The halyard is only taking the strain put on it by the winch raising the sail - not the full weight of the boat.Funny, my halyards take the strain of a 77,000 # boat being pulled or pushed along by the wind and you don't consider them safe to take a 240# man aloft? Interesting math. A lot more climbers die than sailors who go aloft.
The issue isn't static load but impact load. Even a fall of a couple of feet (e.g. off of a mast step) puts an amazing strain on the rope. Climbing ropes are built with stretch (up to 30% length before failure) to cushion the impact. Halyards are chosen for minimal stretch. It's also hard to tell how much a rope has deteriorated from visual inspection since the strength is in the core, not the braided sheath. Climbers periodically inspect their ropes by feeling for spots where the core is soft or thinned.
I can't find stats for deaths from falls from sailboat masts although a search turns ups many news reports of individual accidents. Falls are the 3rd leading cause of accidental death. Falls are the 3rd leading cause of accidental deaths. For example, in 2010 falls cause 26,000 deaths (compared to 36,000 deaths from car accidents that year).
American Alpine Club issues an annual report with analysis if every US climbing fatality. Typically there are about 30/year almost all resulting from failure to follow safety guidelines.