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Thread: Recommended Preventive Hardware Replacement

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2007

    Default Recommended Preventive Hardware Replacement

    While unlikely to make the starting line in ’08, I am attending the SSS TP seminars this year and developing my game plan for ’10 (including a budget). Whether in my current boat or in a possible successor, what is certain is that I will be racing in a 20+ year old, medium-displacement, racer/cruiser-style production sailboat. This seems to be true for a good percentage of the fleet, and I suspect the majority of us considering the race. My question for those of you that have done the race (and sailed back from HI) in such boats is this: in addition to the upgrades to the boat required by the RC (emergency rudder, liferaft, offshore communication, etc.) how much preventive structural upgrading should one expect to do on a 20+ year old boat for the SSS TP race? By “preventive structural upgrading” I mean pre-emptive replacement of load-bearing components that have been well cared for, but have nonetheless suffered 20 years of hard sailing on SF Bay. This includes such hardware as:
    - rudder
    - keel bolts
    - chain plates, stemhead fitting
    - mast and boom hardware: toggles, gooseneck fitting etc.
    - hatches, windows, etc.

    While I’m sure that one can replace all of the above and still have something go wrong, I am interested in feedback on what items are considered critical to replace or upgrade as part of prudent boat preparation for the race.


    Tom B.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007


    Hi Tom,

    My boat, Hesperus, was twenty years old when I did the 2006 race, but she tends toward light displacement (the pile of junk loaded on prior to the start not with standing). She was pretty extensively modified for the race (balast added, bridge deck added, hull lengthened). None of those modifications prove troublesome during the race or the return trip (a year later). The rudder, however, broke off with about 130 mile to the finish. All who inspected the remains agreed that the rudder stock (which broke about 3 inches below the hull) was much too weak for what it was trying to do (schedule 10 stainless steal pipe, on a 26 hundred pound boat). Upon my return to Hawaii the summer after the race (i.e., last summer) I noticed that the deck at the bow was being pulled up and off the hull. The forward most bolts through the toe rail, deck, hull flang were about four inches aft of the fitting to which the forestay is attached. Had I not noticed this, and reinforced the area I suspect that the fore deck would have peeled back perhaps bringing down the mast. Those are just two things to look at. They, in my opinion, didn't result from wear or misuse, but rather from the fact that the boat (which started life as a Kirby 23) was neither designed nor built for off-shore work. Off shore, it seems, the stresses on boats are greater than inshore. If your boat was not built for off-shore work, I would recommend that you inspect it from bow to stern, from the bottom of the keel to the mast head with that in mind and reinforce any where there are stresses.

    Good luck,
    Paul Woodward
    s/v Hesperus

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007


    Hi Tom,

    Great question. As Paul said, inspect everything. Example: a few months before the '06 race Phil on Sail La Vie, the other Ericson 35 in the race noticed that his headstay chainplate had a crack about 90% across its width and he replaced it. I immediately inspected mine and didn't see any apparent problem. My headstay chainplate broke 497 nm from the finish. Fortunately, I was going almost DDW under twin headsails. If I were beating or reaching I probably would have lost the rig and maybe the boat. As it was, I don't think I even lost any time.

    Last month Phil told me that he has recently replaced most of the other chainplates on his boat and I'll probably do the same if I race in '08. My boat is 37 years old; Phil's, 36.

    I think its prudent, at the very least, to give every part of the standing rigging a thorough inspection before the race. By thorough, I mean take it apart and inspect the parts of the parts that you can't see when they're attached to the boat and do a dye test on the stainless to spot cracks.

    The same goes for the rudder. Remove it to do a proper inspection. It's not a bad idea to reinforce the rudder tube while you're at it.

    Other structural parts that have a history of failing in past races are: goosenecks, masts and booms.

    I have also replaced both hatches and resealed all the portlights on my boat. Before doing a SHTP, I thought Ergo was fairly watertight. Offshore in a gale it leaked like a sieve. Comfort is important; it's hard to sleep/rest when you're cold and wet and getting exhausted is a big safety concern.

    I'd also inspect the cabin for sharp corners and edges and wrap them in foam. It's better to get a bruise than a more serious injury.

    When inspecting the boat, really examine the wiring for any place it might chafe and then short like where it passes through bulkheads. It's also worth considering moving things like the engine ignition/instrument panel below deck so that it dosen't get soaked and ruin your day. Mine did and it ruined many days on the way back. In the same spirit, it's also worth considering moving the fuel intakes and vents to places they can't take water if you get pooped or a seal fails. It's a good idea to have a shutoff on the exhaust so that the engine dosen't get filled with water in following seas.

    Good grief! This is insane. Are you sure you really want to do this?

    Bill Merrick

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