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Season preparation – sails and rigging

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This is how you get your yacht ready for a successful season on board!

Both should always be well maintained and well cared for in order to increase the service life, but both rigs and sails unfortunately do not last indefinitely, even with the best care. Most sailing boats, the common series and family yachts, have aluminum masts and a stay made of stainless steel wire. The wooden masts of older ships are also mostly stiffened with stainless steel wire. And now opinions differ. Most experts and insurance companies recommend replacing and renewing the standing goods made of this stainless steel wire, i.e. shrouds and stays, every 15 years. After all, it is these wires that keep the rig up even in the toughest weather.
With all the advantages of the uncomplicated and maintenance-free, laid stainless steel wires, there is one serious disadvantage: the real condition can only be determined from the outside to a limited extent. A forestay, or backstay, or want that looks flawless from the outside can still be weakened from the inside and, with a lot of wind, simply tear. The result is clear: the mast will go overboard immediately in 99 out of 100 cases. So: it is better to be safe than sorry.

Pure precaution

However, it should also be said here that there are cruising yachts that have been sailing the area for 20 or 30 years without a mast break and without ever having renewed the standing rigging. Because the 15-year recommendation is purely a precautionary measure and some people just let it depend. Depending on the area or the planned cruise, you should think twice about it.

The alarm signals

However, there are some tell-tale clues that will tell us when we need to actually replace the wires. “Before rigging in spring, you should take a close look at the standing rig. If the wires are kinked, for example due to improper storage, they should be replaced immediately. Further alarm signs are corrosion, rust noses, which are mainly visible at the terminals, or wires that untwist, also mostly at the terminals. “

Maintenance of running goods

Of course you should then also inspect the running goods, especially the traps. These shame filen (nautical for an undesired chafing of ropes, sails or other equipment, which leads to premature wear) often on the pulleys in the mast or on deck, especially if the pulleys are no longer really usable. A case can also be weakened by such chafing points, but before you completely renew it, it is often enough to simply “turn it around”: Pull out of the mast – of course only with a thin cord and then pull it back in again can – turn around and move back the other way around. So you can still get one or two seasons out of the cordage before you completely replace it.

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Maintenance of furling systems

Even the furling systems for foresails and mainsails that are widely used today should be cleaned once a year, i.e. rinsed out with fresh water and oiled. You should adhere to the recommendations and instructions of the respective manufacturer. If you have bought the ship for a long time or used it and you have run out of documents, that’s no problem either – you can actually download the relevant manuals or care instructions from any manufacturer from the Internet. In general, you should use a smooth-running oil (sewing machine oil) and not grease for oiling, unless it is a lubricant supplied or recommended by the manufacturer. Otherwise there is a risk that the balls in the bearing will become “sticky” over time and the drum will become more difficult to move.

Maintenance of the masts

The masts and spars themselves hold up, theoretically, forever – with the exception of mechanical damage, of course. Of course, wooden poles have to be sanded and varnished every year, problem areas are everywhere where fittings are screwed on, because there moisture can penetrate the wood and cause it to rot. Aluminum masts, on the other hand, are completely maintenance-free, you can polish or paint them from time to time, with an appropriate primer, but then only for purely cosmetic reasons. Here, too: check the attachment points of fittings to see if there is any corrosion.

Testing of cables, pulleys and blocks

If the mast has already been laid, it would be more important to look at the cable connections to lamps and antennas on the mast top and elsewhere and, if necessary, to clean them and screw them again. You should also check the feasibility of roles and blocks here, but we have already mentioned that.

Sails: How to use the cloth correctly

The sails should all be cast off in autumn and brought to the sailmaker for a check-up in good time, preferably in autumn or winter. It will detect minor signs of wear and tear and repair it immediately, which is significantly cheaper than “waiting” for a sail to really break. The seams, for example, can become weak after several years from UV radiation. The sailmaker can then simply sew over it, which is of course easier than repairing a sail that may already have broken. Chafing areas in the cloth can also be reinforced straight away.

Dacron sails, but also those made from modern foils, have a limited lifespan. After a few years they lose their shape, which really affects sailing performance dramatically. It is not possible to make a really accurate statement about the lifespan of sails, because it depends on many factors – type of fabric, but also the area (intense UV exposure or not, more strong or weak wind), how much is actually being sailed and Finally, of course, how carefully the sails are treated, when sailing (reefing or changing the foresail in good time) as well as in the harbor (packing under sail tarpaulins as weather protection).

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