Don’t take your rig for granted. Show it some love be­fore you start the sea­son

SAIL - - Contents - By Dun­can Kent

KNOWHOW Rig Check: show your rig some love be­fore the sea­son starts

Dur­ing spring com­mis­sion­ing we of­ten lav­ish far more at­ten­tion on our en­gine and electrics than we do on the rig, even though the lat­ter presents a much greater risk to both the boat and crew. Be­cause stand­ing rig­ging has so many pos­si­ble weak points, it’s vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to work out when any part is about to fail. There­fore, close in­spec­tion should be a manda­tory el­e­ment of your pre­sea­son preps and checks.

It will rarely take more than a cou­ple of hours to com­plete a de­tailed rig check, and in do­ing so there are a num­ber of tell­tale signs you should look for. While you’re at it, there are sev­eral main­te­nance tasks you can carry out to pro­long the life of your shrouds, spar and fit­tings.

When you’re in­spect­ing your rig, be sure to take an in­ven­tory of all the parts and their di­men­sions, and photograph them. This will help should you ever have rig trou­ble far from home.

Ev­ery few years, you should also un­step the mast to check it over thor­oughly at ground level. This makes close in­spec­tion of ar­eas like the spreader roots, mast ter­mi­nals and hal­yard sheaves much eas­ier.


Start rig checks by in­spect­ing the spars, com­menc­ing with the mast step and foot. The high com­pres­sion forces on the mast step can put se­vere strain on both the T-bar and step, par­tic­u­larly if there is any im­bal­ance in the rig ten­sion. It’s also an area where salt­wa­ter can gather in a pool, mak­ing it prone to cor­ro­sion. Look closely at any riv­ets around the base and at the mast sec­tion for signs of cor­ro­sion or cracks.

The goose­neck is a com­mon weak spot on any rig, be­cause it has to with­stand mas­sive forces in sev­eral dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions when you are under sail. Fail­ure can cause con­sid­er­able dam­age, es­pe­cially if it tears it­self out of the mast, which will then be se­verely weak­ened. I al­ways re­move the main pivot bolt. Though it might look OK from the out­side, salt­wa­ter of­ten drips into and set­tles in­side the guide holes, se­ri­ously cor­rod­ing the bolt just where you can’t see it.

As with all the other mast fix­tures, check closely for hair­line cracks around the goose­neck fit­ting—ei­ther on the mast or on the fit­ting it­self. This is best done us­ing a dye, which will help make cracks more vis­i­ble to the naked eye.

The vang fit­tings are also no­to­ri­ously weak points on the boom. As these suf­fer sim­i­lar stress lev­els un­der­way, it’s wise to give them the same close in­spec­tion as the goose­neck.


Once you’ve done all you can at deck level it’s time to go up the mast, so dig out the bo­sun’s chair and find a trusted buddy to help. Most masts have in­te­gral sheaves that rarely get checked dur­ing the sea­son. Re­move their axle pins and sheaves to check for bear­ing wear and any flat spots that might in­di­cate pre­vi­ous seizure. On re­assem­bly, re­place any re­tain­ing pins/rings and en­sure the sheaves spin freely.

The same goes for ex­ter­nal hal­yard blocks, al­though you’ll also need to en­sure their swivels are ro­tat­ing freely. Re­move shack­les, check for wear or dis­tor­tion, then clean, lu­bri­cate and re­fas­ten. Mouse the shackle pins with new Monel wire, mak­ing sure there are no sharp wire ends to catch the lines or sails.

Next, check the mast fit­tings where the back­stay and forestay con­nect, en­sur­ing

cle­vis pins are straight and se­cure. In­spect the area around tang plates and tog­gle fit­tings for cracks—these can be mi­cro­scopic, so use a mag­ni­fy­ing glass and dye.

An­other com­mon area of rig fail­ure is where the shrouds are se­cured to the mast. Var­i­ous con­nec­tion meth­ods are used, but all should be checked closely for wear, cor­ro­sion and crack­ing. Any sign of wear on T-ball joints (of­ten the in­di­ca­tion of an under-ten­sioned or mis­aligned rig) means the ter­mi­nal, socket or both should be re­placed. Also look to see if there is any rust or bro­ken wires where the shroud en­ters the ter­mi­nal. This will be more ob­vi­ous if you slacken the ten­sion off the wire and then wig­gle the wire about a lit­tle.

As you work your way down the mast, check that the main­sail track is clean, straight and well se­cured, giv­ing it a spray of track lu­bri­cant as you de­scend. In­spect the spreader roots and ends for cor­ro­sion or dam­age, par­tic­u­larly if they have plas­tic end caps. Also check to make sure the spread­ers aren’t bent or dis­torted.


Back at deck level, the turn­buck­les and chainplates must be closely in­spected for cracks, rust, wear or dis­tor­tion. Worn tog­gles and cle­vis pins should be re­placed, as should any old split pins/ rings. Clean the threads and grease them lightly with Lanocote or Tef-Gel. If the turn­buck­les have been tightly taped up, there’s a chance that oxy­gen re­stric­tion will have caused cor­ro­sion, so re­move these and check for any dis­col­oration.

Next, look up the rig to make sure all the shrouds and stays lead fairly from their mast con­nec­tions to the turn­buck­les, and make sure the turn­buck­les are all equipped with tog­gles. Fi­nally, check the chainplates closely for any signs of crack­ing or dis­tor­tion. Also feel and tap around the plate to en­sure the deck has not ab­sorbed wa­ter and de­lam­i­nated as a re­sult of poor or dried-up seals.


When you’re happy that ev­ery­thing is good, it’s time to re­tune your rig. If you do it your­self, you should start at the bot­tom, work­ing your way up from the low­ers to the cap shrouds and fi­nally to the stays. Keep the bal­ance equal on each side by count­ing the turns on each turn­buckle. Do a few turns on one side be­fore go­ing to the other and ap­ply­ing an equal num­ber on the op­po­site shroud. This way you won’t risk de­form­ing the mast or pulling a fit­ting out of line. s

With the mast out of the boat, check the sheaves and also the ca­bles and wires for the elec­tri­cal fit­tings and an­ten­nae

With the rig stepped, in­spec­tion is not as easy but no less im­por­tant

From left: re­move any tape on turn­buck­les and check for cor­ro­sion; make sure split pins are in place and in good shape; rust where the rig­ging wire en­ters the ter­mi­nals is not a good sign

Keep an eye on poor leads from rig­ging ter­mi­nals, which can stress the wires and lead to early fail­ure of the wire or fit­ting. Right: also check for cracks around the ter­mi­nal fit­tings

Make sure there are no pro­trud­ing seiz­ing wires or split pins on the spreader ends to snag sails

This shroud is well tog­gled, but chainplates like this one are sus­cep­ti­ble to crevice cor­ro­sion around the welds

Here’s a warn­ing sign: rust weep­ing from a chain­plate

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