Many boaters overlook one of the most complex and fragile systems on board: the spar. We present you with a short overview on spars that will also answer your insurance related questions.
When Martin Blunk On July 20, 2009, I went with my family for a walk along the Baltic Sea to the southern coast of Denmark, euphoria reigned on board: they were to sail under a Gulfwind at 4 on the Beaufort scale, under the rays of the bright sun and a blue cloudless sky. Only a dark ridge of clouds above Sonnerborg somewhat darkened the high spirits - and announced the coming trouble. Very soon the yacht was overtaken by a powerful storm, and the staysail had to be quickly reeled off.
Mast overview: Checking the mast and shrouds
And here is where the misfortune happens: a halyard diverter, forgotten during mast setting, caused the halyard to twist around the headstock and then move it to the side. When the unstable mast broke, gusts of wind of almost 50 knots hit the yacht.
Since the yachtsman's family somehow made it to the port on their own Langbalih, their yacht Bianca 26 did not figure in the statistics of the German Wrecked Society of 30 yachts that suffered a mast break in 2009 (only in the Baltic / North Sea region). The real data, which are not amenable to statistical accounting, can be much larger: only one of the largest insurance company Pantaenius “Handles an average of 150 mast breaks per year (all of Germany),” says Holger Flindt, Head of the Department for Compensation of Damages.
The breakdown of the mast as the most dangerous possible accident in yachting is only a consequence of the often overlooked defects of the mast, the stability of which is based on the harmonious connection of all elements, from the cable end to the lanyard. Even if only one part fails, all statics can suffer. Twisted or torn hangers on the shrouds, bent cable ends, worn lanyard threads, a mast profile squeezed by sling or outdated profile connections on a fokastag - there are enough weak points on the mast, the rigger assures
Ullie Dormann from the company Ancker yachting in Kappeln. Often the cause of breakage is simply the wear and tear of parts due to the age of the yacht, as more glass-plastic yachts are now approaching their “retirement age”.
A simple rule to follow in such a situation: replacement of standing rigging after 1215 years or after 20,000 25,000 nautical miles. Charter boats or yachts, often in tough regattas, which already have partly fragile spars, have experienced similar breakdowns before. Salty air combined with a high UV load, such as in the Mediterranean Sea, also shortens the service life.
Not the least role in increasing the wear of the mast and standing rigging is played by our careless handling: if in the fall a thorough inspection of the mast is prevented by a lack of time, often because of the nasty weather, in which the yacht is lifted by a crane, and the mast is hidden in a hard-to-reach warehouse, then in the spring rush interferes when launching. But it is precisely such an inspection that needs to be carried out once a year, believes Ullie Dormann (see mast check table):
"Anyone who quickly checks only the electrician at the top of the mast, tidies the halyards and secures the stays, is doing wrong to this complex system."
Of course, in most cases, you just need to do a visual inspection of the mast, but “it is he who will help to recognize possible problems in advance; if such suspicions arise (for example, the formation of hair cracks), experts should be involved who can analyze the defect in more detail. "
State-of-the-art early defect detection capabilities
SGS FirmAs the largest material quality control company in the world, we offer professional spar inspection using the most modern methods. They allow even invisible damage to be detected. With the help of endoscopy, it is possible to detect internal defects in welded seams or rivets, and the paint capillary inspection detects even the smallest microcracks on the aluminum profile.
"Items subject to breakage, such as lanyards or cable ends, can be sent to us by mail for a relatively small fee, and we will check them using X-rays", explains Tom Ross from the company SGS. "Anyone interested in a more thorough inspection of the spar by a specialist directly on the yacht can reduce costs by up to 150 euros by collecting several yachts at the same time."
Mast Inspection and Maintenance Tips
- Dismantle slings, stays and cables (at least in order to preserve the anodized coating of the mast) and inspect
- Thoroughly clean lanyards, bolts and threads and treat with a seawater-resistant oil, preferably a paste (e.g. Anti-Seize or Teflon-Gel)
- Clean the mast and preserve with an aluminum polish
- Check the rope pulleys (play, scratches, uneven rotation) and lubricate
- Check fasteners and guides, rinse and spray ball bearings with salt water resistant spray (e.g. Bayer Marine Spray, Harken One Drop)
- Inspection of connections of different materials (steel / aluminum), for example, bolts or fasteners; Duralac prevents frequent electrolytic contact corrosion
- With mast base closed: check drain holes (risk of corrosion)
- Replacing Worn Safety Cotter Pins (Cheap Small Parts)
- Checking individual sections / connections on the headstay profile
- Thorough twist check, rinse the twist line from seawater (increases the service life and maintains the flexibility of the line)
- Replace: untwisted wire halyards or torn cables (happens when pinching in the area of the bushings), microcracks in the fasteners or bent cable ends
- Checking the mast: Aluminum becomes brittle over time, which reduces its elasticity. Areas particularly susceptible to micro-cracking: holes, halyard exits, stays (top and sling) attachment points, boom guy attachments, halyard box or welds on the boom swivel. In the event of microcracks or bulges / depressions (first of all, arrow-shaped salings directed to the stern, put pressure on the profile), you should contact the experts
Is everything set up correctly?
If you put the mast "by eye", then even with a relatively new mast, the mast can be damaged. Too weak top shrouds or asymmetry in the tension of the mast - Ullie Dormann I've seen many examples of sloppy customization already.
However, the company's expert Selden does not like to give universal advice on the correct setting of the spar, because its configurations still have significant differences. “Top-end or fractional armament - this is where the differences begin. The angle of the spreaders also affects the pre-bending of the mast and therefore the tension of the top shrouds. Anyone who is unsure about installing a mast should purchase the appropriate manufacturer's manual or go to a professional shipyard or workshop. If you make notes on the thread of the turnbuckles, they will serve you well for a long time.
"If you have full hull insurance, then it also covers the spar", explains Martina Helhoff from the firm esa, divisions Allianz Deutschlandengaged in yacht insurance. Since there is no insurance obligation for yachts, such insurance is not compulsory.
Rope pulleys should be checked to avoid wear.
The connections on the strand profile are obsolete
Noticeable dent in the mast profile
Most yachtsmen are either not insured at all or have liability insurance for damage caused. If, in the worst case, the mast breaks, then the full hull covers the consequences; only the element that caused the breakdown (for example, a broken cable end) is excluded from the damage coverage.
The profile of the mast is dented, as shown by a check with a measuring tape
Lanyard is bent and needs to be replaced
Gardel caved in
“The insurance terms and conditions do not clearly state that there is an objective obligation to check the spars. But it is necessary to fulfill the obligation, which provides for the manifestation of good faith, which the policyholder assumes and which is spelled out in the insurance conditions. If it is proved that the policyholder has violated the obligation or has shown gross negligence, this may lead to restrictions up to the loss of insurance coverage. "
However, it is often difficult to prove negligence; Rainer Kugler from an insurance company Wehring & Wolfes this is how it expresses the essence of the problem: “The spars should be taken care of and checked not to report back to the insurance company, but simply to ensure the safety of our own crew. In this respect, the captain has a duty to exercise good faith and discretion. "
Due to the great competition among insurance companies, a universal check of the spar may not become mandatory. Therefore, each insurance company pursues its own policy, for example, it requires an accurate description of the condition of the spars, introduces special clauses in the insurance contract, or does not take on yacht insurance at all.
“Problem cases are yachts used exclusively for competition, for example, J80, Starboot or Melges 24", says Coogler. But old glass-plastic yachts, if necessary, are tested: “We examine yachts built before 1980 more closely and sometimes require a mast check to be carried out,” explains Rosie Binge from the company Pantaenius.
Other firms use a questionnaire to describe the condition of the yacht. "In general, the price of a full hull insurance depends on the size and type of the vessel, as well as on the age and suitability for sailing." Therefore, taking care of the yacht, including the spars, always makes sense, not to mention the responsibility to your sailing colleagues.
What about Mr. Blunck's situation mentioned above? “The forgotten halyard diverter - it happens, says Dr. Friedrich Schöchl of Yacht-Pool. This cannot be called gross negligence; we would have him covered for the damage. On condition of full comprehensive insurance ".
5 basic rules for setting up a mast
- Set the fore-stay so that the mast halyard (depending on the type of spars, at 1 - 2 %) is directed to the stern
- Start by tightening the upper shrouds, then tighten the lower shrouds.
- Middle shrouds are pulled last. If there are several of them, then first pull the lower middle shrouds, then alternately the rest, moving from bottom to top
- Ultimately, the mast must be level and not take the shape of an S (plumb line)
- The tension of the cables should be such that during rough seas the mast does not begin to swing. Leeward shrouds must not wobble or wobble when the yacht turns. Fine or additional tuning is done with the sails up
Text and photo: Hinnerk Stumm
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