Boom Breakage on The Project!

17 December 2018

Each year on the ARC there are great examples of seamanship as a number of boats experience breakages and equipment failures during the crossing. For the majority, the breakage may slow the boat down or reduce the level of comfort on board, but most crews cope well with at sea repairs without requiring outside assistance although the SSB Net and ARC Rally Control can help coordinate assistance from within the fleet if required. On board Sigma 38, The Project this year the six man crew had to cope with a major boom breakage, but continued to Saint Lucia and, in the end, topped their Class in the final results. Crew member Amy Cox shared the story of the breakage, and their repair following their arrival in Rodney Bay. 

"It happened on the third night out of Mindelo, but we managed to sail the remaining 1,500 miles without much trouble!

At 4 am I was on the foredeck readying the spinnaker to be hoisted. Unfortunately the crew who was driving put us into a crash gybe with the preventer on (tied to the middle of the boom). The boom bounced twice on the preventer and then snapped in half!

Everyone was called up on deck to take the main down, lash the boom in place, and hoist the no. 3 jib we had on the foredeck. We decided to wait until light before we tried to make any repairs.

At first light, Andy and I took the boom off the mast and lashed it to the life-lines on the side of the boat (see photo below). We hoisted the mainsail and flew it loose-footed, tying the clew to the toerail at the back of the boat, though a snatch block. And then we put the spinnaker back up! This set-up worked extremely well as we could fly the whole main or reef it and it didn’t seem to make any difference to our speed as we still managed the crossing in 11.5 days!

Our loose-footed mainsail with a reef and the broken boom and vang strapped to the life-lines (along with a few laser spars!).

Spotted by Via Nostra mid-Atlantic with no boom!

Our last sunset, with the full main flying loose- footed!

The Repairs

Since our set-up without a boom seemed to be working so well, we decided not to try and repair it at sea, but to wait until we got to Saint Lucia.

First we repaired the vang fitting which had been snapped off inside the vang. Stuck it back together with a fiberglass/epoxy resin paste.


Next was putting the boom back together.

First we had to cut off the deformed sections of the boom. The plan was to put a boom together that was slightly shorter than the original as we had to cut out the break. However, luckily a Saint Lucian offered us a section of broken boom that was exactly the same as ours! So we were able to put together a boom the same length as the original.


Next, we made a carbon sleeve to fit inside the boom. We cut a section of the boom, layered the carbon inside and waited for the resin to set. To get the sleeve out, we had to cut the section in half.

Andy layering in the carbon.                                     The sleeve out of the boom section

The boom sections and carbon sleeve, ready to be put together.

We then slid the sleeve into the two sections of the “new” boom and glued it in place with resin. After the sleeve had set firmly inside, the final step was wrapping the join in the two boom sections with carbon on the outside.

Andy contemplating the repairs - with a few cups of tea and chocolate biscuits!

The “new” boom, rigged and ready to go!