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I'll take it!

24 July 2012 Phil Smidmore

Phil's mast gate.

"Phil's mast gate."

Photo by:
Phil Smidmore

Although we are a couple of months from the start of the summer season, now is the time to think about maintenance and repairs to ensure you have an enjoyable and successful 2012/13 season.

As well as checking all the regular items, such as spars, ropes, blocks and of course pumps (a number of boats were found wanting in the pump department in the recent Mooloolaba series), I want to focus on a couple of Etchells specific items.

Firstly - the Mast Chocks/Mast Gate area. Many boats are using a side chock attached to the mast, which runs along the fibreglass side of the gate. Often a soft plastic (e.g. kitchen cutting board) has been used here and this wears out very quickly, as the glass side rubs on the same spot of the plastic all the time. The mast is constantly moving a fraction for each and every wave and even hard plastic strips wear quite quickly. I'm tending to favour going back to the old style runner attached to the fibreglass side of the gate. This has the added benefit of ensuring the fore and aft chocks fit snugly, again minimising wear. If you make the fore and aft chocks wider, so as to fit snugly in a gate that does not have side runners, two problems are encountered;

1. The wide chock will probably interfere with the fore and aft pullers.

2. As the moulded glass gate has rounded corners, the chocks must also have rounded corners so they sit on the flat fore and aft faces of the gate, not on the rounded corners.

The fore and aft chocks tend to break away the fibreglass at the bottom edge of the gate and the steps of the chocks tend to get rounded after some use. Both of these factors lead to the chocks slipping out, especially in bumpy water conditions. To minimise the wear of both the gate and the chock, make sure the mast is pulled prior to trying to release the chock. Don't drag the chock out while it is holding weight.

Many Etchells crews allow the mast to rest heavily on the fwd side of the gate sailing downwind. This results in the fwd side of the mast crushing at the gate level and tearing the aft of the mast through too much tension. My spars have a sleeve at deck level to help stop this crushing. Spars where the top pair of the two lower sheave boxes have the track is cut away, rather than flared, are most at risk of breaking by such tearing. My upper box has always been flared and will continue to be, even though a recent rule change allows for the track to be cut away. Note that class rules allow sleeves to prevent such crushing but they are not intended to allow for the stiffening of the spar.

Secondly - Turnbuckles. Every time a turnbuckle is used, a fraction of wear occurs. This wear can be minimised by keeping the turnbuckles well lubricated and by avoiding tensioning the windward side when sailing. Around 90% of the fleet are using the Brolga brand turnbuckles, which need regular lubricating to both the ball race and the thread. If you have the MK1 version with the 8mm thread - throw them away. For a number of reasons there have been some failures. An upgrade to the MK2 model, which has a 10mm thread, will ensure maximum rig safety and they work better. Easy for me to advise this change and openly I declare an interest in selling them, but it really is advisable and at any rate, we no longer have any spares for the MK1 version.

And finally then, Insurance. Etchells have not got a good reputation with many of the insurance companies. The policies seem to vary greatly with regards to depreciation of spars and rigging and many people have been caught out breaking an old mast, then finding they are covered for only a fraction of the cost of replacing it. So make sure you know your policy. Often the insurance company will demand all new rigging, which will be at your cost, as part of a mast replacement and continuing insurance. Insurance will generally not cover breakages due to fair wear and tear and/or lack of maintenance. The mast crushing and tearing noted above is a maintenance issue and we have seen several mast claims rejected recently, on this basis alone.

Overall it's been very quiet on the Etchells front, post-Sydney Worlds. Due in part to the light winds of the Australian and World Championships, we have a good stock of spares left over and I'm still working to my 2011 price list for most custom parts, whilst the high Australian Dollar has seen a number of items such as pumps, compasses and Harken gear remain constant or even fall in price from those of several years ago.

We have hull #5 from the new mould in stock and awaiting a buyer. It's being offered at the 2011 price, but also with some valuable extras, which includes an all over cover and delivery to Brisbane, Melbourne or Adelaide at no extra cost, which we've thrown in to make it an even better buy. Order it now for pre-season delivery.

Good Sailing,

Phil Smidmore.


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