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Winter Maintenance brought to you by MDL Marinas - Rigging Checks

Allspars HQ at Queen Anne's Battery in Plymouth.
Allspars HQ at Queen Anne's Battery in Plymouth.

This month, our winter maintenance series focuses on rigging checks – an important pre-season job for sailing boat owners.

Speaking to Andy Postle, Managing Director of rigging specialist Allspars, with its head office and workshop at our Queen Anne’s Battery marina in Plymouth, we find out why it’s so important to check your rigging and what’s involved.

“Checking a sailing boat's mast and rigging is crucial as it directly impacts the performance, and overall functionality of the vessel,” says Andy. “But most importantly, it impacts on the safety of both the boat and those onboard.


“As the standing rigging is responsible for supporting the mast, any failure in the rigging can lead to a mast collapse which can pose a serious safety risk to the crew on board.

A boats rig is subjected to significant loads and stresses while sailing. Over time, wear and tear, corrosion, and most importantly fatigue can weaken the rigging components. Regular inspections help you to identify any potential issues and address them before they become major problems.
Andy Postle, Managing Director of Allspars


“Rigging components, such as swages, wire, rigging screws and fittings, will degrade over time due to exposure, external contaminants and fatigue. Routine inspections and correct tuning of the mast/tensioning of the stays will provide the basis for the rigging to last its expected lifespan. If the rigging is over tensioned, it will put both mast, rigging and boat under undue pressure and will lead to a premature failure in the boat somewhere. If it is under tensioned, increased levels of fatigue will reduce its expected lifespan considerably.


“A properly tuned and maintained rig is essential for optimal sail performance. If the rigging is loose or out of alignment, it can affect the boat's ability to sail efficiently, or even the furler to operate smoothly. Regular checks ensure that the rig is tuned for maximum efficiency – an absolute must for serious competitors and cruisers alike.

Peace of mind

“We find that once we’ve completed a rig check for a customer, it gives them peace of mind, knowing that their boat is safe and in good condition, especially if they’re sailing with their family or setting off somewhere further afield.

What’s involved?

“Checking a boat's rig involves a systematic inspection of the various components to ensure their condition and overall functionality. If someone was going to check their rig themselves, here’s the minimum of what they’d need to do:

Inspect the mast

  • Check for visible damage, such as dents, cracks, or corrosion
  • Look for wear or corrosion in, or near, fittings and attachment points
  • Inspect the mast step and compression post for movement
  • Pay particular attention to all highly loaded areas of the mast

Check the standing rigging (wires and cables)

  • Examine shrouds and stays for wear, corrosion, cracks or broken strands
  • Inspect all fittings, turnbuckles, and connections for tightness and proper alignment
  • Look for signs of rust or corrosion on the wire or fittings
  • Ensure that any split pins are correctly sized and secure

Examine the running rigging (lines and halyards)

  • Inspect lines for wear or chafing
  • Check the condition of shackles, blocks, and other deck hardware
  • Check all lines run freely through blocks and pulleys

Inspect the spreaders

  • Examine spreaders for cracks, wear or bends
  • Ensure the tips are securely fastened and undamaged and are not corroded

Check the Boom

  • Inspect for visible damage
  • Check sheaves are all rotating correctly and are not damaged
  • Check no corrosion between dissimilar metals
  • Check gooseneck fittings for tightness and proper alignment

Inspect the deck fittings

  • Check deck fittings associated with the rigging, such as chainplates, for corrosion

Evaluate the rig tension and tune

  • Ensure it’s within the manufacturer's recommended range
  • Make sure the mast is set up with correct rake and suitable bend as required

“A rig check is a pretty mammoth task when done properly and involves going up the mast – something not everyone enjoys! That’s where we come in. But whether you opt to do it yourself or have a professional take a look, it’s definitely one job you must tick off your winter to do list.”

With over 500 tenants across our marina network supported by our expert boatyard teams, there’s a marine business at one of our marinas near you that can assist you with any winter maintenance work that needs to be completed on your boat.

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