Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beneteau 423 Rig Conversion

Now that we've had the boat for a couple of weeks and I've been able to dig deeper into the systems and construction of the Finisterra and I'm able to start putting together a serious to-do list. Our purpose is to outfit the boat for long distance cruising so the number one item on the list is to lose the in-mast furling system. There are two basic ways to go about this. The easiest is to simply pull the roller furling main out of the mast, put slides on it and run it up the luff groove that is built into the mast. The other option is to chuck the entire roller furling (RF) mast and sail, and buy a new rig. Of course there are a few options between those two extremes, but they aren't worth talking about.

Beneteau 423 close reaching under a 140% jib and RF main

After pondering the alternatives and doing the math, we chose to go all the way and put a new rig in the boat. You're probably wondering why someone would take a perfectly good rig out of a boat and exchange it for something that is usually more work to set trim and douse. My answer is that RF mains work well for many things, but they can fail in ways that could be inconvenient at best and dangerous in some circumstances. They also can't deliver the performance that a full battened main can. In terms of danger, all you have to do is visit the B423 message board to read about a range of problems people have had with their RF main sails. Sails jammed in the slot, batten pockets torn, more jammed sails, maintenance issues on the furling system, etc. Don't misunderstand me, most B423 owners seem to love their RF main sails and have very few problems with them. But if you're planning for offshore cruising to remote places with a shorthanded crew, you want your rig to be 100% manageable in all conditions. So it's out with the furling rig.

As it turns out, we can do the conversion for a very reasonable price if we manage it well. US Spars, the company that built the original B423 rigs happens to have some mast extrusions left over from the production days, and agreed to build a new classic rig for us at a very attractive price. We found a local rigger here in SoCal who will take the old rig on consignment and we can surely sell the sail at Minneys, our local marine surplus store. So with the new rig, modifying the boom and buying a new mainsail, I estimate that the entire project will cost around $15.000.

423 with classic main and stackpack

We will include a 'Battcar' system, lazyjacks and a Stackpack to make sail handling easy. With full battens the sail falls neatly into the pack, eliminating the whole flaking exercise. More importantly, the sail can be reliably reefed in all conditions. I'll keep you posted on the progress for this project.

Mainsail neatly stowed. 


  1. Agree completely with you on the RF mast issues. My friends like to call it a "roller fouling mast". When we bought a new Catalina 42 in 2004 the boat came equipped with a RF mast and I told the broker I would buy it if he would swap out the RF mast for a "classic" mast. He did and we were very happy with it.

    Good luck with the newer Beneteau and the safer rig.


  2. Thanks, Jess. Do you have a 36s7?

  3. Any plans for a inner forestay? Detachable or not.

    Or put another way, how would you handle 30+ knots forward of the beam. I can't see swapping head sails in the furler in that sort of situation. That's asking for trouble.

  4. No plans at this time for an inner forestay, but we will carry a storm jib. And yes, it would be difficult to swap headsails in that much wind. Our standard jib will be a reef-able 120%.

  5. I am perhaps a year late to this discussion, but could not agree more! We sold a 473 in large part due to the in-mast "roller failing system." We are now considerign a 423 with a stackpack if we can find one. I came across this blog post doing a google search for 423 with stackpack. Would consider a refit if we can buy a boat at a price which makes that sensible.
    Brad Cole
    Annapolis, MD

    1. Brad, I was not able to find a 423 that had a deep keel, two cabin layout, Yanmar engine and classic main.
      The one we bought had everything we wanted except the classic main. For about $15K we bought a new mast, mainsail, Tidesmarine luff track, lazyjacks and stackbag. It was well worth it to have a safer and better sailing boat. Check with US Spars, they'll give you a great price on the mast.

  6. Hi Leif, we're considering buying a Bene 423. Most of the ones for sale have a furling main :( Did you replace the mast only or the boom as well? Replacing the mast sounds like a great option to have.

    1. Benny, I replaced the mast only. The boom used for the roller furling mainsail is the same as the one used for the classic main. It was very simple and inexpensive to modify it to meet our needs.

  7. Hi Leif, awesome idea!

    We are planning to buy a Bene 423. Unfortunately, it's hard to find one with a battened main :( Did you change the boom and standing rigging as well?

    Thanks for your help!

    1. I bought the classic mast from US Spars, the original spar supplier. It came with everything including new halyards, spreaders, wiring, etc. I had them add an LED masthead light and a VHF antenna. The original standing rigging used for the RF mast fits the classic mast perfectly so there was no need to buy new standing rigging. However I did replace the shrouds and stays a couple years later as part of the routine maintenance. Replacing the RF mast was the single best thing we did for the boat, making it safer, more reliable and more fun to sail, especially offshore.

      I don't think you could choose a finer cruising boat than the Ben 423 when you consider cost-performance-reliability-comfort-safety-looks.

      Best of luck with your new boat!