Lots of anectodal stuff showing up here, so I'll add some. We have rod rigging on our 1981 J/36. She's been raced hard, in 30 mile windward bashes in 35 knots of wind, as well as cruised long distances, when we've encountered 50 knot squalls and steady 40 knot wind (12.5 knots dead downwind with a reefed main...) We replaced our headstay when we added a roller-furler two years ago. When we removed the tuff-luff that had been on the headstay when we bought the boat (used), we found that the rod headstay was kinked. We don't know how it got kinked, or how long it had been kinked. In any case, it stood up to steady 40 knot wind and 50 knot squalls, and everything else we'd been through for about 10 years. We inspect the shrouds each year. As far as we know, they are original, and they've held up too.
On the other hand, I sailed transatlantic one summer aboard a 38' sloop. The skipper, a conservative type, dye-tested the standing ss wire rigging and inspeted it with a magnifying glass before we left in June. All AOK. The boat sailed from CT to Ireland, (three storms over 40 knots of breeze) up the coast of Ireland (including a 50 knot squall off Dublin), to Scotland, up to the Hebredies, back through the Irish Sea to the Bay of Biscay, where the lower aft shroud dropped to the deck off Arcachon. Surprise! You never know. Keep a weather eye out, and maintain a good watch. It's less exciting.
p.s. Even if you have rod rigging, you can carry ss wire to serve as a repair if something breaks. The mast isn't going to care. Kevlar line would work too. The issue is figuring out how to make the material the required length and attach them to the chainplate and the mast tang.
Last edited by paulk; 01-31-2012 at 10:07 PM.