthead. It seems as if there's some sort of mis-alignment there.

I hope you get it solved quickly, and to your satisfaction.

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Old 06-05-2013, 20:17   #12
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

I always use a belt sander to fit my wheel bearing too. - no problem.
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Old 16-06-2013, 17:58   #13
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Status Update:
On 5/24/2013 we finally received a replacement car that was the original length and had Torlon rod bearings. We installed it, inspected the track for damage (none found), and went on our way. So far, that new car appears to be working. Inspection on 5/27 after two days of sailing in heavy weather revealed no wear on the aluminum tabs. Periodic inspections will monitor for future wear.
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Old 22-10-2013, 20:50   #14
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Just to let you guys know toron balls are for sale at cheap price on e-bay, have bought over 200 and have in stock in case of needing some.
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Old 28-02-2014, 04:19   #15
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Re: Mainsail Head Car and Track Problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreaming Yachtsman View Post
Status Update:
On 5/24/2013 we finally received a replacement car that was the original length and had Torlon rod bearings. We installed it, inspected the track for damage (none found), and went on our way. So far, that new car appears to be working. Inspection on 5/27 after two days of sailing in heavy weather revealed no wear on the aluminum tabs. Periodic inspections will monitor for future wear.
Hello Dreaming Y,
Have you finally solved the issue with the head car? Our Belize is from 2001 and I replaced the sails last summer and it turned out that the headcar has quite a lot mor resistance when hoisting the main that it had with the old main.
I have not done anything to correct this as I could not find any damage to either the track or the headboard. Find it a bit strange that the batten cars all have balls but the headboard are equipped with rods!

Would be good to hear from your experience since the last replacement.

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