RIGGING SAFETY

April 04, 2018

A broken mast… undoubtedly one of the worst fears of any sailor.  Over the past three years we have received multiple claims linked to failed rigging and masts. What is saddest about these stats is that the cause is generally found to be a small inexpensive part.  In these cases the damage to the vessel could easily have been avoided.

Worn out shroud attachments, bent split rings, a pin in the chain plate that was too small… all damaged parts that in most cases would only cost a couple of dollars to replace in order to make the rigging safe again.  There are some cases where specialised knowledge is required to identify weaknesses, but more predominantly a lack of the basic technical knowledge is the basis of neglect causing damage to the mast, and its components. There is one thing we know for certain, doing nothing is definitely the worst possible solution.  A broken mast will in most cases ruin the entire rigging and sails, and can cause serious damage to the hull and deck as well as be the cause of injury and even death in the a worst case scenario.

IF IN DOUBT, CONSULT A RIGGER  

During winter, whilst the mast is laid down, subjecting the rigging to a thorough visual inspection is more than necessary.  Detailed visual inspections can often reveal various defects, with the checking of pins and cotters often illuminating a need for replacement.  On another note, although corrosion and hair cracks are usually easy to detect, if it is unclear how serious the damage is, or how you should correct it, consulting a professional rigger is always the best option.  In addition to these points, it is worth noting that one of the major things experts advise against for securing your standing rigging is the use of split rings.

Our advice for all sailors is to commission a rigger to conduct a rigging check at regular intervals.  The rigging of a regatta racer or a sailing yacht used for long trips is certainly subject to more stress than yacht used for weekend cruises, so these intervals will depend entirely on the usage of your vessel in conjunction with the material the rigging is made from.

ENSURE CORRECT RIGGING ADJUSTMENT AND TRIMMING 

Lastly, the correct rigging adjustment and trimming are another crucial element. For example, insufficient shroud tension can not only reduce the life expectancy of the rigging from excessive movement and vibration which may permanently damage the rigging.  If you are unsure of what’s required, the manufacturers of the vessel and mast generally provide extensive instructions on rigging adjustment and trimming or alternatively you can speak to a trusted expert.