The halyards and rigging of a Class 40 explained by a super rigger

Ambrogio Beccaria’s Class 40 Allagrande Pirelli

The Route du Rhum in the Class 40 s almost resembles a bicycle race, where there is a very compact front group from which someone breaks away every now and then to attempt a breakaway but is caught soon after. Thirteen skippers are packed into 20 miles, and it is logical to think that the race is often played by sight or otherwise possible to keep a constant eye on the opponents on the AIS. No one seems to have any intention of giving up an inch, and indeed little “strategic strikes” follow one another to gain even 1 mile or so. Alberto Bona on IBSA for example, he had managed to position himself slightly upwind of the top group, and he took advantage of this lateral distance to sail a few hours more leaning a few degrees and making speed to catch up on the leaders and climb a few positions, a move that succeeded and propelled him into the top 5.

Detailing the leading group, Corentine Douguet leads, with Bona sixth and Beccaria seventh.

More defensive Ambrogio Beccaria on Allagrande Pirelli. The breakdown on the J2, which is in the process of being resolved, did not allow him to have the perfect sail configuration for the upwind conditions faced yesterday, the Italian struggled more to hold the corner of his direct competitors for the podium and found himself in the lead group but in a more downwind position, which at the moment does not allow him immediate attack options while remaining firmly in the top 10. The Class 40 fleet is in a transition zone between the two fronts, affected by less wind, and it will be a question of who will come out best and in what position.

class 40
Alberto Bona’s Class 40 IBSA

In the meantime we continue to find out what these boats are like where Italy in addition to Bona and Beccaria has Andrea Fornaro in the race.

After Pietro Luciani‘s commentary on sail configuration, another super technician, Tommaso Stella, takes the floor. An ocean sailor with long experience in Class 40s, he has also sailed frequently with Giovanni Soldini and is considered one of the most knowledgeable professional ocean boat riggers. Tommaso Stella oversaw the preparation of all rigging, halyards and sheets, as well as the mast and shrouds, for IBSA and Allagrande Pirelli. We asked him to X-ray the “nerves” of the Class 40, that is, all the lines running from bow to stern, and from the deck to the masthead.

Class 40 – The rigger’s work to prepare them

Tommaso Stella with Ambrogio Beccaria during the preparation of Allagrande at Sangiorgio Marine in Genoa.

The work of preparing all the “rigging” of a Class 40 should be studied together with the design and construction of the boat, because it is a vital component of these prototypes, as Tommaso told us about the work on IBSA and Allagrande Pirelli:

“Bona and Beccaria, even before they started building the boat, called me in to take care of all the technical rigging, sheets, halyards, loops, steering wheels. The goal of a job like this is to be able to walk the fine line between having material that is reliable but also lightweight and performs well. If you don’t take any risks in these choices you end up weighing down the boat, but between a finely done job and a coarse job there are pounds and pounds that dance and hurt the boat, especially those on the mast. On the other hand, it’s obvious that you can’t afford for things to break either. We did a meticulous study with both of them; both Ambrose and Alberto are skippers who also do a lot of the technical part. They know what they want and have clear ideas, so the brain storming has been between me, the skippers and Luigi Maffioli in the role of material producer.”

class 40 route du rhum
Alberto Bona and Tommaso Stella during the preparation phase of IBSA

Thomas Stella defines halyards as the ribbing of the boat, meaning they allow the muscles, the sails, to move. So how many halyards are needed to make the muscles of a Class 40 move and what diameters are they? “First, a distinction must be made, between those that are armed with a hook and those that are not. The hooks are a mechanical system, with one component installed at the head of the sail and one on the mast, which go to the top once the sail is hoisted and lock it in place, allowing tension to be released on the top. On the Class 40s, hooks are used on storm jib, foresail, on the fractional Tails or gennaker, and on the head gennaker.

With this system the halyard is only for hoisting, we can afford to use then 6mm lines since once the sail is “hooked” there is no load on the halyard. The sail luff tension is then managed in another way: quasi all hook sails have a hoist on the deck, a kind of 2:1 or 3:1 tack with which you adjust the tension on the leading edge of the sail. The Solent, or J1, in the case of Ambrose who has garroons, has a classic 2:1 halyard of 8, alternatively it is mounted on the furler as with most of the fleet. The other classic halyards are those of the masthead spi, which also has a stocking, and that of the mainsail, also 8″.

The Class 40s have been sailing upwind and against the sea for a long time, a situation that boats designed for ocean racing never like too much, and one that puts a lot of stress on the rigging and rigging, thus also on the halyards and all the lines.

Upwind the whole boat is under a lot of stress from impacts on waves because of the fairly flat hulls,” Tommaso continues, “the new materials for the halyards and sheets are really very stiff and so they dampen these jumps very little. The most delicate wear points for the lines are the stoppers, which on these 40 are textile, so-called constrictors. Then areas where there are halyard tree exits or general line deviations should be monitored. So much so that in the output of the halyards on the mast we reinforce the main sock with a dyneema over-sock,” Stella explains.

“To preserve during a race such as the Route du Rhum the ropes the inspection can only be visual, and it has to be done precisely at these wear points described above. Every so often for example you drop the bowsprit tack to go and see if everything is okay, same thing when you do a sail change on another halyard. If abnormal wear is found it may be acceptable to change the setting a hair to alter the wear point, or if it gets serious many have a respect halyard to replace. In extreme cases, if the wear is such that you are afraid that the maneuver will break, you can cut off a piece of, for example, the tack, shorten it, change the wear point, and continue the race with a knot unless you can do the plumb. It should be considered that with the knot you lose 50% of the hold of a line, but the workloads of halyards are generally oversized and you can afford it. The ropes with the greatest load, such as the flyers, which are the most dangerous ones in case of breakage, when possible you put it on safety, that is, you put it under tension on a winch and unload the stopper so it gets damaged less.” Ocean rigger’s word.

Mauro Giuffrè




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