I would like to report on an issue we had last week in the hope it can help others avoid it.
Our genoa halyard broke during a fairly mild sail (20kn, 120°AWA). It broke at the top. The sail was fully unfurled and stayed up, we simply noticed the bottom part of the luff sagging. We were able to furl it, but only once sufficiently into the wind.
Interestingly, we had lowered the sail last week to repair some stitches before our passage and had inspected that same halyard (there had been a recent thread on this forum on this very topic). The halyard looked fine to me with no obvious sign of chafing. On the broken halyard, I could only see a very small area with chafing.
A couple of days before the halyard broke, we went through a pretty rough crossing of Golfe Du Lion in the Med, with broad reach 35+kn for 24hrs and rough seas with frequent breaking waves that would throw the autopilot off course, resulting in the genoa luffing a bit as the boat would go into the wind. I think this combined with a slight lack of halyard tension resulted in the halyard chafing against the sides of the halyard wrap preventer.
The broken halyard fell inside the mast. I was able to retrieve it from the slot at the bottom of the mast. However it was a real pain as, somehow, an overhand knot created itself during the fall. I had to untie the knot inside the mast through the slit using long and narrow "surgical pliers" (one of my favourite tools onboard). The slit wouldn't let two widths of rope out. Thankfully I hadn't used any force in pulling the halyard and the knot wasn't too tight. What are the odds of such knot creating in this situation?
We sent a messenger from the top, a fishing line weighted with a nut which was very easy to catch at the bottom (those surgical pliers again!). With hindsight it would have been better to use something thicker than a fishing line to avoid it getting between the pulley and its axis...
It then took a few attempts to let the halyard down, as it would get jammed when trying to pull the slack from the bottom with the fishing line. Until we proceeded carefully and made sure there was always tension across the fishing line+halyard to avoid any bends that would get caught by other ropes inside the mast. Once the halyard was retrieved through the slit, we checked that it could move freely both ways.
As a side note, we also needed to remove the genoa and weren't sure if that could be done without the halyard on. It turned out to be ok. In 0 wind, at anchor, the sail gently went down on the last turn or so of the furler.
That's it, check your halyards often, remove the top 50 cm every so often (Bill Rouse reckons 4 years) or anytime it would be a real pain/dangerous to deal with a broken one (long passage). Lack of halyard tension is also a factor in chafing in my opinion.
And many special thanks to Bill Rouse again for his support as we were dealing with the issue over the last few days.
Thomas & Soraya
Amel 54 #122
Cruising Menorca, Spain