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Old 04-10-2020, 19:45   #1
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Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

This is a tale warning. Last week we were racing from Waukegan to Kenosha, 13 miles. The winds were brisk 15-20 from the southwest so it was a run downhill the whole way.

Normally, this would be a great fun for 2 hours. Only my helmsman was not paying attention and veered to starboard just enough to cause an accidental jibe. We didn't know anything was wrong for about 10 minutes. I started hearing a banging up forward. When we tracked down the noise it turned out to be my starboard spreader. It was hanging from the upper shroud and banging against the mast. It happened so fast I never even knew it happened.

As it turns out, the topping lift on the boom had too much slack. Running downwind the slack had wrapped around the starboard spreader. When we jibed the force just ripped the spreader right off the mast. Luckily, it was on the starboard side the opposite side from the wind. Had the boom been on the opposite side, we could have lost the mast itself.

So, watch how long your topping lift is or you could end up the same way.
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Old 05-10-2020, 07:30   #2
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

Glad everything turned out ok. Good to know!
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Old 05-10-2020, 09:54   #3
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

When sailing for long periods I loosen the topping lift and loop it around a cleat near the goose neck of the boom. It is then no longer in the way and can't chafe battens or catch on spreaders, etc. See if you can rig something like that. ?

Thank you for the post!
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Old 05-10-2020, 12:06   #4
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

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Originally Posted by ArmySailor View Post
When sailing for long periods I loosen the topping lift and loop it around a cleat near the goose neck of the boom. It is then no longer in the way and can't chafe battens or catch on spreaders, etc. See if you can rig something like that. ?

Thank you for the post!
That's not very practical on my boat. The boom is 13 feet long and you'd have to leave the cockpit to rig that. My goal is to be able to do most rigging and raising from the cockpit. I'm planning on setting up a cam cleat and block system to enable us to tighten and loosen the topping lift without leaving the cockpit. The goal is to loosen it slightly to allow normal sail shape but prevent too much slack. I had a running topping lift on my old boat with the end led back to the cockpit.
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Old 05-10-2020, 15:00   #5
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

Ahh. Gotcha. I have all lines led aft, including the topping lift. I think your idea is great.

I do tension/loosen it from cockpit but mainly just when raising lowering boom into the gallows.

I only do the forward loop trick when I'm sailing all day. I just loosen the clutch in the cockpit, go forward and loop it on the boom.

I wouldn't do it during nasty weather of course. But when cruising I frequently go sit forward or whatever. So the ten feet or so from cockpit to mast for me is not a big deal. Always clipped in, centerline jackline.
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Old 05-10-2020, 15:05   #6
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

I use a rigid vang that supports the boom, no topping lift required and good riddance!
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Old 05-10-2020, 15:07   #7
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

Here's how I do it. The red is my current topping lift. Led aft. The blue circle and arrow is where a temporary loop the line to keep it out of the way of spreaders and more importantly for me, chafe on battens.

My vessel is a 28 ft. cutter. I don't how long my boom is though. Probably something I should know! But it's slightly more aft than most sloops around my boat size. Not much, but a little. To accommodate the staysail and more centered of effort rigging, in a general sense. Click image for larger version

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Old 05-10-2020, 18:01   #8
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

I always appreciate learning about new (to me) failure modes.

Thanks
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Old 05-10-2020, 18:17   #9
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

I once had the “very loose” topping lift wrap around a rope cleat on the back stay and I was very worried, couldn’t go downwind and couldn’t drop the sail as I didn’t want to distort the back stay. Luckily, after some short tacks in appropriate wind angles the topping lift came off the stay by itself, I now watch the topping lift like a hawk and adjust it multiple times during a sail, I am thinking about bringing it back to the cockpit so I can adjust it easily.
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Old 07-10-2020, 11:41   #10
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

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Originally Posted by Gary Mc View Post
I use a rigid vang that supports the boom, no topping lift required and good riddance!
Same for us.
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Old 19-10-2020, 23:36   #11
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

OK. I ordered and received all the hardware and have had a chance to install it. The system consists of two cheek blocks and a cam cleat.

I've designed it so that you can control the topping lift from the cockpit at the point of raising and lowering the mainsail.

Basically, After the sail is raised, there is a foot or more of slack in the topping lift. Once the sail is fully raised, we trim out all the slack. When we drop the sail, we can then hoist the boom as high as we want to keep it clear of the cockpit crew. Now, all the mainsail controls can be accessed from the safety of the the cockpit.
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Old 20-10-2020, 02:05   #12
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

I have always used a length of shock cord tied into the topping lift line/wire so that when the topping lift is loose it tends to just pull a slight loop out aft and has enough tension to stop it flopping and whipping around catching on stuff.
Bad luck about your spreader!
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Old 21-10-2020, 03:08   #13
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Re: Watch out for the topping lift spreader trimmer!

I often wonder why this refit isn't done more often. It makes handling the main so much easier, not to mention improved sailing characteristics.
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I use a rigid vang that supports the boom, no topping lift required and good riddance!
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