In the Event of a Rigging Failure:
What does one do if a piece of equipment
breaks or is on the verge of breaking? This question is probably the least thought of problem a beginner or intermediate sailor ever thinks of but it is right up there with the MOB
drill. As with the MOB
drill, your response to a rig failure should be automatic.
There are 5 assemblies (including the associated fittings*) that can break:
* The most common failure mode involves the tangs, turnbuckles, and chainplates and the smaller, but no less significant, screws, bolts, terminal fittings, clevis and cotter pins that hold everything together, rather than the actual mast
extrusion & wire (or rod) stays.
The first thing you want to do is remove any pressure from the part that is about to break or has broken.
IF THE MAST BREAKS
- The most important thing to do is prevent it from puncturing the hull
. You might have to cut the wires so a good set of bolt cutters is an important piece of safety equipment
the mast If you can, but some cases you may have to "deep six" it.
IF A SHROUD BREAKS
- Tack immediately. The strain will now be on the opposite side of the rigging
IF THE FORESTAY BREAKS
- Immediately bear off to a broad reach or run. The pressure on the mast and sails
is now forward and off the luff of the jib
. Leave the jib
up as it will temporarily support the mast while you rig a spare line. If you don't have a spare halyard
(get one) drop the main, disconnect the main halyard
and fasten that to whatever is handy on the bow.
IF THE BACKSTAY BREAKS
- Sheet in the mainsheet as hard as possible. This causes the leech of the main to assume the support that was provides by the backstay. Head
to reduce pressure on the leech. Rig a halyard to some point on the stern. A topping lift
nicely . The potential of the backstay breaking is another reason why you need that second halyard!!
- Steer with your sails
. Under mainsail
only, the boat
want to head
toward the wind
. Under jib only, the boat
wants to turn away from the wind. By balancing these two forces you can get the boat to travel in a straight line. You can practice steering
with the sails very easily.
1) Lock the wheel
2) Release the jib and trim in the mainsheet. Boat will head up.
3) Release the mainsheet and trim in the jib sheet. Boat will fall off.
4) Now, working both sheets
together, trim the mainsheet and ease the jib sheet until you get the boat going in a straight line.
Let's say you want to tack. What do you do? Simple, just trim in the mainsheet and release the jib sheet. Hold until the boat comes head to wind. Now trim in the jib on the other side to back the jib and the boat will sail away from the wind on the new tack. Balance your sheets
again to get the boat sailing on a straight line
Checking Your Rig:
(a) Are the swaged fittings straight, or is distortion evident? Many rigs have slightly "banana'd" swages, which are the result of poorly set and worn dies in the swage machine, when the rig was initially made up.
(b) Is there adequate articulation, where the 'T' terminals fit into the mast, and are the backing plates
showing signs of wear?
(c) Any signs of corrosion
where the wire feeds into the lower swage could be a sign of trouble and if there is a single
frayed strand, then the wire should be condemned.
(d) Are the rigging screws perfectly straight (no bends) and lubricated? Are the clevis pins the correct size for the chainplate holes and rigging screw toggles.
(e) Is there evidence of chain plate
movement, especially with regard to the babystay and aft lowers, since these take heavy loads?
(f) Are moving parts
in good condition, such as goose-neck, kicker
and mainsheet connections?
(g) Are there any signs of dents, or chafe damage that could weaken the structure of the mast or boom?
(h) Is the Furling
and headfoil system in good condition? Maybe needs a service
(i) Is there any evidence that the 'T' base/mast post assembly has degraded through compression
. Poorly fitted deck
glands can result in water
penetrating the structure immediately beneath the 'T' base under the mast.
(j) Are deck
organizers, clutches and winch
arrangements correctly positioned in terms of minimizing friction? Are they lubricated and do they function effectively?
A major cause of rig failure is when the mast has not been tuned correctly, thus inducing metal fatigue at rig terminals, in the wire itself and also the backing plates
in the mast.
Key points to check with the standing rig and the mast itself are as follows:
(a) Check that the chain plates are in a direct line with the rigging, so that clevis pins are aligned in the hole
(b) Check that toggles are fitted below and above the rigging screw, so as to give adequate articulation
(c) Lubricate rigging screws, being especially important with the older all stainless steel
versions, which used to "bind up". Modern rigging screws either have chromed bronze
barrels, or bronze
(d) Check that the cap shrouds and lowers take up a correct line at the mast. It is important that the 'T' bars articulate properly on the backing plate, so that each swage is aligned with its shroud
(e) Check wear in the sheave cages at masthead (spindles and sheaves) and that the sheaves are adequately lubricated at mast heel. A useful tip is to ensure that the main halyard is shackled into the forward hole of the headboard, rather than the aft one. Reason for this is that when running, if you shackle into the aft hole, the halyard will take up too great an angle over the shoulders of the sheave and wear it down. Ultimately, the halyard will jump off the sheave.
(f) Check that the no. 1 genoa
halyard feeds through the bullseye fairlead situated some 6" to 9" below the halyard sheave. This will prevent an involuntary "wrap" of the halyard.
(g) When mast is unstepped, check security
of rivets in heel fitting.
(h) At the end of each season, wash all spars and rigging to clear salt
deposits and lubricate all moving parts
. Take special care where stainless steel
is in contact with aluminum
and lubricate these fastenings. Squirt water
down inside the boom, since this is where considerable corrosion
takes place, since anodising is less effective in these areas. Ideally take all running rigging out and thoroughly wash and refit
to mast in the spring. By sewing a small loop in the end of each rope
tail, it will be possible to attach the messenger with more security
Some On-line References:
BoatUS - Seaworthy
Inspecting Your Boat's Mast and Rigging Surveying Your Rig:
From the “Sabre 30" Owner’s Manual:
30 SPARS AND RIGGING - TUNING AND ADJUSTMENT
E. & O. E.