Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Rigging Sale Halyard Slippage Series : 2 Line and Clutch Issues

You still have a halyard that seems to slip? There are a number of factors we can look at to determine what the issue is...

The January Rigging Sale Here

So you have a high tech halyard on your boat already and you seem to lose halyard tension over the course of the day?

The first place to look is the way you make off the halyard. On most boats bigger than 25-30’ this will be a standard clutch. We will primarily talk here about boats with standard clutches as opposed to cam cleats or a horn cleat. I should also mention here that I’m primarily talking about upwind halyards here. Downwind halyards tend not to get as loaded up as an upwind halyard and as such usually do not exhibit slip in the same manner. Additionally most people are less likely to notice halyard creep on a spinnaker than they would on a jib or a main sail.

After you set the sail, mark the halyard (if you don't do this already) and look where the mark is relative to a scale or the clutch itself. Most people put a scale somewhere near the clutch and either mark it with a pen or a whipping so they can determine a repeatable setting.

Go sailing and does the line slip through the course of the day? Let’s assume it does. If it slips a little through the day the first thing you want to look at is the clutch itself. Is the halyard diameter appropriate for the clutch? Most clutches have various innards that allow them to accommodate a wide range of diameters.

Spinlock XTS clutches which are fairly common, for example, currently have two cam sizes. The small range is 6mm to 0mm and the larger range is 8mm to 14mm. As a general thing in order to get the highest performance you want the diameter of the line you're using to be at the upper range of what the clutch is rated to hold. 

This might be a good place to say that line diameters can vary.  Cordage manufactures have tolerances for line diameters. For example in order to be considered x diameter it must be +/- x% of the diameter. Just as anything else can have variation in production runs, so can cordage. Some lines run a bit bigger or smaller as a general thing and also line has a tendency to "shrink" down as it is loaded up and the line is put under increased strain so I would recommend taking a set of calibers to the line to see what diameter the problem halyard is.

If you find that you’re at the lower to middle range of what the clutch recommends using and you find the halyard is slipping you might consider bulking your halyard.

Bulking your halyard can be accomplished in two main ways and serves three main purposes.

1) It helps mitigate the potential for halyard-clutch slip

2) If you halyard sheave box at the top of the mast is small and you don’t want to strip your halyard, bulking   can help you size up to fit the clutch

3) Smaller diameter line is less money. Depending on the length of the halyard, the added cost for labor can easily make up the difference of going up a size in the line
Now there are two main ways to bulk a halyard. Either you can add cover on top or you can add core inside
1)      Cover added: good for existing halyards, easy to add on, cover doesn't necessarily need to be buried into core. Also good if you’re seeing a lot of abrasion. There are high tech covers that you can get/use that resist abrasion. Also good because if you’re comfortable working with line, this is something you can potentially do at home. Bad for halyards like a spinnaker where it needs to run well. Because it is not buried this has a tendency to catch or snag on the jaws of the clutch. note, this is best used in an application where you can keep the clutch open all the way until you get the bulked area through the clutch and then close the clutch.
2)      Core install: preferred method for new line. Runs well. line on the inside can be tapered so it is less likely to snag or catch in clutch. More durable since there is less to abrade. Good because it can be blind stitched as well so it is less likely to slide around on the inside of the line. Bad because it is either difficult or impossible to do on existing line.

Now let’s assume that the line looks good and that you’re at the higher end of what your clutch recommends. Overtime the innards of the clutch can wear down and the cam and or plate can lose some grip as well as the spring cam arm can lose some spring. Spinlock clutches are great about replacement parts. They’re easy to replace but you do have to remove the clutch from the deck so if you’re going to the trouble to replace the cam or the base plate, I’d recommend replacing both while they’re off the deck.

Spinlock has replacement parts for the XA/XAS, X/XTS and XCS clutches. Replacing the clutch parts is actually fairly simple. Here is the great video blog produced a few years back to help walk you through the rebuild process.  Video

-Matt F

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How to: Drysuit Seal Replacement

Drysuits are great at keeping you dry and warm even water the water is in the low 30s and it's a breeze on day in the Laser. That is until you get careless one day pulling it on or the years just get to it and one of the seals breaks.

Replacing the seals on a drysuit is pretty straightforward, you just need the proper materials and a little bit of know-how. I had to replace the wrist seal on my suit so I put together a video showing the steps for replacing a seal. The same technique works for any of the seals - for the neck I sometimes set it flat and put a book on top, but a large round surface like a basketball can work as well.

The materials you'll need are Aquaseal, Cotol and replacement seals along with the gloves and something to hold the suit apart. Remember to work in a well ventilated space.

Remember to stretch out the new seal by leaving something in it overnight (like a can or full soda bottle). After stretching it may still be too tight, in which case you can carefully cut it along the ridges inside the seal. The seal does not need to be super tight, it really just needs to make solid contact all the way around. There's no reason to spend the day suffocating yourself, just be careful when cutting and remove only one ring at a time testing for fit in between.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January Rigging Sale Halyard Slippage Series : 1 Right Type of Line

Looking forward to the January Rigging Sale we have decided to do a number of blogs examining dreaded Halyard Slip. This problem effects nearly all sailors (unless you have a wing).  The next few installments of the Stern Scoop will take a look into what issues cause the slipping and ways to remedy.

So you have a halyard that seems to slip? There are a number of factors we can look at to determine what the issue is...

First is to understand the difference between halyard stretch and halyard slip:

Why is halyard stretch important? Halyard tension affects shape and performance of your sails so the adjusting the tension of the halyard allows you to match the sail shape to the prevailing conditions. 

Halyard stretch is determined by several factors, but is strongly related to the material of the line you are using. An extreme example to visualize this would be to imagine a halyard made out of rubber shock cord. The halyard will stretch like crazy (or at least until it snaps). A more realistic comparison would be between a polyester line versus lines made out of “high-tech” materials such as Dyneema or Vectran, Technora or PBO.

Although polyester line stretches less than types of line that preceded it (hemp or nylon for example), it still stretches, relatively, more than new high tech materials. Polyester lines are less expensive but not necessarily the best option for someone who cares about performance.  This is important in all conditions but is particularly important in windy conditions where loads are at their highest. You want to flatten the sail to de-power and need to have it be low stretch so it doesn't lose tension and bag out. Polyester would not be the best choice for cruisers who are either short-handed or don’t care to constantly mind the halyard tension, but also for racers who may not necessarily want to have someone leave the rail to adjust the halyard tension in the middle of a race.

Look forward to the second installment of the Halyard Slippage Series soon.