Michigan Windsurfing

Windsurfing & Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Michigan

Hello all

     I would like to take a moment of your time to discuss boom longevity and Aluminum vs Carbon. I guess the reason is because we have recently experienced so much problem with booms letting go.

     As one can see in Brians video on Aluminum boom flex, it becomes apparent that fatigue of the metal will sooner or later become an issue. From personal experience I have broken many aluminum as well as one fibrespar carbon boom, my wife Ann broke an older  (three years+) aluminum boom in Avon Hatteras this spring and almost took out the guy sailing downwind of her. A fellow sailor Ryan also just recentley broke a boom at Rondeau Bay and had to jury rig and half swim to get back.

     All three of us are becomming slowly better and better sailers and able to handle bigger sails for more power in stronger winds and are also sailing much more aggresivly in the last few years. Ryan is a big guy, at well over 6 foot, I am around that 6 foot mark as well and 180lbs, so not really a light weight. Ann is about 5.7 foot and 145. I plane through most of my jibes now, but as they say, no matter how fast you enter, it seems most of the time I pump the sail for a bit more speed going into the jibe.     After some research it seems that most aluminum booms are good for about 70 to 90 sessions. Most guys will say if you sail a lot ( I did 70 sessions last year )  get rid of it and spend $200.00 and buy a new one every year. Some say buy carbon and you will get three to five years out of it.

    We have gone to all RDM (masts) now as we had a lot of issues with regular diameter mast breakage a few years ago. It seems the RDM's have solved that problem. And most are not made in the Asian basin.

    Carbon booms on the other hand are almost if not more than three times the price of Aluminum (albeit lighter). The problem is, if you land a jump on them or have a bad crash somehow  (Ann's fin hit a deadhead undewater a few years ago resulting in a rather spactacular crash), the shock may really weaken the boom resulting in catastrophic failure and loss of warranty. You may now have to face the issue of scrapping a $ 600.00 boom. Ouch!!

    I bought a Chinook Course Aluminum boom 182 to 244, with the wide clew end, and have been using it for all my sails 6.0 to 7.5 and it feels very stiff as there is very little extension. The problem was however the cleat in the tailstock was made from plastic ( Rather than the typical metal ones)

and stripped out on a 7.5 M sail about the 4th time I used it. Chinook did honour their warrantyand replaced it with a regular slalom tailstock with the pinned metal cleat which I am still using. Although I had to pay shipping USD$20.00 one way to ship it to Oregon. The new Aeron V-grips look substancial but a bit on the heavy side.

    Last time we were in El Yaque Margarita Vela patrons were snapping Neil Pryde booms left and right. I actually snapped one on the first day out on my second run.

   In closing I would like to hear any feed back anyone has, and just as a closing thought I now use a small piece of downhaul line to tie my uphaul to the univesal joint rather than slipping it through the loop. In this way if I break my boom I can untie it and flip the boom easily and use the uphaul to hold the broken side togther while I sail back to shore (hopefully) on the good side, rather than try to disconnct the mast to flip the boom, as this is very difficult to do in waves.  Don



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This is a real dilemma for bigger guys that sail bigger sails. I'm just over 200 lbs and currently use carbon booms. They're old, but I don't get in that many sessions per year. I really appreciate the stiffness and light weight of a carbon boom on my larger sails (8.0, 9.5, 10.4). The aluminum just feels soft and heavy. I did break a carbon boom, right at the harness line load point, when I hit a fin in Hatteras and got launched. Carbon does break more suddenly, but lasts much longer if treated carefully. Some have suggested that the use of a boom bag is a smart buy in that it prevents the inadvertent hits that happen while loading/unloading the car.
That said, if I had to replace my biggest boom right now it would cost me over $1000. The new Aeron Vee grip is apparently very heavy. Don't know what I would do. Seems like the price of carbon should come back down sometime soon. The story was that the new plane that Boeing is building was sucking up all the carbon on the market and thus raising the cost. Seems like the market should adjust???

I did like your idea for using an extra piece of line on the uphaul. Also, I did do a boom repair on a carbon boom. Maybe I'll post that one day.
Yes here in lies the second problem. I also have an old fleetwood composite I use for my smaller stuff and it seems to be holding up just fine. Brooke, that sails with me comes in at a whopping 160lbs uses all old stuff and you would think his booms are a time bomb but,,, not yet. Seems the older stuff was overbuilt, and the newer stuff coming from Asian producers, although they look good, just don't last. Maybe the answer is to buy domestic??
I am sure you are like us and sail well into November some years and while our counterparts in more temperate climates do not see the problem, a premature breakage of the boom and subsequent swim in 40 (or colder) degree water could end up in a case of hypothermia. Again if the breakage occured every time on a 90 degree day in 80 degree water I wouldn't be so concerned either.
I did hear the aerospace industry was using all the carbon and the price would be skyrocketing for items produced with it. This does seem suspicious to me ( since this is a carbon based planet), however I may be just too suspicous in general when it comes to excuses for price increases.
Your example of hitting the fin is exactley my point on carbon. On Sunday when we were out sailing Lake St. Clair unbeknown to us they had dredged out an area and dumped the dredgings beside the boat channel, Ann nailed her fin on the dredginga which now come close to the surface and took a nasty spill. A spill for the most part was unavoidable and unforseen, and probaly could have meant the end of a carbon boom, or at least it would have lost a lot of integrity.
Yes, the cold water makes a difference, that's for sure. Don't know the solution. The other factor is the low production volumes. I'm going out to the gorge in a month or so, an I know a guy that once worked for Chinook. I don't know if he has any connections still, but I'll ask him about pricing.
Moron booms!! One more thing if this hasn't occured to you yet. If you see me (or anyone else for that matter) down in the water struggling with a broken boom, go to the back of my van and open it up, take out the spare boom that I always take with me, now open it up, pass it over the top of your sail and clamp the head around your mast just above your boom, don't worry about the clew end. Just let it rest over top your own, now sail it out and drop it off with the person in trouble they will rig it and get back to shore. You can stick around for moral support or to lend a had if you like. I have seen them do this at Vela in Margarita many times and it works quite well and it is much better than jury rigging a broken boom.
Yeah, that's a great idea. Thanks.
Attitude adjustment!
If you read our blog post from yesterday we had mentioned sailing Rondeau Bay I would like to add that on the last run with my 7.5 I felt a slight creek and a bit of an attidude change (stance) seeming to originate from my boom head (mast connection). At that point we switched off gear and I did not persue the incident much further. On returning home I took the clamp on end off the boom side that seemed to click. Not much of a surprise though, once apart the crack in the boom arm became obvious (see attatched photo). At this point I am soooo,, glad the wind came up a bit stronger enabling me to switch booms. Had I continued to sail that gear it may niot have been such a memorable session. Again the boom is a Course 182 to 244 with approximatley 70 sessions on it. Moral of the story; If your happily sailing along and you hear a rather ominous creek and your sailing position changes for no apparent reason (at least I did't do anything to change it)
best advice is flip around and get back in and do a further inspection.
Sheesh, Don, you do go through the booms! Got lucky this time.
I can't believe you guys got wind yesterday. We've had nothing in so long that I've forgotten what to do if we do get wind again.
I have a carbon boom that creaks, but I've never inspected it and it's been doing it a long time. Guess I should check it.
To Chinook's credit. I dismantled the mast end of the boom armsosut of curiosity, and once the arms were removed from the boom clamp head I found an insert made of delrin or some type of black plastic measuring approx 5 inches long and being about one quarter inch thick at one end, and one eigth of an inch thick at the other. This tube was pushed all the way into the boom arm tube. when the aluminum fatigued and split the black plastic insert held up and once removed from the tube did not appear to be damaged.This plastic piece is the reason the boom did not break altogether and held up long enough to get back to shore. I don't know how long it would have lasted had I kept sailing but I am thankfull the insert was there as a bit of interior support and safety(??) measure in case the boom tubes break. Thank-you Chinook
More good news from Chinook, new boom arms for this particular boom are $58.00 + shipping. Not bad and the boom will be like new for another 70 sessions
All good info Don. Thanks.
OK guys. It always amazes me how I find newer and more interesting ways to break stuff! Check out my latest post "Worst Day Ever'  for a new way to break a boom. The boom arms had about 20 sessions on them ( I thought if I switched the arms after 60 sessions I could avoid the unavoidable, ha, ha, ha). The boom head had about 85 or so sessions on it. the good news is that you can jury rig it to get back to shore if it breaks in this manner, provided you have some extra downhaul line with you ( a must at all times). You can tie across the boom head and secure it all tight, very tight, as tight as you can. The bad news is when the thing popped, I pulled a muscle in my upper leg, that will not likely heal overnight. I really think I should be a candidate for "Consumer Reports,,, Windsurfing gear testing".


Good work.  That's not easy to break the boom head like that!  The good thing is that, if you didn't tweak the tailpiece too badly, you can just replace the head and live to sail another day. 

I'd say leave it out tonight and see if the shoe fairies fix it.




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