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How to use Tension Gauges

Model PT Series

Sizes 3/32 to 3/8 and 2.5mm to 10mm


Model 90 & 91

Sizes 3/32 to 5/32 and 3/16 to 9/32


Model RT Series

Sizes .172 to .375 and 4.4mm to 9.5mm


The Loos tension gauges take the guesswork out of cable or rod tension adjustment. They are especially designed for accurate, repeatable tuning of a sailboat's standing rigging.

Contrary to popular thought, a slack rig is more punishing on a hull than a properly adjusted, tight rig. Insufficient tension will not reduce the loads transmitted in the hull. Slack rigging will punish the spar and rigging needlessly by allowing excessive movement, chafe and shock loading. Modern fiberglass hulls should not be damaged by a properly adjusted, tight rig.

Figure 1 lists the rigging tension under different conditions for a typical boat with a properly tuned rig and with a slack rig. It will be noted that the maximum load is the same. However, for properly tuned rig the leeward \ shrouds will not go slack under normal sailing conditions.

The lateral stiffness of the mast and the fore and aft stiffness of the spreaders is reduced by a factor of 2 when the leeward shrouds go slack. This Important structural characteristic is not generally recognized.

Rigging tension is becoming more important as a result of the trend toward the use of mast bend to control mainsail shape under different wind conditions. Mast bend will also affect the shape and trim of the jib, since mast adjustment generally affects forestay tension. The expert skipper will benefit by maintaining consistent rigging tension while developing the optimum sail shape and sailing tactics.

Figure 1

Safety and Performance

SAFETY The failure of a fitting, shroud or stay could damage your boat, buckle the mast or even cause personal injury. To avoid such failure of (cable or rod) and fittings from fatigue or shock loading, it is important to set up your standing rigging with the proper tension. Too little tension in the shroud will permit the leeward shroud to go slack, only to fetch up with a jolt when the boat rolls or pitches. A less common problem is excessive tension. This can cause permanent stretch to the (cables or rods) and possibly damage the mast.

PERFORMANCE The actual set of sail under load is determined by the cut of the sail and the shape of the structure which supports the sail. Rigging tension plays an important part in determining the set of the sails.

When the boat has been tuned for peak performance, measure (cable or rod) tension should be recorded. The stainless steel used to make the rigging can stretch a little bit over time under high loading. Thus, marking turnbuckles, etc. cannot guarantee that subsequent adjustments will provide the desired tension. Only by gauging is it possible to repeat the initial tuning or improve it.

Limiting the sag of the forestay is perhaps the most important benefit to performance from having the proper rigging tension. Forestay sag permits the jib luff to fall off to leeward, tightening to leech and seriously degrading the performance to windward.

Tension in the upper and lower shrouds will influence the mast bend and set the mainsail. This is especially important on modern, fractional rigs where the mast bend is used to de-power the sail in heavy winds.

If the shrouds are not set up with enough tension, the leeward shrouds will go slack when the boat is sailing to windward. This can result in fore and aft pumping of the mast in a head sea. This mast movement will change the shape of the mainsail and can cause performance loss as well as possible structural damage.

Specific tension requirements for your application must be obtained from the boat, mast, or sail manufacturer or the manufacturer of the product on which the (cable or rod) is used.