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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You know,, had I not switched up the arms (thinking it would save me from buying a new boom), I am sure the arms would have blown out first. You can't fool the shoe faries!

Been thinking about the boom breakage problem as of late and it occured to me the one reason I may be sacrificing the integrrity of my booms is because I am too nice! Over the years I have performed so many rescues I can't even count, at least ten per year. Someone breaks something and I sail back to my vehicle get my tow rope sail out to them and tow them back to shore. The last few years has seen a rash of kiteboarder rescues where the kite crashes deflates or turns inside out and I go out and drag the poor guy back to shore never planing but thinking about the stress that pulling all that weight is putting on my poor boom. If you are planing along you are hardly stresing the boom at all, but once off plane and pulling an addional two hundred pounds of dead weight in the water is directing huge additonal stress to the point where I am either hooked in or just hand sailing, in other words the conection point to the boom! Hence the flexing on the boom there must also be huge and in fact shortening the lifespan of the boom by quite a large degree!

Could be Don.  When I've broken booms, it's always been right at the harness line connection.


Hi Don,

My guess on this one is that you pulling with your arms, or a steady, non-planing pull

in the harness while towing doesn't stress the boom like fully planing and smacking into

chop with all your weight on the harness. I imagine that the sudden acceleration in that

situation would far exceed the stress on the boom of a more steady tow.

My bet is that "Nobody gets on the water more than Don." = "Nobody fatigues a boom more than Don.".

You Lucky Dog!

Just as a catalog of boom issues I've seen:

I broke one rental aluminum boom in Bonaire in March, and it broke at the mast. (I was JSA (Just Sailing Along))

I've seen one broken carbon boom at Cass, and it broke at the mast.

I've seen a couple horribly deformed, but not-broken alum. booms from crashes.

A rather gravitationally-challenged friend of mine broke a Streamlined boom head

on one of my booms, but fortunately only 1 of the 2 clamps so it could still be sailed back.

I actually didn't even consider that breaking at the harness lines was an option!

As a related aside:


inspired me to neatly wrap some spare line around my harness bar (I couldn't go for the tape solution)

and this came in handy in Bonaire where I lashed the failed arm onto the good side for the trip back in.

I would be loath to devote my uphaul to lashing though.

Still don't understand why some guys I sail with sail on really old stuff (dangerously old for me). Our sailing techniques are similar but most of these guys don't have the large number of sessions/year, and no rescues to my knowledge. Also I weigh in at 175 to 180 (depending on before or after beers) while most of these guys are at 160 and below!! You can see that it is more than just an issue for me from the Pecoic Puffin article. Once in a while I see some of the old timers come back with their mouldy sails and ancient stuff and it scares me,Oh no not another rescue?? But somehow they make it back to shore in one piece!! good article by the way, ps did you get much in this year?

I wonder: Do you use exclusively a seat harness?  Do you keep your boom particularly high?

I could imagine both of these leading to higher forces on the boom than someone using a lower

boom and a waist harness.  When I'm in a seat harness with a high boom for course racing the

harness lines are typically pulling almost straight down, putting an obvious torque with a sizeable

lever on the boom relative to the mast, which must be carried by the boom head area. When I'm

using a waist harness and low boom, the harness lines are often oriented in more of a "pulling

away from the sail body" way, with much less of a torque component.  I don't know of anything

to say that one of those configurations is wrong, or worse, but they do suggest different loads

on the boom...

I haven't been able to get out as much as I hoped so-far this year.  Perhaps 8 sessions

since July. Here's hoping for RocKtober, and a windy Hatteras week coming up!

I hope your boom breaking days are behind you. It sounds rather frustrating.

Yes, we went to carbon this spring owing to a great deal on new carbon Chinook booms we got, time will be the judge, still in the meantime, I still think the force of pulling a kiter, and his wrapped up kite and all the extra weight that goes along with it has a lot to do with a large load on the boom. While sailing along the board is planing and thus very little mass to move, ie) a body in motion tends to stay in motion.Don't forget I am on a 6.5 or 7.5 pulling this guy the sail is powered up to the point where I can't physically hang onto it for very long and thus must hook in to get back to shore, and yet no mater how much pull I feel, because of the drag and the weight I cannot plane out all the way back in, which in some cases can be a mile or more. Up to the point of rescue, I could easily jump on the board and begin planing!

My lines are 24" and a seat harness pretty much the same as everyone else runs here. Except the shorter people. Pretty much chop hop, St. Clair never gets huge, perhaps 4 or 5 foot at best, so mostly slalom type stuff.

St. Clair has been wonderfull to us this year with 22 close to home sessions so far, not including 12 hatteras sets this spring and 10 Rondeau Bay days. Unusual summer here, lots of Norhterlies,despite record breaking heat,  but not too many of the typical SouthWesterlies








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