I am in the process of replacing all my rigging, including chain plates.
From my research, what I have found is most recommendations from spar suppliers is to replace all the rigging (except for chainplates if they are in good conditions) every 8-10 years. Visual inspection will catch most major problems within that 8-10 year cycle.
Another dismasting prompts new alert | Soundings Online
Every skipper ought to put together a rig inspection schedule and follow it, but what a particular sailboat’s schedule should be “depends on how you use it,” Cruder says. Sailing daily with passengers strains the rig more than occasional light use. Likewise, year-round sailing in Hawaii, California or Florida is much harder on a rig than sailing three months of the year in the Northeast. Sailing in places where the air is warm, salty and humid causes more corrosion of wires, stainless-steel terminals and chain plates than operating in cooler, freshwater regions.
“In the North, you have a short season. You haul the boat and take the rig off every year,” he says. The entire rig can be inspected annually. In places like Hawaii or Florida, a mast may not be unstepped for years, making it more difficult to thoroughly inspect the rig, especially the step.
“Here [in California] everybody leaves their rigs up until they fall down,” says Mackinnon. California has 115 inspected sailing vessels; Hawaii has 59. Virtually all of Hawaii’s are sailing catamarans.
After the 2006 and ’07 fatalities, the Coast Guard in Honolulu undertook a two-month “surge operation” to inspect the mast, rigging, sail area and overall condition of Hawaii’s inspected catamaran fleet. Seventy percent passed muster. Of those that didn’t, 11 had serious deficiencies that took them out of service until the deficiencies were corrected. The problems included excessive corrosion, fractures and missing bolts in the masts, spreaders and mast arms. Three vessels had too much sail area — in one case more than 200 square feet too much.
The Coast Guard in Hawaii has adopted a special inspection protocol for its inspected sailboats that includes requirements for a rig maintenance and inspection schedule, unstepping the mast every six years, and special attention to parts of the rigging more than 10 years old. Recommendations include replacing wires every six years, terminals every 12 years and chain plates every 18 years.
In California, the agency is adopting a similar inspection regimen that includes a Coast Guard-approved inspection plan for inspected sailboats and an annual rig inspection aloft by a knowledgeable crew; an inspection aloft by a rigger, surveyor or other third party every five years; and a thorough inspection of the entire rig that includes unstepping the mast every 10 years.
MacKinnon is happy to see it. “Nobody has been looking at the rigging unless they get an insurance survey,” he says. “Nobody has been going aloft.”