What to do if a shroud or stay breaks - SailNet Community

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Old 04-18-2013
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What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

I was reading a book on cruising and it got me thinking. I need to know what to do if a shroud breaks. I should be able to do it without even thinking. The book says:

'the mast of a cruising boat should be of sufficient diameter and wall thickness, and the rigging of adequate strength, that even if one part of the rigging should give way, the mast will not break or sustain a permanent bend, if corrective action is taken immediately.'

So I guess I need to know what corrective action to take. Is it dependent on which part breaks? Or do you pretty much round up into the wind to depower the sails. That's the first action that comes to the top of my head, but there might be better ideas, and I would like to hear them.
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Old 04-18-2013
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

It all depends on which wire fails. If the forestay breaks on a boat with no inner stay you may not have time to do anything before the mast comes down. If a lower shroud (or even an upper shroud) breaks you might have time to tack or jibe to put that shroud on the lee side. In heavy winds any wire breaking could bring down the mast faster than you can do anything about it. In light winds you would probably have a better chance; but that isn't when things are likely to break, now is it?

Face it, modern Bermuda-rigged boats just don't have a lot of redundancy built into them.
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Old 04-18-2013
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

I've seen a couple of cruisers carry rigging cutters just in case the mast comes down. You can probably get away with a hack saw as well. I'm sure during a confused or rough sea state you wouldn't want to have an unsecured mast bouncing around on or near the boat. That would be catastrophic in my mind. In that case the saw or the cutter would be used to send the mast to the bottom. I'll be damned if I'd be fooling with some clevis pin to detach a stay from the chainplate. Just cut the sucker...
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Old 04-18-2013
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

Try to replace its function with the help of halyards, if you have enough fuel return port under engine, if not sail slowly with deeply reefed sails.

I have saw many getting away with these measures, specially the last one in solo races. I even saw a guy continue to race (more slowly) under these circumstances and finishing the Transat.
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Old 04-18-2013
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

The idea is that you want to change your point of sail to relieve the pressure from the broken rigging. So, if you're on a starboard tack and the starboard shroud breaks, as quickly as possible you go to a port tack. If you're running downwind and the backstay lets go then you head up into the wind as quickly as possible. On any particular point of sail there will be some part of the rigging that is taking the majority of the strain, and some part that is more or less loose. Shift the point of sail so that the broken stay is one of the loose ones.

Of course, like SlowButSteady said, there's a good chance the mast is going to come down anyway.
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

As said above change point of sail to unload broken stay. If you have running backstays reef so sail below point of attachment and deploy. If you have spare halyards use to replace function of broken stay. If halyard external attach one end to chain plate. Attach block as close to possible to chain plate. Then run other end through block and tension with winch. ( may need to secure additional line to tail of halyard to effect. Can also use topping lift if no halyards available. If stay with roller furling on it secure rolling furling gear to bow pulpit or toe rail asap and drop sail if possible.
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Old 04-18-2013
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

We've had two rigging failures over the last 30+ years... one where a spreader root failed, effectively negating the support of an upper shroud (single spreader rig) in about 15-18 knots of breeze. That time the mast folded over neat as you please at the spreader point before we knew what had happened. Fortunately the mast wasn't tall enough to do damage to the deck and we were able to sail home downwind from there.

The second was a lower diagonal rod on a 2 spreader rig, it snapped with bang and the mast had an immediate S in it. Luckily we were able to crash tack (essentially hove to) to get the strain off. We dropped the main, sent someone up to tie a line around the mast at the lower spreader and winched it up to relieve the S and motored home.. in both cases we were on a daysail not far from home.
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Old 04-18-2013
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

You might consider building in some redundancy. I just installed an inner forestay with running backstays that serve as a lower, independent triangular structure. Aside from that, PCP's reply about using spare halyards is the usual first response to a broken shroud or stay. After that, you can always make a quick repair by making an eye with a small compression tool. Having some spare Dyneema onboard is a good idea in order to use lashing to secure stuff. If a mast comes down, it may want to put a hole in the boat but I would think hard before just cutting it free. If you can get it secured, you can use it to jury-rig something to get you home. Carrying spare wire, turnbuckles, swageless ends, a come-along, copper compression sleeves, and sail mending materials may get you home avoiding the need to call for help.
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

Should I assume deck stepped vs keel stepped would make a difference as to when a mast would fail?
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Re: What to do if a shroud or stay breaks

Only so far as the lower end of the mast is more secure and less bending moment as being held at the base and the deck.Above the spreaders would see no difference. In a rollover type dismasting you are more likely to be left with a stub with keel step.A forestay or backstay failure under load I doubt there will be much difference to the damage except again u might see more of a stub.

Last edited by paradiselostparrot; 04-18-2013 at 01:59 PM.
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