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Yachts - Rigging, Blocks, Etc.

( Originally Published 1911 )

THE art of rigging, and such it can well be called, plays no small part in the success of the racing yacht. The rigging is part of the driving power and is the cylinder and crank shaft of the engine, and must be of the right strength, weight, and pro-portion throughout.

To be perfectly sure of the rig of the racer the various parts should be subjected to strain before they are put on the craft, and in this way one can be fairly sure of their ability to stand the wind pressure.

The blocks that are mostly used to-day are made of yellow metal with Tobin bronze pins, sheaves, and shackles, thereby making more secure the parts that are apt to give way. If the blocks are to be used for wire rope, especially the main halliard blocks, it is well to have them made to order, with a large diameter sheave or wheel, something after the style used on the wire-rope derricks. These large sheaves prolong the life of the wire, and the guards prevent the wire getting out past the edge of the sheave and wearing through.

In the blocks for manila rope it is always well to have them large enough for the rope to run freely when swelled by water. This may save, some day, a grave disaster through not being able to get your sail down when it is very necessary to work quickly.

Wooden blocks are not often used on the smaller classes, on account of their weight and clumsiness, but for anything over twenty-five feet water-line and one thousand feet of sail they are, I think, preferable to bronze, as they are reliable and easy running.

The size of the wire standing rigging, more especially the main shrouds, should be thought out very carefully. The strain here is very great, and it is essential that the masthead stand straight and rigid in order to hold up to its work the driving peak of the mainsail, and not allow it to sag off to lee-ward and spoil the drive. The ability of the craft to capsize, the height of the mast above deck, amount of sail to be carried, shape of mainsail, width of spreaders, and spread of the shrouds at deck are points that govern the size of the shrouds. There is always some spring in the plow-steel wire now in use, and this must be taken into consideration. On the other hand, there is no need of steel cables to hold the mast of a light racing boat, and I think that the tendency among many is to make the shrouds too heavy, as it is the turnbuckle that usually carries away. Have the turnbuckle heavy, if anything, and the shrouds large enough so that the spring in the wire does not affect the masthead to any great extent.

The lighter grades of flexible wire are now often used for the main and jib halliards, and such wire certainly is very satisfactory, as the mainsail once set up is not coming and going with every draft of wet and dry air, but stands where it belongs.

There is always some give to manila rope halliards, and you are sure to have to set up on them at some time during the windward work. A very good type of halliard is a single piece of flexible wire leading from the gaff bridle through a single block at the masthead down to a purchase or whip, the upper block of which is hooked into the eye spliced in the end of the wire, and the lower block acts as a lead-block. This arrangement when the sail is set up makes practically the entire length of the halliard wire, leaving only a short end on deck of manila, and therefore leaving little manila to stretch. Another way in common use is to have a wire halliard with a manila tailpiece spliced into it, leading through the regular series of blocks, having the wire cut to a length so when the sail is hoisted the wire comes just clear of the cleat and the manila tailpiece is then used for cleating.

The rig of the mainsheet is also very important on the racing boats when it is necessary to play the mainsail, that is, let it out in puffs and haul it in again as the wind changes its direction slightly or lightens. A good rig, and I know no better, is to have two moving ends, the outer attached to a long purchase or tackle which runs through a block fastened just aft of the cockpit to one side so as to clear the forward traveler, if there be two, then aft to the double block on the end of the mainsheet, the two ends of the whip then leading to cleats placed on either side of the cockpit, where the mainsheet-man usually sits. This arrangement allows the mainsheet-man to sit on the rail and play his mainsheet without getting into the cockpit or putting his weight to leeward, using only the whip, leaving the standing part cleated.

Hollow spars are being used by practically all the crack boats in the unrestricted classes, and they have a great advantage over the solid ones, being more rigid, a great deal lighter, and not so apt to buckle. It is essential, however, to have them hung and stayed up just right, because they will not buckle to any great extent, but break off short. Bands and straps, properly padded, should be used on hollow spars in the place of eye-bolts, screw-bolts, etc., as the shell, which is very thin, should not be perforated.

I have not attempted to go into this matter in any detail, but to simply show up a few of the important points that should be considered.

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