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Consigli di Rod Stephens: ARMAMENTO
scafo | cabina | impianti | ponte | armamento | vele

1. Cotter Pins: A cotter pin can provide a very safe way of securing many connections in the rig, but because of failure to live up to several simple expedients, the cotter pin is universally disliked. For good results the pin should be cut so that, from below the head, the length will be one and a half times the diameter of the pin in which it will be installed. Having been cut to length, the ends must be carefully rounded with a smooth flat file so that there are no sharp corners. When cotter pins have been put in place, they should be opened very slightly, each side bent only about ten degrees, and never bent right back against the pin after which treatment they cannot be reused and they are extremely difficult to remove. By properly controlling the length and the sharpness, the opening, there is little likelihood of creating damage, but at the same time all cotter pins should be taped, and prepared as above so there will be much less tendency to come out through the tape and they require less tape to adequately protect them.

2. Toggles: The lower end of all standing rigging should have toggles and the toggle should be included in the upper end of the headstay as it may be pulled considerably out of line by the headsails which are attached to it. Toggles should also be included on life line turnbuckles as turnbuckles are strong in tension, but very vulnerable to bending loads.

3. Mast Tangs: The commonly used double plate mast tangs are more often than not improperly bevelled. Apparently, the underneath plate is brought out close to the line of the shroud which it will be fitted to. The upper plate has additional bend to bring it out to allow for the width of the upper eye and then is bent down again parallel to the lower plate, so all offset, or most of it, is in the outer plate. When such a tang is heavily loaded, the outer plate gives more as it tends to straighten out and the underneath plate is already straight-so the pins then arc no longer square with the load and considerable basic strength is lost.

4. Closed Barrel Turnbuckles: It is my firm belief that closed barrel turnbuckles should be completely-outlawed. I don't feel they're suitable for use anywhere and the same reasoning applies to compression lock nuts which inherently slack up when the turnbuckle is heavily stressed. If the lock nuts don't slacken up, then they must be so tight they are applying additional load to the turn-buckle threaded section. Furthermore, there is no way of looking at lock nuts so that you can tell whether they are doing their job or not, as compared to the cotter pin which is either in place or not. The important defect of the closed barrel turnbuckle is that it is impossible to sec how much thread is buried and often, when it is necessary to slack a shroud or stay to get the correct mast trim, it may get dangerously near the end of the threads, which has led to many unnecessary accidents.

5. Rod Terminals: A similar situation prevails in the rod rigging fittings where the majority of them are what could be termed 'closed barrel', as opposed to having slots which enable you to observe whether there is sufficient rod in the terminal to be safe. Again the same comment regarding lock nuts and cotter pins.

6. Turnbuckles: It seems extremely logical to install turnbuckles and terminals on rod rigging so the right hand thread is downward, so that for tightening one performs the normal motion that one does when putting a screw in. When all turnbuckles and terminals have been installed this way it is very simple to tighten or loosen any piece of rigging, but all too often it is either hit or miss, some one way, some the other, and occasionally they are all installed what I would term as 'upside down'. After carefully studying the mast, if you want to tighten one turn here and slacken half a turn there, you think you're doing this and then you look at the mast again and find it is considerably worse, which reminds you that the turnbuckles have been carelessly installed, making the adjustment problem unnecessarily difficult.

7. Outhauls: A great majority of present day boats are rigged with internal wire main clew outhauls with various schemes for applying tension, but almost none of them with a good scheme for replacing the wire short of a real shipyard job. If you have the good luck for the wire to last a reasonable length of time, it will be all the more difficult to get the end fittings off the boom, to make the necessary replacement. Where roller reefing is involved, the safe screw type of outhaul should last the life of the boat, and where roller reefing is not involved, then the old fashioned wire tackle, on the outside of the boom, would be acceptable, as it is very easy to observe its condition, and, when necessary, to make a replacement.

8. Goosenecks: It's astonishing how many boats (and particularly those equipped with single lower shrouds, near the mast centerline) have a dangerous interference occurring in the gooseneck when the boom is all the way out. Obviously with such extreme leverage, the gooseneck is going to break and again an unnecessary and disabling accident occurs because it had not been well thought out prior to manufacture.

9. Slides: There are innumerable places where one piece slides on another, as for example the main gooseneck, spinnaker gooseneck, genoa leads, not to mention mast tracks and boom tracks. In all cases, both the track and the sliding member must be well polished and all exposed edges adequately bevelled so that minor temporary misalignment will not cause a hang-up.

10. Slides for Roller Reefing: These are considerably in vogue and frequently combined with a sliding gooseneck, but unless the slide is somewhat longer than standard, one can scarcely expect the slide to operate when the sail is reefed and considerable torque is placed on the slide through the gooseneck. Again, smooth finish and adequate belling could help this situation.

11. Gooseneck Slides: Where there is a sliding gooseneck this somewhat complicates the very necessary and desirable arrangement where the sail track should come right down to the top of the boom, when the boom is in its lowest position. Provision has to be made inherently in the design of the gooseneck track and the sliding member which goes on the gooseneck track, but, presuming it is provided at the outset, there is no particular difficulty, and it is the only way the sail can be neatly furled, and the only way it can be safely furled in heavy weather, particularly when offshore.

2. Track Gates: On any boat that will sail offshore there should be a gate just above the stacked mainsail to permit setting a storm trysail and also, with roller reefing, to permit sail slides to be taken off in case very deep reefing is required. Unfortunately these track gates are seldom properly aligned and seldom have the edges sufficiently bevelled. Frequently they are located so high that they are unnecessarily difficult to operate and occasionally so low that the trysail cannot be bent on without letting a good part of the mainsail come completely adrift. The pins, or whatever scheme is used for locking the gate should be securely retained so there is no chance of losing them, as the gate occasionally must be operated under adverse conditions.

3. Track Switches: The same general comments apply-to track switches which can be helpful on large boats to permit a trysail to be set on deck on a track that is off to one side, and as it goes up it can feed back into the main sail track in lieu of the additional weight of carrying a separate track up for the luff of the storm trysail.

4. Mast Wedging: Presuming the mast is stepped in the keel and passes through the deck, great importance must be attached to a proper securing of the mast as it passes through the mast partners. Fore and aft positioning should be very secure as there is generally a long panel from the deck up to the headstay and as the boat works through a head sea there is a great tendency for the mast to pump fore and aft which can be minimized by proper wedging. At the same time fore and aft fixity can be coupled with provision to let the mast move slightly sideways, to reduce the inevitable localized bending and fatigue as the mast moves over to take up the stretch in the windward shrouds. Live rubber wedges, each twenty-five per cent of the circumferential space, and about one hundred and ten per cent of the fore and aft clearance should be installed, one in the fore centerline and one in the aft centerline. The second wedge to be put in after considerable pressure has been applied to the first. This system will be quiet and provides optimum support for the mast, and the deck as well.

15. Mast-wire Exits: A majority of the larger boats have considerable wiring for lights and instruments in the spars; and it is generally pretty vulnerable. Wires tend to be damaged when the mast is cither stepped or removed under other than ideal conditions. A good arrangement is for a longitudinal hole that permits the wire and all terminals and connectors to be stuffed inside the mast where they are adequately protected from any damage while the mast is being stepped or removed. The wires can be fished out, after the mast has been stepped; and the necessary connections made, preferably on the underside of the deck, and sufficiently away from the mast partners to be unaffected by leaking.

16. Mast Heel Exits: The average boat, particularly the one that is not racing orientated, generally has the mast heel too far forward with relation to the position of the mast head. Assuming the mast is kept in the center of the partners, as mentioned above under mast wedging, the fore and aft adjustment of the heel has a profound effect on the fore and aft position of the mid-point of the mast. When the middle of the mast tends to come aft under pressure, this can be rectified by moving the mast heel further aft, which immediately tends to push it forward at its mid-point without any adjustment to fore and aft rigging other than the lower shrouds, if they are double.

17. Rope and Wire Splice: is more often than not very badly accomplished. When done properly, the splice should last just as long as either the rope or the wire that is involved; and it requires no external serving; and its maximum overall diameter will be just less than the diameter of the rope, plus the diameter of the wire. All too often, it is a very bulky and rough job, which starts to come apart the first time the boat is sailed, which is dependent on yards of external serving, which has a very short life, and which starts to come off also before the trial trip has been completed. Such a splice is invariably bulkier than necessary, and usually too wide to go through the sheaves or blocks provided; and is apt to jam up completely when one strand of the wire pokes out, and gets on the wrong side of the halyard block or sheave. The right splice does take more knowledge, but doesn't take any more time, or any more material, and is basically not more expensive.

18. Wire Halyard Terminals: The conventional wire splice is probably most durable for jib halyards, which are too often brought absolutely two blocks, under which service a Talurit or Nicropress fitting acts as a guillotine, and hastens failure of the halyard. Therefore, jib halyards, at least, should have a conventional splice; but it should not be longer than five tucks, and should be served with multi-strand flexible stainless wire over light taping; and the serving should be just long enough to cover the splice, all of which is planned to permit maximum hoist with minimum chance of damage or failure.

19. Wire Halyards: The length of the wire in the halyard is very critical. The headsail halyards should have three and a half turns on the winch, when they are five per cent of the fore-triangle height down from the maximum possible hoist position. A main halyard, in connection with the reel winch, should be just long enough so that the halyard shackle can be attached to the lifeline; whereas, additional wire just makes it more difficult to get the wire neatly started on the reel whenever the halyard is used. In general, headsails halyards have too little wire, and main halyards too much.

20. Running Rigging: A lot of effort and money is wasted on running rigging that is either too short or too long. The short rigging is useless; and hence, wasted; and, of course, overly long rigging creates an unnecessary-expense, and makes it harder to properly organize and sort out and coil down the rigging.

21. Bitter End Attachment: One of the most unnecessary difficulties is for the halyard to come unrove, which is only possible because of inadequate bitter end attachment. With internal halyards, a properly tied figure eight knot will do the job; with external halyards, there should be an eye that the end of the halyard can be passed through; and the same figure eight knot made in the end. With such treatment, it is easy to take turns out of the halyard when it is being coiled down; but under no circumstances can the bitter end get away, which misfortune makes the halyard unavailable, invariably at a time when it is much needed, and difficult to replace.

22. Reel Winches: A great deal of excellent engineering has gone into many different types of reel winches; but all too few of them have a really ship-shape and secure method for a bitter end wire attachment, which must at once be secure, and still unobtrusive, and nol interfere with the smooth spooling of the wire.

23. Halyard Marking: As a bi-product of the masthead fore-triangle, and the general acceptance of stretchy luff headsails, the necessity of halyard marking is pretty obvious; but, unfortunately, it is all too seldom encountered in the field. Main halyards have been occasionally-marked for some time. This always should be marked to indicate when the headboard is just at the underside of the black band aloft. The use of this mark is pretty well understood. The jib halyard, or halyards, should also be marked, but for a different purpose. Here the marking should indicate when the maximum hoist has been reached, and any tendency to go beyond the mark does not create a problem of exceeding rating, as would occur on the mainsail; but does create a more immediate problem of causing mechanical damage, and a very real possibility of making it either difficult or impossible to get a headsail down again, if the over-hoisting has been considerable. The best marking is tight consecutive hitched using waxed synthetic twine, supplemented by paint or nail polish markings above and below, and replaced from time to time, as becomes necessary.

24. Internal Halyards: The internal halyard is pretty much accepted; but all too often the exits are arranged with no relation to where the halyards enter the mast aloft; and this can create extreme difficulty in replacing internal halyards, as will invariably be necessary from time to time, and frequently results in the halyards wrapping around one another during replacement creating undesirable friction, and unnecessary wear. Halyards that go in the forward part of the mast should come out forward of halyards which go in the after part of the mast. All of it responds to logic; and the only requirement is for somebody to think it through clearly.

25. Straightness of Spars: Whether the mast be wood, or as is more common today, aluminium alloy, it is imperative that the mast track be straight before any steps are taken to rig up the mast, or to step it. If the mast is delivered with a straight track, it is very easy indeed to adjust the rigging, so the mast will stay essentially straight under a wide range of conditions. If there is some misalignment, because of extrusions that are not fair or butts that are not fair, or tapering that is not fair, it is not feasible to overcome this inherent defect by some magic adjustment of the standing rigging.

26. Boatswain's Chair: The rig of any modern boat tends to defy effective climbing aloft; and puts a lot of importance on the boatswain's chair, related to which there are several common faults. The most serious is no boatswain's chair at all. The next is rope straps that are too long, so the halyard is two blocks, and you are still far short of the area that you want to inspect or work on. These straps should be synthetic to eliminate deterioration from being stowed damp, and they should be so short that the chair is pretty tight for the biggest person that may use it. This gets you up good and high. The straps should have a metal ring, which is sufficiently small that it will be easy to use in connection with almost any type of end fitting on a reasonable halyard. The seat part of the chair should not be varnished, nor should it be made overly rough, which latter simply destroys the pants of the unfortunate individual who has to use it.

27. Small Lines: It is all but impossible to properly sail a boat without access to a reasonable number of small lines, as well as sail stops. All too often, there is nothing but a coil of large and expensive line, which is entirely unsuitable for securing the boat hook, or the lee runner, or for tieing up a genoa jib, after it has been folded. A small bag marked 'Small Lines' and filled with a reasonable assortment, circumferences from twelve to thirty-two millimetres and lengths from one fathom to two or three fathoms, will be worth its weight in gold.

28. Adequate Lubrication: This is a very important requisite of the modern rig. The best material for threaded parts, and pins, is Anhydrous Lanolin, a produce available in drug stores. If turnbuckle threads are thoroughly coated, prior to initial installation, after which the entire turnbuckle, including upper pins and toggle, and lowest pins, is covered with a Dacron boot it will always be easy to make any necessary adjustment by temporarily removing the cover; and one good job of lubrication should do literally for four or five years. The same applies to pins which connect the toggles to the chainplates; and the upper terminals of the standing rigging to the mast tangs, and all parts of the rig where there may be motion, and where, without lubrication, there will be unnecessary and considerable wear.

29. Small Headsail Head Blocks: There is generally a pretty good arrangement for genoa sheets, frequently using a sliding lead sheave, which is effective and reliable. On the other hand, for small headsails, too often there is simply a conventional diamond base padeye with the idea that a snatch block will be used. In the heavy weather, for which the small headsails are planned, it is important to have a sheet scheme that is dependable; and here there should be a block made right in the screw eye which should go into an otherwise flush padeye, which protrudes above the deck, only the thickness of the surface flange. Use of a snatch block will only invite the probability of the block flogging open; again generally in just the worst circumstances, when the sheet is badly needed, both to keep the boat in control, and to save the headsail from flogging itself to pieces.

30. Splicing Running Rigging: One area where considerable economy can be accomplished along with improving the product is to virtually eliminate splicing in running rigging, which is really only necessary in connection with the wire halyards. For rope halyards, and rope sheets, and guys, it is much better to tie them in, which immediately permits end for ending in the event of chafe damage; and to equalize wear. In the case of the mainsheet, it is very simple to unreave the sheet, by simply taking out the knot, and pulling it out a short way. If there is an eye splice, the end first has to be unshackled; and then the entire sheet pulled out through the blocks, if the sheet is to be stowed below as it should be; but a practice which is usually not accomplished, frequently because the sheet is spliced into the block, instead of tied in as suggested here.

Rod Stephens,
Problem Areas, in: Yachting World Annual, 1973, pagg. 43 e segg.

 
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