Tuning the Rig | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Tuning the Rig

Update: 2016 - Checking the Rig

We have now sailed Distant Shores II across the Atlantic Ocean 3 times. Before and after each crossing I do a rig inspection (and annually as well). Today in the BVI I went up to the top to have a look…
rigging-check-sailboat - 1
Before the 3000 miles downwind from Canary Islands - Cabo Verde Islands - Caribbean this November, we added this chafe protection to the spreader tips. Its a common problem with today's popular swept-spreader rigs that the mainsail chafes on the spreaders when going downwind. We added these foam covers (actually for plumbing to cover pipes) and they absorbed some of the chafe. Now I'll take off the covers again.

When we arrived in the Caribbean we had our favourite sailmaker (Kenny in St Lucia) add chafe protection to the mainsail to try and reinforce the sail at these chafe points.
rigging-check-sailboat - 2
Another chafe problem we tackled was where the lazy-jack lines run down to the sail cover. They used to run through the stainless fittings here, but they chafed badly. This time I tried these new Low Friction Rings made by Antal. I lashed them in place in Las Palmas and they now show zero friction after 3000 miles. COMPLETELY cured the problem.

After Crossing France 2012

We had the mast down as we went through the canals and just put it up a couple of weeks ago, so I have been checking it and tuning it up ready for the miles ahead. Here are some thoughts on "care and tuning" of the rig...


I regularly go up the mast to check it over, and since we just put the mast back up, I have checked it carefully. The rig is arguably the most important system on the boat, and regular care is needed to keep it in tune and working properly.
mast inspection
I look carefully at the standing rigging, spreaders, masthead, checking running rigging as well. On my way up I stop at the spreaders, radar and anywhere there are fittings to check! This also provides a break for the person winching you up!


Putting the mast back up means you have to tune the rig - basically setting the tension up on the shrouds and stays to the correct specs. If you have never done this before, having a professional rigger help out might be a good idea. But you can follow along and it will be a good idea to get to know the rig yourself - as the captain you are responsible and its got to be best to know about this important system.

Our mast is made by Selden, and they have an excellent guide that helps new owners to become familiar with their rig. Although it concentrates on Selden products it is also a great overview of tuning and managing any modern mast. Here is the PDF link

Under Tension

Setting the proper tension on the shrouds is one of the trickier parts of tuning. I have seen "experts" who claim to just give a wire a tug and know if the tension is correct. Possibly they have an ability to judge this, but I know I can’t. Instead I got this lovely "Loos" gauge that measures tension in different wire diameters up to 10mm (which is our upper cap shrouds).

Loos CU
Simple to operate, you position the gauge on the wire with the two white rollers at the bottom. Then pull the rope to hook the clip around the wire. This puts a tiny bend in the wire and you read the tension off the pointer (below you can see the pointer is on the high end of the scale - at 50). The number corresponds to a tension for your diameter of wire. In this case "50" means 1360 kilograms - 16% of our 10mm wire’s breaking strength (from the image above).


It is important to clean and lubricate the turnbuckles before adjusting them as they operate under tremendous pressure! We don’t want to grind grit into the threads. I thoroughly cleaned the turnbuckles using white-spirit and a toothbrush to get in the threads. Selden have a recommended rigging lubricant. In the past I used lanolin.

Test sailing

With the rigging set up its off for a test sail checking everything with 15-20 degrees of heel. I needed to increase tension just slightly on the intermediates (which I did at the dock). Then tape up the turnbuckles to prevent getting anything caught in the split pins, Ready to get going!!
up mast

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