Superyacht sails and rigging: Servicing and maintenance

Written by Sarah Rowland | With thanks to Doyle Sailmakers, Carbo-Link, and Southern Spars

Last updated: 23/09/2016

When sailing the world as yacht crew aboard a majestic sailing yacht, it’s important to ensure that all superyacht sails, masts and rigging are in good working order at all times, helping to avoid full-starts and catastrophes at sea - especially while the owner or guests are aboard.

Search sailing and rigging services on Yachtingpages.com

It's important to ensure the good working order of the sailing and rigging equipment aboard

Yachting Pages presents a guide to inspecting, servicing and maintaining superyacht sails, masts and rigging on board for safe sailing, as told by the professionals.

Inspect: How to check your yacht sails, masts and rigging

Routine inspections will ensure that small problems are noticed, before they develop into bigger and more expensive problems.

Yacht sail inspections

Fiona Bruce from Doyle Sailmakers advised, “Sails should be removed once a year for full inspection, cleaning and anti-mildew treating, where applicable. If the yacht is being used heavily and participating in regattas then this time frame should be even shorter. 

“Similarly, if a yacht is planning a long passage, then the sails should be checked prior to departure. Inspections will reveal any small issues like tears and delimitation issues, before they become big issues and potentially prevent the yacht from sailing. Depending on mileage, sails should last on average between four and six years.”

Discover more yacht sail care tips

Yacht rigging inspections

Carbon-fibre pioneers, Carbo-Link recommend a tailored service programme in accordance to the specific yacht, depending on whether it is used largely for cruising, racing or high performance sailing. As a general rule, the following visual inspections should be performed regularly. Check:

Rigging element cables:

  • Are free from chafe
  • Are free from loose fibres
  • That cable is free to move and has no constraints

Rigging element end terminations:

  • Termination is corrosion free and well lubricated (if applicable)
  • Termination is installed as designed (refer to cable drawing)
  • Locking method is secure and tight. e.g. grub screws or shim
  • Confirm the lashing and that loops are chafe free at both ends of loop

Close ups of water drops sitting on waterproof yacht sail fabricView of billowing spinnaker sail and standing rigging from below the mast

Alignment of terminations and cable body are as per design:

  • No evidence of cable being bent due to articulation restrictions

Sensor:

  • Sensor read out is functional
  • Sensor plugs are well protected from natural elements

Over regular time intervals, non-destructive tests (NDT) should be carried out on the metal fittings and the carbon cables once the mast is lowered:

Metal fittings:

Dye Liquid Penetration Inspection is a method used to reveal surface breaking flaws, resulting in a coloured or fluorescent dye bleeding from the flaw.

Carbon cable or in situ fittings:

Ultrasonic testing performs the same function as dye testing but at a higher degree of accuracy with the advantage of recorded results. Ultrasonic inspection uses sound waves of short wavelength and high frequency to detect flaws and measure material thickness.

Learn more about superyacht rigging equipment

Service: Yacht mast and rig servicing

Southern Spars explained the following recommended elements of every well-planned mast and rig service programme:

Intermediate service - annually: 

  • Visual inspection of all cables and fittings for wear, chafe and corrosion
  • Check pre-tension loads
  • While off-jack inspect and lubricate all seats
  • Re-tension and tune if necessary

Full service - at five yearly intervals:

  • Visual inspection of all cables and fittings for wear, chafe and corrosion
  • Check pre-tension loads
  • Disassemble rigging components for full clean, inspection and re-lubrication
  • Proof test comparison against initial test figures of select rigging pieces
  • Non-destructive testing (dye penetrant or x-ray) of hangers, ball-head screws and turnbuckles
  • If necessary, replacement of hangers, ball-head screws, turnbuckles and other components

Maintenance: Maintaining your yacht mast and rigging

Properly maintained yacht rigging reduces costs and promotes safety, and, with the consequences of not doing so being severe and expensive, it pays to take good care of your equipment.

Masts and standing rigging

Palma de Mallorca’s Doyle Sailmakers explained that it’s a good idea to wash both the mast and standing rigging regularly. On inspection and cleaning, you may become aware of problems; make notes of any changes in appearance, cracks or damage that have appeared since the last time you were aloft.

Superyacht rigging ropes and cordage close upClose up of yacht lines and cordage clamps and hardware

If you have noticed any differences, or damage to the mast and standing rigging, call in a professional to make a rig inspection and report. The more you go aloft, the more likely you will see any potential problems. If you do not go aloft regularly, a problem may soon arise from unseen damage or cracking, and could quickly escalate into a dangerous situation when sailing. 

Cotter pins and screws

Regularly check that any pins holding or joining equipment are secure with cotter pins that are in good condition. Check that all screws are secure, as the vibration whilst sailing and during the loading and unloading of hardware, can loosen bolts and fasteners. It is a good idea to make sure these are tightened and where necessary use Locktight to be sure the fasteners will not come undone. 

Moving parts

Wash any moving parts, sheaves and any articulating joints with fresh water to avoid salt build up. Ensure blocks and winches are serviced and that blocks are lubricated to ensure smooth turning when in use.

Running rigging

To maint your yacht's running rigging, you must make sure there are no areas of chafe or damage on halyards and sheets etc. If damage is found, ask a rigger to inspect, repair and, when necessary, replace the line. A good idea is to start a log of how long each line is used and in what sailing conditions. In general for yachts that are doing back-to-back seasons in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, each line should be replaced at around the two-year mark, under normal use; under exceptional use, the running rigging may need to be replaced sooner.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because a sheet or halyard cover looks OK, that the line is fine; you really need to know what is going on under the cover with the core rope. 

If the yacht is involved in yacht regattas, it’s a good idea to have a set of racing running rigging, so the cruising running rigging lasts longer. Racing running rigging is built specifically for harsher conditions and higher loads than the cruising alternative. When yachts partake in regattas this reduces the life of the running rigging dramatically. 

Extend the life of running rigging by washing it, not by using commercial washing machines or water blasters, but by washing with laundry detergent in a large container and then rinsing with fresh water. This gets rid of salt crystals and will keep the rope soft for easy handling. By having a good maintenance and cleaning schedule you will be able to stop small problems becoming huge incidents.

Read sail care and rigging tips, or search sailing and rigging services on Yachtingpages.com

YP Refit Skyscraper

Superyacht Sailing and Rigging: Servicing and Maintenance

Superyacht Sails & Rigging Equipment | Servicing & Maintenance | Yachting Pages
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Superyacht sails and rigging: Servicing and maintenance

Written by Sarah Rowland | With thanks to Doyle Sailmakers, Carbo-Link, and Southern Spars

Last updated: 23/09/2016

When sailing the world as yacht crew aboard a majestic sailing yacht, it’s important to ensure that all superyacht sails, masts and rigging are in good working order at all times, helping to avoid full-starts and catastrophes at sea - especially while the owner or guests are aboard.

Search sailing and rigging services on Yachtingpages.com

It's important to ensure the good working order of the sailing and rigging equipment aboard

Yachting Pages presents a guide to inspecting, servicing and maintaining superyacht sails, masts and rigging on board for safe sailing, as told by the professionals.

Inspect: How to check your yacht sails, masts and rigging

Routine inspections will ensure that small problems are noticed, before they develop into bigger and more expensive problems.

Yacht sail inspections

Fiona Bruce from Doyle Sailmakers advised, “Sails should be removed once a year for full inspection, cleaning and anti-mildew treating, where applicable. If the yacht is being used heavily and participating in regattas then this time frame should be even shorter. 

“Similarly, if a yacht is planning a long passage, then the sails should be checked prior to departure. Inspections will reveal any small issues like tears and delimitation issues, before they become big issues and potentially prevent the yacht from sailing. Depending on mileage, sails should last on average between four and six years.”

Discover more yacht sail care tips

Yacht rigging inspections

Carbon-fibre pioneers, Carbo-Link recommend a tailored service programme in accordance to the specific yacht, depending on whether it is used largely for cruising, racing or high performance sailing. As a general rule, the following visual inspections should be performed regularly. Check:

Rigging element cables:

  • Are free from chafe
  • Are free from loose fibres
  • That cable is free to move and has no constraints

Rigging element end terminations:

  • Termination is corrosion free and well lubricated (if applicable)
  • Termination is installed as designed (refer to cable drawing)
  • Locking method is secure and tight. e.g. grub screws or shim
  • Confirm the lashing and that loops are chafe free at both ends of loop

Close ups of water drops sitting on waterproof yacht sail fabricView of billowing spinnaker sail and standing rigging from below the mast

Alignment of terminations and cable body are as per design:

  • No evidence of cable being bent due to articulation restrictions

Sensor:

  • Sensor read out is functional
  • Sensor plugs are well protected from natural elements

Over regular time intervals, non-destructive tests (NDT) should be carried out on the metal fittings and the carbon cables once the mast is lowered:

Metal fittings:

Dye Liquid Penetration Inspection is a method used to reveal surface breaking flaws, resulting in a coloured or fluorescent dye bleeding from the flaw.

Carbon cable or in situ fittings:

Ultrasonic testing performs the same function as dye testing but at a higher degree of accuracy with the advantage of recorded results. Ultrasonic inspection uses sound waves of short wavelength and high frequency to detect flaws and measure material thickness.

Learn more about superyacht rigging equipment

Service: Yacht mast and rig servicing

Southern Spars explained the following recommended elements of every well-planned mast and rig service programme:

Intermediate service - annually: 

  • Visual inspection of all cables and fittings for wear, chafe and corrosion
  • Check pre-tension loads
  • While off-jack inspect and lubricate all seats
  • Re-tension and tune if necessary

Full service - at five yearly intervals:

  • Visual inspection of all cables and fittings for wear, chafe and corrosion
  • Check pre-tension loads
  • Disassemble rigging components for full clean, inspection and re-lubrication
  • Proof test comparison against initial test figures of select rigging pieces
  • Non-destructive testing (dye penetrant or x-ray) of hangers, ball-head screws and turnbuckles
  • If necessary, replacement of hangers, ball-head screws, turnbuckles and other components

Maintenance: Maintaining your yacht mast and rigging

Properly maintained yacht rigging reduces costs and promotes safety, and, with the consequences of not doing so being severe and expensive, it pays to take good care of your equipment.

Masts and standing rigging

Palma de Mallorca’s Doyle Sailmakers explained that it’s a good idea to wash both the mast and standing rigging regularly. On inspection and cleaning, you may become aware of problems; make notes of any changes in appearance, cracks or damage that have appeared since the last time you were aloft.

Superyacht rigging ropes and cordage close upClose up of yacht lines and cordage clamps and hardware

If you have noticed any differences, or damage to the mast and standing rigging, call in a professional to make a rig inspection and report. The more you go aloft, the more likely you will see any potential problems. If you do not go aloft regularly, a problem may soon arise from unseen damage or cracking, and could quickly escalate into a dangerous situation when sailing. 

Cotter pins and screws

Regularly check that any pins holding or joining equipment are secure with cotter pins that are in good condition. Check that all screws are secure, as the vibration whilst sailing and during the loading and unloading of hardware, can loosen bolts and fasteners. It is a good idea to make sure these are tightened and where necessary use Locktight to be sure the fasteners will not come undone. 

Moving parts

Wash any moving parts, sheaves and any articulating joints with fresh water to avoid salt build up. Ensure blocks and winches are serviced and that blocks are lubricated to ensure smooth turning when in use.

Running rigging

To maint your yacht's running rigging, you must make sure there are no areas of chafe or damage on halyards and sheets etc. If damage is found, ask a rigger to inspect, repair and, when necessary, replace the line. A good idea is to start a log of how long each line is used and in what sailing conditions. In general for yachts that are doing back-to-back seasons in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, each line should be replaced at around the two-year mark, under normal use; under exceptional use, the running rigging may need to be replaced sooner.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because a sheet or halyard cover looks OK, that the line is fine; you really need to know what is going on under the cover with the core rope. 

If the yacht is involved in yacht regattas, it’s a good idea to have a set of racing running rigging, so the cruising running rigging lasts longer. Racing running rigging is built specifically for harsher conditions and higher loads than the cruising alternative. When yachts partake in regattas this reduces the life of the running rigging dramatically. 

Extend the life of running rigging by washing it, not by using commercial washing machines or water blasters, but by washing with laundry detergent in a large container and then rinsing with fresh water. This gets rid of salt crystals and will keep the rope soft for easy handling. By having a good maintenance and cleaning schedule you will be able to stop small problems becoming huge incidents.

Read sail care and rigging tips, or search sailing and rigging services on Yachtingpages.com

YP Refit Skyscraper