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HomeSailIs Your Rig Right? Rigging Tips from the Caribbean's Top Riggers

Is Your Rig Right? Rigging Tips from the Caribbean’s Top Riggers

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Is your rig right?

Before putting the boat back in the water for the 2006 season,
many owners will be thinking of giving their rigging a check. We asked three
top Caribbean riggers what they should be looking for and how to fix it.

How often do you need to
check the rig?

Shag Morton, FKG:
If your boat is
new or 3 years old, there should not be much to worry about other than a
monthly check of the whole rig. After this age, the mast and rigging should be
checked more thoroughly.

You should remove your mast
at least every other year. This is around $300 in and out which is not much in
comparison to a new mast if things go wrong.

Good advice is to check
your mast and rigging every time you do a passage, and again after you get
there. It’s like checking a car – oil and tyre pressures, windscreen wipers,
have you got the right CDs in the player?

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Patrick Amiand, Must Yacht

: According to insurance company guidelines, the approximate
lifespan of the standing rigging is 10 years for a monohull and 7 years for a

Iain Abernethy, Antigua

Rigs have to be pulled
every two years. If you have bought a previously owned vessel it is advisable
as a precaution.

What are the most common type
of problems?

Most problems stem
from the rigging being too loose, as the leeward side will be moving around
excessively and cause fatigue at the end of the fittings. A good example of
this is on an Atlantic crossing where you are on the same tack most of the time
and when you arrive in the Caribbean, you start going north on the other tack
and things start breaking. Shock cord on the D’s to the Caps can help stop this

Stainless steel
suffers from ageing and you have to check all the folds, welded joins, thin
points and deck chain plates.

Antigua Rigging: Corrosion.
Leather covers hold moisture and need to have a suitable lubricating barrier
between them and what they are protecting. Electrolysis will occur any time
dissimilar metals are in contact in a saltwater environment (gooseneck brackets,
vang tangs…). Chain plates cannot be seen and should again be removed and
inspected on boats 20 years or older.

Frozen or worn sheaves
will induce a lot of friction making life harder. Any sheave which is making
undue noise should be inspected. Poorly sized pins will result in point
loading, damaging the pin and the fittings it is connecting, whether it be
tangs, chain plates or gooseneck toggles. Gooseneck and vang brackets should
also be inspected to check there are spacer washers between the mast bracket
and the toggle. Likewise between the jaws of booms or vangs – spacer washers
are required here to prevent wear where there is movement.

What can you do to prevent

Chafe is the
sailors worst enemy, so a little time taken before the crossing covering these
parts can save sails and rigging from being damaged.

If you do not know how
to tune a mast you should not do anything other than tighten your rigging at
the dock with a small spanner. Do not tune under sail!

Rust is normally an
indication that the metal is breaking down. Check these spots regularly,
especially if your boat is over 10 years old, as stainless doesn’t last for
ever, like us ALL.

Corrosion around
winches, cleats and other mast fittings should be treated immediately, as this
will cause damage to the mast. All fastenings should be treated with an
anti-corrosion product if your mast is aluminium.

Sailors would
really save money if every year they greased the rigging screws and tuned the
spars. The screws seize up and cause expensive corrosion. Obviously, a small
annual revision prevents long periods out of action.

On top of that, you have to look at all the sailing accessories, such as
roller furling, boom, electric cable in the mast.

Antigua Rigging
Furling systems
need to be set up properly to prevent undue wear or failure. The lower foil
should be closely inspected as it takes the most torque. The sail feed entry
should also be carefully inspected for any hairline cracks. An overloaded sheet
can put undue stress into the system causing many problems, as does tensioning
the halyard with the sail furled. Tired foils will have slop at the joints
which will eventually damage the boltrope, possibly preventing furling or
dropping of the sail. Damage to the top foil is common due to ill fitting

Wire standing rigging is
most susceptible to failure where it enters the terminal and the load is
transferred from the wire to the fitting. Ill fitting or misaligned terminals
negatively affect rig lifetime and greatly increase the probability of failure.

Rod standing rigging is
most susceptible at the underside of the head of the rod. Vertical cracking on
rod heads indicates fatigue. The rod can be re-headed given there is enough
stroke on the adjuster. The most common problem with cold heading is when the
stay is not under constant load or misaligned. This is most prevalent with
diagonal shrouds, where the shrouds should be tied with bungie to the verticals
to retain tension when it becomes the leeward shroud.

Moving parts such as
sheaves, winches and bearings should be cleaned or flushed with hot fresh water
and lubricated with an appropriate spray or grease. Any parts which are bent or
frozen should be replaced or repaired. Not to be forgotten are halyard swivels;
a rarely serviced piece of equipment is the mainsail halyard swivel (furling
masts). This should also be lowered, flushed and greased every three to four

What spares should you have
on board?

: Have some
spectra or any non-stretch rope; 3-4 times the length of your boat, equivalent
to the strength of your wire. This rope is as strong as wire and can be used as
rigging. It will get you to port if used right.

If your mast does come
down, my best advice is to get rid of it as fast as possible. The longer you
have it hanging over the side, the sooner it can make a hole in the side of
your boat. It is good advice to carry some way of cutting your rigging
(manually or electric).

What should be left to the

: As your boat
gets older the things that cannot be seen become a problem, i.e. internal
fittings in the mast, sheaves that are impossible to take out with the mast in
the boat, and most importantly, your chain plates… well, who looks at them?
They are a part of the boat building and should last the life of the vessel,
(they will not). They are the same as keel bolts, at 8-10 years old they should
be looked at. The problem is, what is their condition between the deck where
you can’t see? In some boats this is easy to do, but the boats that are not are
normally the ones that break, as nothing is done.

: For the complete
rigging, I recommend taking off the mast because the work is much cheaper and
quicker and we can refit many small details on the spot. For a 35′, a complete
rig will cost about 2000 Euros, ie 200 Euros a year for 10 years. That’s 100
hours work for 10 years.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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