Ten Year Rigging Change...Is it really necessary?


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jmounter
jmounter
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I would be interested in member experiences and judgement on this controversial subject.
When I started sailing I would go aloft fairly regularly ( even though I am terrified of heights ) and check my rig. Every year or two I would have a professional check. I and most people I knew never changed their standing rigging unless a problem was spotted, they had treated it hard, had an event that might have damaged it or just felt it was time. There was no ‘ten year rule’.

Then twenty years or so ago I started running into the ‘sorry, if you want your rig insured you need to replace the rigging’ conversations with my insurers. I changed insurers once as I was convinced my boat’s rigging was perfect. A top rigger said it was. They gave me an extra two years and then demanded the new wire.

For a decade I had a beautiful Baltic, custom built to my deck and interior specifications. She was a dream. But she had a very tall rig and rod for all standing rigging. The quote to replace that was eye-watering. I had got to a stage in life where I couldn’t lift the main off the deck, onto the dock, myself and my Admiral ( the Boss, She who must be obeyed ) was worried that if I had to go aloft, lift the anchor by hand because of a broken anchor winch or get a jammed sail down in a real blow, I might not be able to cope. So the need to change down in size was starting to seep into my thinking. The cost of replacing those rods, terminals and bits and pieces was the final straw. I hated it, but I sold.

My last two boats were both second hand. Semi-retirement and dwindling savings meant no more new builds. One was a beauty. But two years in I was told by my insurer that I had to change the rigging. The cost quoted was again a blow. She was sold for a smaller and older boat. But that one was coming up to being 13 years old and, yes you guessed it, three insurers all insisted on new rigging.

Now we are up to date. I bought a small basic boat last December. She was eight years old. Soon I will be told to buy new wire.

So knowing the owner of the company that currently insures me, I wrote to him making an argument that the arbitrary 10 year requirement is wrong. How, I asked, could they treat all boats the same. Some people race, others cruise oceans, some cruise dangerous area of oceans. Why, if we have to state our cruising grounds could we not just state our cruising or racing intentions too, with insurers making decisions that fit the owner’s profile? I pointed out that some of my boats had tens of thousands of miles in every sort of sea and wind condition, but now that I was an old salt my intention was to potter locally, I would be treating F5 as a stay on the mooring forecast and expected the boat to be very lightly used. She was immaculate and had clearly not been heavily used by the previous owner.

My friend wrote an impassioned reply, telling me that by far the biggest pay outs by yacht insurers every year were for the rigs that fail and things that happen when rigs fail. He argued that stainless steel, rod or woven is just too unreliable to trust and that even brand new boats lose their rigs due to rigging failures. I could not argue with most of his points.

Now, of course, you don’t have to have rig cover in your policy. But even if you reckon the risk of having to buy a complete new mast and rigging is a fair one, are you happy not to be covered if a rig falls on your head, or worse on your American lawyer friend’s head?

What do we all think? What are our experiences? How many of you sail without rig cover? What do you recommend?

Julian Mounter.
David Tyler
David Tyler
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For about eight years, up until 1996, I worked for Kemp Masts, now Selden UK. At that time, a commonly used shroud termination was the T terminal, made by Gibb and Hasselfors. These were very prone to fatigue failure, which, understandably, the insurers weren't happy about. I designed a new form of terminal, and built a rig to fatigue test this, the wire, the mast wall, the rigging screw, everything. I can say this without fear of contradiction: a swage terminal will cause the wire to fail, just inside its mouth. It's only a question of how many load cycles at how big a percentage of the wire's ultimate load. Norseman and Staloc terminals performed rather better, but the wire would eventually fail. Rod rigging performed best of all - so long as the load was truly axial, and there was no bending load. The old fashioned through-bolted tangs, used with Staloc terminals, were about as good as it got, with 1x19 wire. Terminations that relied on just the attachment to one face of the mast would cause the mast extrusion to crack and fail eventually. The kind of rigging screw that has a built-in strip toggle will fail, eventually.

What do I recommend?

Sail with an unstayed mast. If you design it right, and build it right, it's pretty difficult to make it fall down. When did aircraft designers quit using wire stays on their wings? About 1930, was it?

Sail uninsured, except for third party and legal cover. Accept the fact that when you're in the middle of the ocean, insurance isn't going to help if the mast falls down. Put the money you save into renewing your boat's equipment as you see fit. You save thousands that way.
Bill Balme
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Being cynical for a second - the guy paying for the insurance probably says the rigs good 'forever'. The guy selling the rigging probably would say less than 10 years - if he could get away with it. The insurance folk will always take the most pessimistic position.

We got lucky! Our 9 year old boat got hit by lightning! Our rigging company concluded that the standing rigging had been damaged and replaced it all - under insurance!

I find it difficult to believe that 10 years is a magic number - it's an underwriter's safety in my mind and setting it artificially low ensures that they are less likely to have to pay out for rig failures. It seems to me, from David's post, that the insurers are probably basing their time-frame on use of the worst performing gear - which begs the question; why bother using the expensive stuff that works better and lasts longer? Hardly progressive! 
 
However, we live aboard full time and plan on continuing to cross oceans, so erring on the safe side is OK in my book - both in terms of kit used and following replacement 'requirements'..

Since this is our full time residence, I would not feel comfortable not insuring the boat - as we certainly have the means to be able to replace it out of pocket.


Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!

David Tyler
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A couple more practical points. Once a fatigue crack in a stainless steel rigging component is easily visible, it's into the last few percent of its total life. Replace, immediately! A common failure mode of 1 x19 wire just inside a swage terminal is that the 12 outer strands will go first, and "birdcaging" may be apparent, as those strands separate from each other and the inner 7 strands. Those 7 strands are then holding up the mast.

Isn't it the case that the actuary's job is to make these calculations so as to maximise the profit for the underwriter? If he sets the terms and conditions harshly, he drives away some clients and the premiums they pay. If he sets them leniently, he causes the underwriter to have to pay out more in claims. Somewhere in the middle, there's a sweet spot.

But yes, the 10 years is a figure plucked from the air. How do you equate a boat that sails from a Hamble marina to Cowes for lunch, on a good day, with a sailing school boat that sails in all weathers for much of the year, with a raceboat that hammers its rig hard for a few hours each weekend, with a circumnavigating cruiser covering 30,000 miles in 3 years, but mostly in tradewind conditions?
Dick
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jmounter - 8/22/2019
I would be interested in member experiences and judgement on this controversial subject.
When I started sailing I would go aloft fairly regularly ( even though I am terrified of heights ) and check my rig. Every year or two I would have a professional check. I and most people I knew never changed their standing rigging unless a problem was spotted, they had treated it hard, had an event that might have damaged it or just felt it was time. There was no ‘ten year rule’.

Then twenty years or so ago I started running into the ‘sorry, if you want your rig insured you need to replace the rigging’ conversations with my insurers. I changed insurers once as I was convinced my boat’s rigging was perfect. A top rigger said it was. They gave me an extra two years and then demanded the new wire.

For a decade I had a beautiful Baltic, custom built to my deck and interior specifications. She was a dream. But she had a very tall rig and rod for all standing rigging. The quote to replace that was eye-watering. I had got to a stage in life where I couldn’t lift the main off the deck, onto the dock, myself and my Admiral ( the Boss, She who must be obeyed ) was worried that if I had to go aloft, lift the anchor by hand because of a broken anchor winch or get a jammed sail down in a real blow, I might not be able to cope. So the need to change down in size was starting to seep into my thinking. The cost of replacing those rods, terminals and bits and pieces was the final straw. I hated it, but I sold.

My last two boats were both second hand. Semi-retirement and dwindling savings meant no more new builds. One was a beauty. But two years in I was told by my insurer that I had to change the rigging. The cost quoted was again a blow. She was sold for a smaller and older boat. But that one was coming up to being 13 years old and, yes you guessed it, three insurers all insisted on new rigging.

Now we are up to date. I bought a small basic boat last December. She was eight years old. Soon I will be told to buy new wire.

So knowing the owner of the company that currently insures me, I wrote to him making an argument that the arbitrary 10 year requirement is wrong. How, I asked, could they treat all boats the same. Some people race, others cruise oceans, some cruise dangerous area of oceans. Why, if we have to state our cruising grounds could we not just state our cruising or racing intentions too, with insurers making decisions that fit the owner’s profile? I pointed out that some of my boats had tens of thousands of miles in every sort of sea and wind condition, but now that I was an old salt my intention was to potter locally, I would be treating F5 as a stay on the mooring forecast and expected the boat to be very lightly used. She was immaculate and had clearly not been heavily used by the previous owner.

My friend wrote an impassioned reply, telling me that by far the biggest pay outs by yacht insurers every year were for the rigs that fail and things that happen when rigs fail. He argued that stainless steel, rod or woven is just too unreliable to trust and that even brand new boats lose their rigs due to rigging failures. I could not argue with most of his points.

Now, of course, you don’t have to have rig cover in your policy. But even if you reckon the risk of having to buy a complete new mast and rigging is a fair one, are you happy not to be covered if a rig falls on your head, or worse on your American lawyer friend’s head?

What do we all think? What are our experiences? How many of you sail without rig cover? What do you recommend?

Julian Mounter.

Hi Julian,
This, I consider, a very important question. Both in and of itself, but more because it directs itself at the ways our recreational support industry (in the broad sense) insists on shooting itself in the foot and leaving dis-satisfied customers who are clear that their interests are in no way on anyone’s mind.
Surveyors are a good example. It has been 20 years and 4-5 surveys since I had one that even came close to being acceptable. For example: rather than have the usual vinyl covered stainless steel lifelines, I have non-covered stainless steel lifelines of a diameter equal, actually exceeding, the diameter of the replaced vinyl equaling more than twice the “meat” of the old. These are far stronger, easier to inspect and increases the safety margin by a good margin. No survey has acknowledged this and my last survey merely said that all lifelines must be replaced every 5 years. And that is just one example of adherence to a boilerplate non-thinking attitude that is rife in the industry including, but not limited to, brokers, boat-builders, and repair facilities.
To address your actual question: there is no functional reason that well maintained, regularly inspected wire rigging needs to be replaced every 10 years (rod rigging even longer, up to 100,000 miles). I would actually contend, that I would prefer 10 yo wire rigging that has seen a battle or two to brand new rigging until tested a bit. (That said, any rigging that has sailed through a hurricane should probably be retired to pasture and rest as having done its job.)
The other culpable party are all the owners who neglect to care for their boats: who never do inspections, whose mast is up for years at a time, whose rigging screws have not been cleaned and lubed since purchase. These skippers, to my mind, are the real problem and the 10 year limit reflects their lack of seamanship and maintenance.
My quick thoughts, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

dcaukill
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I lost a rig over the side in the English Channel about 20 years ago. Not my boat, it was a Sigma 33, but a shroud terminal on the deck failed and the rest is now but an interesting dinner party anecdote.

My present yacht  was built 2010, I now plan an Atlantic Crossing Autumn 20. So this Q is front of mind. 

Safety is paramount in my mind.  Jettisoning a coach roof stepped rig off a 33 foot  boat is one thing, but a 30m high keel stepped rig off a 60ft boat is something else entirely.  So what am I to do.?  (I do have the where-with-all to cut it loose if abs. necess).

I am not qualified to make the assessment my self. NDT techniques work for rod but not for wire.  No rigger will tell me it is safe -  just that they haven't found any cause for alarm, My insurers tell me that it is time to change the rig  (in fact they have said so since i returned from the circumnavigation). 

So bite the £30+k bullet or sail uninsured? 

It's not just my insurers who are taking the risk - it's me and my crew.  Sounds like £30k to me
barry.kennedy
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10 years; well, maybe maybe not.  

Environmental factors play a huge part in how quickly the SS will corroid

Tropical and subtropical environments will cause corrosion at an exponential rate compared to that of let's say a rig in Norway or southern Chile. Not to get super techy chemical composition of the wire changes as the corrosion advances, creating weakness.  

Even though you inspect a rig frequently it's the stuff that is hiding that typically fails and causes catastrophic damage.

From an insures point of view not knowing rig history, 10 years cover either side of the extreme spectrum.

You can change your rig yourself in a day or so, ordering the wire and using mechanical terminals like sta-locks or Norseman's for a fraction of having a rigger do it.


Dick
Dick
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barry.kennedy - 9/1/2019
10 years; well, maybe maybe not.  

Environmental factors play a huge part in how quickly the SS will corroid

Tropical and subtropical environments will cause corrosion at an exponential rate compared to that of let's say a rig in Norway or southern Chile. Not to get super techy chemical composition of the wire changes as the corrosion advances, creating weakness.  

Even though you inspect a rig frequently it's the stuff that is hiding that typically fails and causes catastrophic damage.

From an insures point of view not knowing rig history, 10 years cover either side of the extreme spectrum.

You can change your rig yourself in a day or so, ordering the wire and using mechanical terminals like sta-locks or Norseman's for a fraction of having a rigger do it.


Hi DCaukill,
Agree on changing the rig: a circumnavigation on the present rig and you have gotten your money’s worth. But a new rig does not have to cost 30k.
Barry is correct to point out that rigging history makes a difference, and he is also correct to point out that one can build the rig oneself and finish the project with left-over money in your pocket (or much less taken out of your pocket) and a new and valuable skill in your repertoire. A way to address the learning curve of building your own rigging is to have an experienced rigger work with you at the beginning or throughout. He may be more interested if he is the one supplying the wire and terminals.
Insurance is a far more personal question.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


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