On behalf of our Technical Committee, thank you for your letter explaining the current WCA position concerning rig configurations and the adoption of carbon fiber spars. The action contemplated is a significant step forward.
We assume that when you mention sanctioning the single-spreader rigs currently in use you are referring to rig configuration, not actual spar specifications, as I believe that the various fleets actually use different extrusions.
In any case, we would like to make sure that we clarify some misunderstandings. From your letter, and Herb’s additional comment, it seems apparent that our past communications have failed to explain what the rig we are developing will look like. In NEH we all want to continue using the original ¾ fractional rig profile, partially as a matter of tradition, but mainly because we feel that the boats sail perfectly as they are, and we can see no cogent reason for changing to a 7/8 rig. We do want, however, to return to the original mast height, and restore the “missing 8 inches.”
Given this premise, there was some initial concern about lateral support of the mast above the hounds. The solution we developed with Hall Spars’ engineers is effective both from a structural and cost points of view and, as you will see, advantageous for all. We decided to move the upper shroud attachment point to where the hounds would be in a 7/8 rig (not, as you mention, to the top of the mast, which would make little sense structurally.) This will give the upper part of the mast the necessary lateral support. In addition, we have been working with Hall to make sure that any spar we develop will be adaptable to all the fleets. As we have presently specified, the carbon fiber masts can be built to either rig profile (3/4 or 7/8) with minimal adjustment. The potential future benefits of this are obvious.
Throughout the development process, we decided to take advantage of the inherent characteristics of carbon fiber as a material – the most pertinent here being that fore and aft mast bend is determined by the laminate schedule, unlike aluminum spars that, because of their constant wall thickness, rely on jumpers. As a consequence, jumpers were never considered, being superfluous in the rig we are contemplating. Furthermore, jumpers and attendant rigging and fittings would add a minimum of $1,000, likely more, to the cost of the rig – which, I need not tell you, is expensive enough!
As we understand the WCA proposal, we would be requested to either adopt the so-called “Southern New England” rig with double spreaders and jumpers, which makes no sense at all when using carbon fiber, or change to a 7/8 rig which we don’t want and pay for jumpers which we don’t need.
We would like to point out that for nearly two years the NEH IOD fleet has been soliciting the WCA to work with us in this significant step forward, and that until now the only suggestion offered has been to adopt a double-spreader-with-jumpers rig and ballast it to match aluminum weight. That idea flies in the face of logic, and we have accordingly proceeded to develop what we strongly believe is a rational, traditional, and aesthetically appropriate rig configuration. We suggest that part of the conceptual problem the WCA is experiencing is that it’s basing its decisions defining allowable rig configurations on the continued use of aluminum as the material of choice.
The adoption of carbon fiber technology by definition imposes alternate – and more logical given the material – solutions. Single spreader rigs would have been impossible had we all continued using wooden spars, yet are in use now that alloy spars are the norm and have made them feasible. By extension, new materials and technology beg for fresh thinking. The rig we are considering is the result of a great deal of time and effort, not to mention expense, devoted to research: it’s elegant, functional, and it’s as inexpensive as we can make it. I daresay that if we project ahead, at some future point all the fleets could likely be sailing with identical single spreader masts in either ¾ or 7/8 configuration …
We appreciate, and to some extent share, the WCA’s concern about our ISAF designation as a Classic One-Design Class. We are somewhat uncertain about how that status is determined, and what its actual importance is. Perhaps you could enlighten us about this? We will certainly take any such concerns into consideration before any final decision after testing the prototype spars next summer.
Our fleet’s position at present is the following: we have amended our local fleet By-Laws to allow carbon fiber spars. We have subsequently, at our expense, commissioned Hall Spars to build a prototype set of carbon fiber spars (mast & boom) based on the specifications we have developed with them. We will step the mast in a test boat next June, and sail her for the summer to learn about the rig and how it affects the boats, and also work out any details that might need attention. Based on that experience, at the end of the summer we will take a final vote on whether to convert our fleet. We are extending an open invitation to any and all IOD sailors to visit Northeast Harbor and sail the test boat.
We trust this makes our past and present position clearer, and that we have been able to explain any misunderstandings regarding the rig we have developed.
With all best wishes,