Mast Perfection Obsession

Making sure your mast is in optimum shape can be just as important as making sure your hull and foils are ready. When prepping a rig for racing, I break it up into four categories: weight, windage, chafe, and polish.

Mast maintenance
While perhaps an example to the extreme, imagine the impact of taking this guy off the top of the rig and putting him on the rail. Minimize weight aloft to maximize your righting moment.Paul Todd/Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta

Weight: When I was young, I was taught that a pound aloft was equal to 7 pounds in the keel. While I am sure every boat is different, the point is that weight aloft definitely affects righting moment, and I do everything I can to reduce rig weight. The stainless pins used to anchor sheaves, backstays, goosenecks, etc. are often too long; replace them with shorter ones. Replace any stainless washers with plastic ones and take out the rubber plugs that fill the shroud hole fittings. Cover those holes with sticky back Dacron. Take the arms off of the Windex.

Windage: I like to imagine the wind flowing around the mast. In addition to removing weight from the mast, removing the arms from the Windex also reduces windage. If there are any holes or open areas on the mast, cover those with sticky back Dacron. Also under the windage heading, keep halyards snug and close to the mast (see article on "Spin Halyard Keeper").

Chafe: Commonly called "Millionaires Tape," Teflon chafe tape is a great product—it's light, slippery, and tough. Luckily, in the past few years the price has dropped enough for everybody to have a roll on hand. Cover spreader ends so genoas and spinnakers will slide right on by. Look at fittings and fasteners on the front of the mast. Jibs and genoas beat across the front of the mast on every tack, and it's not hard to rip the leech of sail. If you can't cover the item with chafe tape, file, sand, or remove it.

Polishing: I use the same products I use on the hull. The goal is to prevent dust and grime from traveling through the air and sticking to the mast, shrouds, backstays, wire forestay/headstay. Wipe the rig down with a damp rag to remove any grime before polishing. Then pour liquid McLube on a rag and wipe down the shrouds, backstays, and wire forestays, etc. Any general polish is fine for headfoils.