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Join Date: Sep 2005
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Agreed, with the exception of the mast step, esp. keel-stepped, or in places where a large number of fittings have been attached, it's unlikely the stick itself is going to be a problem. As SF points out, rigging condition, swages, broken strands etc are the first place to look.
Another spot to keep an eye on (with many midsize boats) are the spreader cups. Many boats from the 70s or 80s have spreader attachments that are triangular plates with shroud attachment holes and welded spreader cups, through bolted in pairs to the mast. Check the weld on the spreader cups - any hairline cracks should be taken care of. This part usually will fail with the load on (ie the windward side) and if so the mast will quickly fold over at that point. It happens quickly - I've been there.
Other stress points to look for are at the gooseneck and vang fittings - the vang especially can be subject to tremendous loads and can work loose and/or fail. Such a problem is unlikely to bring the stick down, but can certainly ruin your day.