Before departing on any yacht delivery it is essential to check your rigging.
Failure of the rig at sea can cause major safety issues and extensive damage to a vessel. Insurance companies recommend changing your standing rigging every ten years, but there are plenty of circumstances that could cause a rig to fail long before that time period.
So here is our guide to check your rigging and minimise the risks.
Firstly, what are the main causes of rig failure?
- Electrolysis: All different metals in contact and exposed to salt water, cause an aggressive corrosion called electrolysis. Ideally a joining compound such as Duralac should be used when two different metals are in contact. Quite often the effects of corrosion cannot be seen, as it occurs under fittings. However a tell-tale sign is a white powder deposit around the fittings or bubbling of paint.
- Stress: If something has more load than it is designed for, the loading is in the wrong area or continuous back and forth bending this will cause stress which will eventually result in failure.
- Wear: Taking out every other factor all moving parts have a life span before they fail due to wear. As they saying goes “if it moves it will break” may be you could add “eventually” to that but the result is still the same.
Areas to check:
Starting at the base of the mast, check the mast-foot and T-bar for stress cracks, movement and corrosion. This component takes the biggest compression loads of the whole rig.
Check for any black staining on the deck, as this is an indication of metal wearing away, often from the gooseneck or sheave boxes. While in this area check all sheaves are running freely, and if not try pouring hot water over them and free up with a dry silicone lubricant. If this fails they should be replaced as they will cause wear on control lines.
Next take a look at the kicker and gooseneck fittings on the mast and boom. Both these fittings take huge loads, so corrosion on their securing points can cause serious problems in the event of failure. While checking the boom inspect the pulley wheel fittings on the clew and tack end ensure everything that should move, moves freely.
Gooseneck pins should be straight and there should be limited up and down movement in the toggle. Nylon washers can be used to pack out gaps and limit movement and metal to metal wear.
Roller-furling gear should be free to run. Resistance and any ‘lumpy’ feel in the rotation is a sign of an issue. It has been known for a seized drum to unwind a compression terminal, which will lead to complete rig failure. Inspect the drum and if required service, flush it with fresh water and use a dry silicone lubricant.
Walk the deck
Check all shackle pins and consider mousing them with a cable tie or wire to keep them secure. Visually check all U-bolts and shackles for wear, leading to damage and potential failure. Check chain plates for cracks, rust and wear.
Rod rigging should be lubricated and moving freely within its fittings.
Check all shroud end swage fittings. The most common place for shrouds to break is just above the fitting. Run your hand over the shroud and if one strand in the shroud is raised, then it has either broken somewhere or has failed in the fitting.
Check your rigging bottlescrews for cracks and discolouration. They should also be free to move. Never force a bottlescrew, as you run the risk of stripping the thread. If they are seized, treat with penetrating oil and leave to soak overnight.
Now it’s time to get in the bosun’s chair
Check the mast wall for cracking or deformation around T-terminals and other fittings. A crack will indicate that a load is bearing where it shouldn’t. Check all mast to shroud fittings. All sheaves should freely move and external halyard blocks run and swivel freely. Check for halyard wear where they enter the mast.
Check your rigging wires are straight throughout their length, especially where they enter an end fitting. A bend or the wire failing to line up with the end fitting, causes stress in the connection and in swaged fittings the wire often fails just inside the fitting where the rig’s movement chafes it.
Inspect spreaders for cracking, corrosion and any movement. Check split pins are in place and tape if there is a chance of them damaging a sail. Check for wear on the spreaders from any halyards that may have been rubbing. In extreme cases, it has been known for a spare forestay that has been tight against the spreader for many years, to damage the casting.
Remember these are simple basic visual checks you can carry out, if there is any signs of issues we strongly recommend you consult a professional to check your rigging.
For further checks you can carry out check our article on preparing for a boat delivery