Rig certification, beyond the mast pole! - RINA.org

Rig certification, beyond the mast pole!

28 Jun 2024

Discover the critical role of rig certification in sailing safely

Yacht rig certificationSailing yacht rig certification and its relevance is often the subject of debate. 

Many yacht owners and sailors consider certification unnecessary for pleasure-classed yachts, (i.e. not often mandatory), tending to rely on the experience of rigging manufacturers. 

However, it is important to consider the rig from a broader perspective, incorporating all yacht components. For example, it is crucial to include the furlers, pulleys, and blocks, often overlooked despite the fact they play a critical role in the safety and efficiency of the vessel. 

Leading companies specialising in the production of sailing components offer solutions of the highest quality, leveraging years of developmental experience.. This helps limit risk for the crew and the vessel: however, the importance of certification by a third-party entity such as a Class Society should not be overlooked. Involving a third-party specialist allows for additional checks on the 'secondary' elements of the rig. Moreover, this anticipates the requirements of insurance companies and Flag Administrations, by going beyond strict compliance with basic technical required standards and common sense! 

The safety, (a key aspect of any certification scheme), of  the individuals on board the vessel also depends on the quality and homologation of the hardware components and the hull interfaces. 

For example, a pulley with a high working load represents a potential danger to the crew. The design of a pulley, its production, and its installation are all independent elements that need to be validated in conjunction with the strength of the mast! Therefore, adopting strict verification standards for all rigging elements is essential to ensure the safety of the 'vessel body' during sailing operations and beyond. 

Rigging certification is not only concerned with formal compliance, but also with the quality of the materials used in the production of the parts. It is possible to request verification of the raw materials and technical assessment of passive and active safety systems for dynamic elements such as the furlers and locks. 

Take, for example, a headsail furler, a component whose importance is in danger of being underestimated due to its familiar presence on most sailing yacht models. Imagine the following scenario: a beautiful day at sea, the wind filling the sails, when suddenly... our headsail furler decides to surprise us with a new trick. The furling line slips over an improperly sized stopper, (or one not suitable for the type of use), the lock of our beloved furler opens, and the sail starts flapping, forcing us to perform an emergency manoeuvre. Of course, we may be able to handle it well, showcasing our seamanship skills, but would a similar occurrence be as easy to resolve during a night passage? Immediate intervention may not be possible in such a scenario. This, in turn, may lead to a potentially catastrophic series of events: the sail unfurls, the stay, now subjected to abnormal loads, may give away, and our perfect mast, even if it is certified, collapses. 

In such an unfortunate case, it is fair to note that should the furler have been third-party certified, it would have undergone a series of well-defined design and technical checks to minimise the risk of incidents and/or impact of human error. Theoretically, the equipment would have had a well-structured locking system and, perhaps, a load cell that could work simultaneously with the rig via an ad hoc system. This would have helped prevent damage to the sail system and the hull. 

In addition to certifying specific components, a dedicated certification for the manufacturer, (Workshop Approval) can be performed. This approval defines specific quality standards for the production process and may raise the quality level of the maker because it places focus on internal improvements and audits, leveraging a third-party perspective and surpassing the ill-fated habit of “we've always done it this way.”, that sometimes persists. 

In some cases, these standards also touch on the possibility of providing specific training courses for installers. Training can ensure systems produced at a factory thousands of nautical miles away from our port of action, are installed correctly and meet the safety standards of the designer and the maker. 

In conclusion, rigging certification is fundamental toto ensuring the safety and reliability of sailing vessels. It is important to think beyond the 'mere' certification of the mast and consider all rigging elements that directly influence navigation. Only by adopting rigorous standards and investing in the quality and training of installers can maximum safety be ensured during navigation. 

"Habitus est vinctus, vincit quoque deos. - " Habit is a bond, it even conquers the gods” 

Nicola Pellegrini