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The debate around carbon masts has a number of aspects to it and there appears to me to be some risk that the discussions will lose clarity unless the area of discussion is kept clear. For me, the distinct aspects are:
1. Mast configuration (jumpers, spreader angle (in-line vs. swept-back), spreader height, runners)
2. Mast construction material
3. Mast cost and availability (aluminium vs. carbon)
4. Sail area distribution (this has to be included as all carbon trials to date have been with large mainsail/small jib)
5. On-the-water mast rake adjustment
6. The rules of the Solent Sunbeams and the strategic desire to re-align the class rules of the two fleets
I am not recommending separate forums for each aspect (that would surely be tortuous) but would hope that we, as a group, can avoid wide statements that mix up the aspects.
I note that this carbon rig forum has not had any entries for some time outside Dave Owen’s post regarding the availability of Misty for sailors to try. As a starting point, therefore, I thought it would be useful to copy here the text below that provides a summary of the Falmouth meeting discussion on carbon masts that took place in May-19. It was agreed by all at that meeting that the Falmouth fleet’s view regarding carbon masts should be shared with the Solent fleet at that time, so the text below was drafted in the form of a letter to the Itchenor fleet. I’m not sure why it was never sent.
As you know, members of the Falmouth fleet were invited to a meeting to discuss the proposals for carbon masts on Tuesday (14 May). The meeting promoted some good discussion and one or two possible actions. As it was informal, no minutes were taken. However, we agreed to let the Solent fleet know the general sentiment in Falmouth regarding the carbon rig proposals and provide a summary of any outcomes from our discussions. To ensure accuracy, I have circulated the text below to the Falmouth fleet prior to sending it to you.
For a number of different reasons presented at the meeting, a high proportion of the Falmouth fleet is resistant to a rule change that will allow carbon fibre masts. For the minority that are more amenable, their reasons relate to inevitability of the change over time. Except for the availability issue of carbon vs. aluminium masts, within the meeting there were no advocates for carbon masts as being advantageous to the class.
The removal of jumpers from the carbon masts and the lowering of the spreaders by 200mm were seen by the group as fundamental changes to the rig design. There is strong resistance to these being proposed and introduced at the same time as the change in mast structural material. The reasoning is that it will be impossible to establish the reason behind any performance difference that the new mast and rig configuration might be perceived to bring. Trialling a re-designed rig in this way was felt to be less likely to provide objective results for the stated aim of ensuring minimal performance difference between old and new.
In terms of fleet dynamics, Falmouth has two spare aluminium masts and has enjoyed a comparatively low rate of mast failures over the last 20 years. Should this continue, we ought to be able to support a strong racing fleet for the next few years without difficulty or revision to the rigs. It was recognised that the Solent Sunbeams are facing a more urgent issue with the sourcing of masts. As previously agreed at our Spring meeting, we are happy for a boat using a trial carbon rig to compete equally in our 95th celebration championships. However, this was on the basis that we believe the Solent fleet is already committed to building the trial rig and that we may all learn from seeing it and sailing against it. The group was keen to point out that the inclusion does not imply a tacit agreement to the Solent fleet’s carbon rig proposals.
The Falmouth meeting provided an opportunity to (once again) discuss the problem of sourcing aluminium masts for Sunbeams. One notable solution is that apparently employed by the Sigma 33 fleet. Faced with the same dilemma, their Class Association had extrusion dies made for the Sigma mast section and then purchased and stored multiple mast lengths from an aluminium extrusion company. We understand that this was successfully implemented some time ago and wish to examine the approach further. It also appears that an investigation into the availability of new aluminium masts hasn’t been undertaken by the Falmouth fleet for some time, so it was agreed to revisit this to ensure no opportunities have arisen.
I should mention that the group appreciated the collaboration the Solent fleet is extending on this issue and expressed a continuing desire to ensure that the two fleets do not diverge further in terms of materials or configuration. We are all looking forward to some good racing at the 95th celebrations in September and the opportunity to talk through the issue in person.