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What to know when taking the rig in and out of winter storage

Every year at the end of the season, every sailboat owner is faced with the same question: should the boat be stored with the mast upright, or should the mast be laid flat and de-rigged? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option and what should be considered? Discover useful expert tips to help you make the right decision, as well as advice and a checklist for cleaning and maintaining rigging and mast electrics in the spring.

The rigging on a vessel consists of the mast and the booms, as well as running and standing rigging. Rigging also includes all blocks, tackles, rings and cleats that are attached directly to the mast. The design and layout of rigging is determined by the type of vessel it is on.

Standing rigging comprises fixed wires, lines, or rods and gives stability to the mast on board. This type of rigging is largely immovable. The individual wires which secure the mast are called stays and shrouds. The term stay is given to all ropes that hold the mast forward and behind and the term shroud is given to all of the wires that hold the mast to the sides. The wires are attached, trimmed and adjusted by the means of terminals and turnbuckles.

What tasks should be done in the spring?

How to clean the rig correctly in the spring

The winter months are long and cold, which can cause the mast to get dirty or, in rare cases, damaged during storage. For this reason, before the mast is re-erected and the boat put back into the water, all parts should be thoroughly cleaned and maintained. To do so, lay the mast and all parts that go with it out on bearing blocks, so that it is accessible from all sides. If you are storing your boat and mast over the winter in a hall with other ships, standing rigging and mast may be subjected to contamination from grinding dust from antifouling and paint work carried out on other ships. Green algae infestation could also occur, which should be treated before the boat is put back into the water. SVB’s experts are on hand to give some tips on how to get your mast looking ship-shape again and what products to use before it is raised once more:

  1. Clean the mast, rigging, all wire ropes and stays with water to remove dirt, dust and salt residues from the previous year.
  2. Then wash the stays and mast profile with a sponge and a mild detergent. SVB's extensive range of products provides a number of solutions, such as the Yachticon sponge set and the Yachticon microfibre bristle glove. For cleaning the mast we recommend an aluminium mast cleaner, also from Yachticon. Do not use a scrubbing sponge when cleaning the mast, as this can damage the expensive anodised surface of the mast.
  3. To polish the mast after cleaning we recommend Yachticon's aluminium polish and wax. This product not only gives the mast a clean and shiny finish, it also protects its aluminium surface.
  4. To give your wire ropes and other stainless steel, chrome and brass parts a new shine, Yachticon metal polish is a tried and tested product for practical use. It can be used to easily remove stains, flash rust and slight oxidation. The product also offers additional material protection.
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What replacement parts need to be checked after storage?

If you notice damage to individual parts of the rig when cleaning the standing rigging, it is highly likely that you will be able to easily replace these parts yourself. Our SVB Online Shop offers you a large selection of fork terminals, eye terminals, shroud and stay buckles, toggles and other parts in various sizes and shapes for you to install yourself. If you discover broken strands, cracks in the wire or other weak points, which can have a negative effect on the breaking load of the wires, these should also be replaced.

How to inspect nuts and bolts on the rig for tightness

After you have thoroughly cleaned your mast and all individual parts, check if bolts and nuts are tight and secure. If you notice that the cotter pins are loose, the cotter pin must be bent open and removed and the nut tightened. After this has been done, the bolt and nut must be secured with a new pin. Please avoid using a cotter pin several times, because bending it will make it brittle and no longer able to perform its function effectively!

 How to prevent damage to your sail

Use tape to cover the used cotter pins to protect your sails from being damaged by them. You can also protect your sails against unsightly chafing with our plastic jib rollers. A jib roller can easily be drilled to fit the diameter of the wire rope. Damage to the sails caused by turnbuckles can be prevented with special coverings/protectors.

How to prepare your mast electrics for the season

  1. The cable.Before erecting the mast, all visible and accessible cables on it should be checked to make sure that their insulation is intact and contacts cleaned and sprayed with contact spray. If you discover old rubber grommets on the cable bushings, we recommend that you replace them.
  2. Navigation lights and lighting.To check that your lighting on the mast is working properly, it is recommended to use a simple 12 volt on-board battery. Connect this to the light’s wiring and check if all lights are still working properly after the winter break. If you notice LEDs or light bulbs that are no longer working, you should replace them. SVB offers a wide range of replacement bulbs.
  3. Mast accessories - antennas and wind instruments. Last but not least, disassembled antennas, Windex and wind sensors have to be checked for functionality and reassembled. Be careful, however, because these accessories are very sensitive and can be damaged during transport.

 What tasks should be done in the autumn?

How to store your rig correctly - derigging: yes or no?

When autumn draws near, each boat owner must decide whether or not they will store their vessel in its complete rigged state, or derig. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and it is hard to say which is the clear winner. Deciding to store a vessel in a derigged state depends on the size of the yacht, its condition and your homeport/dockyard. We have added a few recommendations below as well as some tips and tricks for storing your vessel over the winter season.

Rigg Herbst

What are the advantages of storing the sailboat with the mast upright?

In many ports and winter storage facilities, it is common for ships to spend the winter with rigged masts. For owners of larger yachts, where de-rigging and laying the mast requires a great deal of work and paperwork, and those who live in areas where there is less wind and better weather conditions, wintering with the mast up saves a considerable amount of time.

You should, however, make sure that the boat rack has the largest possible contact surface and that the boat rack fits the hull shape as well as possible in order to relieve and protect the hull of your yacht. We also recommend that you place your boat somewhere where it is protected from the wind. In order to minimise damage to the hull due to vibrations and to reduce the risk of your boat tipping over due to high mast wind resistance, you should dismantle your mast equipment (flags, etc.), remove your sails, remove the spinnaker boom and main boom and stow them on deck, as well as remove the running rigging.

Before putting the boat into the water in spring, you should inspect your mast and rig to make sure that it has not been damaged during winter storage. The best way to inspect the mast is to use a bosun's chair. Make sure that you check the rigging and its anchor points as well as all bolt connections for visible wear and damage. Also check that all screw connections are tightened securely.

What are the advantages of laying and de-rigging the mast?

1. Risk of fall and material stress

The weather and a few gusts of wind don't really affect a standing rig in winter storage, because the wire ropes, stays and shrouds as well as the mast itself are designed exactly for this kind of stress. It is more kind to the rig if it spends the winter with the mast erected, because every time it is rigged and de-rigged this represents an additional strain on standing rigging.

However, it is a different story for the hull. If the ship is transported by a so-called bearing block / boat frame in winter storage, the hull is supported by only four smaller support points, which places a heavy load on the material, especially in the case of a sandwich construction of the hull. Ships that spend the winter outdoors can be especially at risk if the mast is erected, because gusts of wind can cause unwanted vibrations or the mast to move, which can put a strain on the material and in the worst case can even cause the yacht to fall from its support frame.

2. Safety of crew: Service, maintenance and renewal of the rigs

The maintenance and inspection of standing rigging is one of the most important tasks for every sailboat owner and can only be carried out effectively in a rigged condition. Inspecting the rig should not be a matter of just a quick check for immediately visible damage, as stays and shrouds are among the most stressed components of a sailboat. Material failure can result in unpleasant surprises, especially for an unsuspecting crew on the high seas, when the rig suddenly breaks in bad weather and strong waves. Many sailors underestimate the enormous weight of the rig, the sails and, of course, the fallen mast, it quickly causes panic on board and an emergency at sea arises. In order not to risk such a catastrophe, our SVB experts recommend regular maintenance and repair of your rig.

Rigg mood

What should I consider when laying the mast and de-rigging?

Each de-rigging will stress the rig's shrouds and stays and should therefore be well planned and carefully carried out. Your SVB sail and deck specialists have put together a checklist for you:

1. Documentation and marking of the base trim

In order to quickly retrieve the original basic trim of the rig in Spring and only have to make fine adjustments, we recommend marking the base of the mast, the forestay turnbuckle and the threads of turnbuckles before laying the mast. This can easily be done with adhesive tape or repair tape.

2. Loosen the turnbuckle

After you have recorded the basic trim of the rig, hoisting can begin. Loosen the rig's stay and take care to loosen the shroud tensioners on the stay side. This will prevent damage to the shroud tensioners caused by excessive scraping on the ground during crane operation. Caution: Never use cotter pins twice! SVB offers inexpensive stainless steel pins and bolts made of the best quality materials. These should be renewed each time you rig to ensure the quality of the entire rig.

3. Remove running rigging

The winter break is the perfect time to check and clean all halyards and sheets for abrasion. Before you pull the running rig from the mast with the help of a pilot line, we recommend taking some photos for documentation.

4. Monitoring, maintenance and care of the rig

The mast, all wires, shrouds and stays should be inspected for visible damage such as cracks and fractures, and salt should be removed with plenty of fresh water. For aluminium poles we recommend an aluminium pole cleaner to remove salt and dirt. The threads of the turnbuckles can be cleaned with a brass or stainless-steel brush and re-lubricated with special grease. Standing rigging should be rinsed with clear fresh water before storage and then dried thoroughly.

5. Dismantling the equipment on the masthead

Last but not least the equipment on the top of the mast, i.e. tricolour light, wind sensor, wind indicators and antennas have to be removed so that these sensitive items can survive the winter. In order to protect your electrical system from moisture even in winter, we recommend the all-rounder "Wet Protect" from TALAMEX. In addition, you should inspect the sheet blocks at the top of your sailing yacht and, if necessary, lubricate them with grease to make them move again.

SVB Expert Tip:

Our mast lights are usually supplied with a cover. Do not throw it away as it is excellent for protecting the mast light during storage!

Spring Checklist

This checklist helps you systematically review your rigging, so that nothing is forgotten.

Mechanical damage Corrosion Fasteners Bolts Holes & slots Blocks & pulleys Swaged terminals Turnbuckles
Spring Checklist
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Is there any mechanical damage? More specifically, is there any pitting? Check all of the fasteners Are there any tears, flat areas or bent parts? Are there any tears or deformations? Is everything running smoothly? Is there any mechanical damage or wear? Check the swaged terminals for any damage Check that the turnbuckles have clean threads
Mast profile
Base fittings
Spreader fittings &
Forestay fittings, Topmast fitting -7/8-
Additional mast fittings:
Gooseneck fitting/topping-lift bail
Halyard exits
Winch steps & winches/strength
Spinnaker fittings
Radar mount
Steaming light/contacts &
Main boom:
Tack fittings
Boom-end fittings
Reef fittings
Attachment point/
boom vang
Main sheet fittings
Standing rigging
Running rigging

No boat should go without the following spare parts and tools on board:

Spare parts list:

  • Cotter pins
  • Bolts
  • Shackles
  • Nuts
  • Machine screws and self-tapping screws
  • Spacers and washers
  • Snap shackles
  • Blocks and toggles
  • Tensioning screws
  • Thimbles
  • Travellers
  • Wire and rope

Tool list:

  • Marlinspiker
  • Knife
  • Pliers
  • Files
  • Wrenches
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hammers
  • Hacksaw
  • Bolt cutters
  • Drill
  • Metal tape measure
  • Black adhesive tape
  • Duct tape