Just how identical are the Volvo one-design spar packages?

Southern Spars will be the official supplier of the full rig package for the One Design Volvo Ocean 65 fleet for a second consecutive race, a move that strengthens the Auckland-based company’s historic ties with sailing’s toughest team challenge.

Southern Spars have been supplying spars to Volvo Ocean Race podium finishers since 1989-90 when Sir Peter Blake secured a commanding victory on Steinlager 2. They will again supply the high modulus masts, high modulus racing box boom and a full EC6 bundled carbon fibre rod rigging package with deflected backstays for the Volvo Ocean 65 fleet.

The Volvo Ocean 65 masts measure 30.30m (99.4 ft) – about the same height as a 10-storey building. The mast is one of the most dynamic and complex components on a Volvo Ocean 65 as it transfers all of the power generated by the wind and sails to the boat.

Within one-design rules, all 10 rigs (for the eight Volvo Ocean 65s, plus two spares) must be identical in terms of dimensions, weight and stiffness. 

Southern Spars have made rigs for 38 Volvo Ocean Race teams over the years.

Steve Wilson, Senior Designer at Southern Spars, explains: “Some of the materials we use here, like Thin Ply Technology (TPT), is exclusive to Southern Spars and that allowed us a lot of flexibility in the design, to strengthen the masts where they need to be stronger, lower the stresses and basically just make a safer product for the guys on the water.”

The rigs: a fact file

Within one-design rules, all rigs must be identical in terms of dimensions, weight and stiffness. The first 11 rigs to be bend-tested for the 2014-15 race showed a discrepancy of just 1.4mm across the board. The weight of the masts, as they were delivered to the boats, varied by just 1.35kg from heaviest to lightest – that’s a difference of 0.32%. The centre of gravities of the masts varied by just 0.2%.

The deck-stepped mast has a tube length of 28.4m and is built from High Modulus Carbon Fibre. It was designed in-house by Southern Spars using the DesMan and RigCalc software packages, integrated with the North Sails design software.The two companies have a long history of collaborating on masts and sails and this process produces the most integrated rig package possible, with the mast and sails performing in concert to produce the optimum shape and drive at all times. 

Structurally, there are 202 pieces of Carbon Fibre pre-preg in each mast tube, with an additional 52 patches of structural reinforcement. Southern Spars’ manufacture process, which includes the use of accurately placed ultra-thin layers of carbon, allows designers to be extremely precise with the placement and orientation of fibre, leading to the lightest yet most structurally sound masts available.

The Volvo Ocean 65 sports a 7.68m racing box boom again built from high modulus carbon and weighing 68kgs. Its deep section provides maximum stiffness to weight efficiency and provides extra downwind sail area. With internal locks at the outboard end of the boom, reefing is made efficient for the crew to manage in strong winds.

The rigging consists of nine separate stays and is constructed from intermediate modulus carbon fibre, with main stays that have a 26-ton minimum break load. The ECsix carbon rigging is four times lighter than comparative nitronic steel rigging.

It has a multistrand construction based on a bundle of small rods for safety, durability, longevity and flexibility in the toughest conditions. ECsix cables are the most resilient rigging product on the planet. Their patented construction makes them immune to compression failures, crack propagation and highly resistant to impact and abrasion.

Watch the video here.

Race Yachts
M.O.S.S Australia