Pip Hare shares her top tips on how to fix running rigging while at sea and reveals what's in her jury rig fix-it kit

When racing across oceans I am constantly torn between loading my spares and repairs kit with everything including the kitchen sink, and the need to keep weight to a minimum.

Over the years I’ve been learning to make do with less and the reality is with modern materials most rigging problems can be addressed using the same simple, lightweight kit which will do well for any sailing.

My jury rig fix-it kit contains:

  • Plenty of lashing of different sizes
  • Soft shackles
  • Spare blocks and low friction rings
  • Pre-made Dyneema loops
  • Webbing strops
  • Hanks of strong elastic

Using this kit the following are some of my solutions to address common failures on ocean-going yachts.

Jib cars and travellers

Breakages to sliding cars will leave you with an uncontrollable sail and a problem that cannot be fixed in a matter of minutes. The issue with jury rigging anything that has been on a track is finding suitable fixing points and then spreading the load adequately across them.

Making a jury rig for anything on a track will take time, so first tame your sails. If fixing a traveller drop the main and sail under jib alone; for the jib, try sailing on the other tack – particularly if beating as this will keep your repair side out of the water, using a staysail if you have one or simply dropping the jib.

The simplest way to jury rig a traveller is to create a single fixed point for the mainsheet in the middle of the boat, then use the vang to maintain leech tension when the mainsheet is eased.

If there happens to be a central padeye to the correct rating directly under the after end of the boom then that is your solution. However, as travellers are more normally over a coachroof or the aft deck, the main problems to address are spreading the load, avoiding chafe, and keeping the fixing point for the mainsheet low in the boat.

If the track is raised off the deck you could loop Dyneema or webbing strops under several sections of the traveller, then join them in one central point for the main sheet. Ensure your looped strops are as short as possible so there can be maximum travel on the mainsheet purchase system.

If the track is flush to the deck you’ll need to create a bridle across the boat to attach the mainsheet to. Find four suitable fixing points (two on each side); these could be mooring cleats, padeyes for spinnaker blocks, or the toerail itself.

Take four lengths of Dyneema lashing and make a loop from each fixing point that ends in the centre of the boat (try to make all of the loops the same length). The mainsheet bottom block can be attached through all of the loops in the centre of the boat. Check regularly for chafe on the loops, especially if using the toerail as a fixing point.

Jib car systems can be simpler to fix with a single block attached either to the toerail or a padeye on the deck. Try to place the block in an average setting for jib leech tension – if you still want the ability to close off the leech while sailing, try setting up a barber hauler further forward along the jib sheet, using a small diameter line and a block.

Dead-end the line and the block to the same fixing point on the deck, forward of your jib sheeting point. Run the line up and over the jib sheet then back down through the block and along the deck to the cockpit.

Pulling down on the line will move the sheeting angle for the jib forward and close the leech. There will be friction in this system and care needs to be taken when releasing it, but it is surprisingly efficient. Likewise, if the new sheeting position is too far outboard upwind an inhauler can be rigged in the same way.

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Vang problems

The usual problem with jury rigging a vang is connecting it to the boom – and this can be done using a couple of webbing strops. In this case I would use webbing rather than Dyneema as the flatter surface area will spread load across the boom.

Attach one broad strop around the boom, join it at the bottom and attach a top block to it. Take a line around the top of the strop and then aft along the boom to hold the strop in position under load – the vang itself will be pulling forward.

It is likely your original vang system used double blocks – you may be able to reuse them, or you may need to set up a cascade system using blocks or low friction rings to create enough purchase to hold the boom down.

Broken winches

If one of your winches breaks on passage and you are not carrying the spares or do not have a weather window to fix it, you will need to get inventive routing ropes around the cockpit. If winching straight across the boat to the same winch on the other side, use the broken winch as a turning post to gain the right height.

If the winches are outboard of a raised coaming then instead set up a turning block or low friction ring on the toerail or a padeye to gain height before going across the cockpit.

I prefer to use soft shackles for my snatch blocks and jury rigs, but if fixing blocks to aluminium toerails, check for rough edges and use a stainless steel shackle on the toerail if concerned about chafe.

Hold the block up to a guardrail with elastic so it doesn’t hit the deck when the sheet is not under load. For temporarily holding a line while looking to route to an alternative winch, use a good old fashioned riding turn to create a hobble to keeping the rope in place.

Top tip

When making splint repairs or lashing two solid items together use wide diameter elastic to make the first lashing, then finish with Dyneema once they are in place. When pulled tight, a strong elastic is best able to hold items in position and under tension, making it much easier to make the more permanent Dyneema lashing tight.

First published in the October 2019 edition of Yachting World.