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It was an interesting weekend for the group I share a small sail boat with on Lake Travis. I was not on the boat, but the group took her out as normal and while tacking the mast gave up and folded in two. We are inspecting the boat, but it seams as though one of the shrouds broke or came loose at the same time as tacking causing the mast to buckle. Everyone on board was O.K, luckily.
I believe they were sailing with the jib and a full main sail, the wind was strong but not too strong, around 12 - 15 knots.
Has anyone seen anything like this before? It would be great to know more about shroud tension and shroud maintenance, its too late for us and this mast but it will certainly help us in the future and possibly help someone else from seeing there boat in such a sorry state.
There are two major possibilities here, and they likely overlap.
First is fatique or other failure of the shroud. Have the broken element inspected by a metallurgist (ask a surveyor or a metal shop) to determine the failure, and then inspect every other component of the rigging for signs of similar fatique, replace as necessary. The shroud may have broken because of overtension, but more likely is that it was fatiqued or had crevice corrosion.
Shroud tension is a work of art, at least to me yet. For this, you will want to go ahead and hire a rigger to check your rigging. Be sure to note the tensions and ask questions: the point is to learn, not to have someone do it for you.
From what I do understand about rigging, its likely that the shrouds were unbalanced.
Finally, I recommend a preventer be rigged on your boom. An uncontrolled gybe like that wasn't the sole source of the damage to the mast, but it was the bale that broke the camel's back so to speak. It's just lucky the mast took the damage, and not someone's head. Preventers can be rigged very easily and you don't need fancy boom brakes or vangs; just an attachment point and a pair of cleats somewhere near mid-boom so you can run lines from the boom to either cleat on the sides of the cockpit to keep the boom from flying across should an accidental gybe occur.