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Ask Sail: An Older Rod Rig

This past summer I purchased a used Valiant 40 with rod rigging. Though the rigging is about 20 years old, the seller assured me he recently had it reheaded and that it should last several more years.
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Geoff Baxter of Kittery, Maine, asks:

This past summer I purchased a used Valiant 40 with rod rigging. Though the rigging is about 20 years old, the seller assured me he recently had it reheaded and that it should last several more years. I took the headsail furler off to rebuild it and found the headstay inside the furling extrusion is also rod. I’m not sure it has been reheaded, so I plan to replace it. A friend tells me a headstay inside a furling extrusion should always be wire, never rod. Is that true? Also, should I just go ahead and replace all the rod rigging? I’d rather save the money, but I do want a rig I can trust.

Win Fowler replies:

Navtec recommends that rod rigging be thoroughly inspected and re-headed after 40,000 miles, which should extend its life for at least another 20,000 miles. These numbers are intended as a guide for large yachts that sail thousands of miles a year, so may not apply to your situation. More than 95 percent of rod failures are head failures, so you may be OK. That said, a highly experienced rigger I know recommends that rod over 20 years old be replaced regardless of how the boat has been used. Certainly, replacing the rod is much less expensive than replacing the whole rig.

There is no reason not to install a furling extrusion over rod, provided the installation is done correctly and the headstay is kept under sufficient tension when the furler is in use. It is harder to inspect a rod surrounded by an extrusion, but this is equally true of wire. 

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