Big congratulations go out to the Future Fibres rigged ICAP Leopard, achieving its third record in a month yesterday in the Round the Island Race. The Mike Slade owned maxi became the fastest monohull to complete the 55 mile course, beating the record he set himself back in 2001. Crossing the finishing line in under four hours, Mike and the crew shaved 12 minutes off his old record and added another trophy to their ever expanding cabinet in the process.
Congratulations also go to Mike Golding and the Ecover team for winning the Open 60 class, although sympathies have to go out to Alex Thomson, who was disqualified following a collision between Hugo Boss and the Farr 45 Atomic, just before the race. Alex, who was joined on board by Formula one ace Lewis Hamilton, managed to finish first in class, despite his bowspirit being broken in the accident. The rest of the Open 60 pack, all using full sets of PBO rigging from Future Fibres, was made up of high profile teams Artemis, Aviva and Pindar. Artemis, after a battle with Aviva lasting for most of the race, finished just behind Ecover, with a time of 4:53:18, very closely followed by Dee Caffari in Aviva.
In the other classes; 'Full Pelt', skippered by Stephen Fein and sporting a full set of Future Fibres PBO, took the Yeoman Challenge Trophy in the highly competitive IRC Group 2, with a corrected time of 6:50:02.
Future Fibres founder Tom Hutchinson Commented: "It was a great race this year; the wind was good, 15 to 20 knots blowing southwest, so there was some excellent sailing to be had. The record breaking number of entries this year was great, but as we saw with Alex, it made things a little tricky at times! Leopard has had an amazing month and, after the BMW Round Island Yacht Race last week, she seems to be close to untouchable at the moment."
Future Fibres' PBO rigging is today being specified on an ever increasing number of high-end, semi-production boats, by owners recognising the performance and comfort gains that PBO rigging offers over rod and other composite materials. Owners of the most prestigious production yachts are naturally at the forefront of this transition, with manufacturers such as Shipman and Swan both encouraging new owners to invest in this modern technology. The success of PBO rigged Swans in this year's Rolex Swan Cup, has also helped confirm Future Fibres' position as the composite rigging supplier of choice, for this highly competitive area of the market.
The number of performance projects opting for PBO has grown rapidly in the past two years and race results have reflected the advantage it is giving those who have chosen PBO over rod. Future Fibres founder Tom Hutchinson explains: "We have seen the specification of PBO really starting to pick up speed in this area of the market, especially with owners of Shipmans and Swans. At last count we had rigged eight Shipman 63s, on top of several 72s and 80s, so the market is definitely moving on. I think it is down to owners simply wanting the best technology from high quality manufacturers, not just in rigging but the whole package.
"Shipman is known for being a young, high-tech company, and has always been at the top end of the scale when it comes to quality. It is reasons like those that make PBO a natural fit. The same can be said for Swan, who we are working with on our second and third Swan 66s, not forgetting the work we are doing on the new Swan 60. Add these to other new and recently completed orders and it shows that the market has turned a real corner in accepting PBO as the natural replacement for traditional rod rigging."
Nik Pearson, skipper of the Swan 82 Crackerjack and veteran of two America's Cup challenges, commented on the effect of PBO: "As a skipper, the safety of the boat is second only to that of my crew. Choosing a product which is 350-400kgs lighter than rod has reduced the upwind slamming massively, making the boat a lot more comfortable and much safer in open sea conditions. Furthermore, the extra stiffness the rigging provides, helped us to finish 5th out of a 36 boat fleet at the Swan worlds – using only 1 genoa and 1 spinnaker against all the other maxis with their full quiver of sails! From both aspects, cruising and racing, there is no compromise; Future Fibre rigging is the right product for me."
These days superyacht owners expect high performance to go hand in hand with great aesthetics. It's not always easy marrying up these two objectives, but composite rigging specialists Future Fibres has shown that their new 'Under Deck Turnbuckle' (UDT) system offers one of those rare 'win-win' situations.
Future Fibres has patents pending on new technology that will enable boat builders to incorporate turnbuckles for standing rigging below decks. Tom Hutchinson, CEO of Future Fibres, explains the advantages of the technology: "The UDT system enables us to reduce the overall weight, in comparison to a normal turnbuckle system, and to lower its centre of gravity by recessing it into the hull structure. But more importantly, certainly for the superyacht market, is that unsightly turnbuckles are no longer visible above deck. Composite rigging disappears 'through the floor', leaving a smooth and uncluttered deck for the owner and guests to enjoy."
Turnbuckles for standing rigging below decks
Hutchinson believes the ideal, and most weight-effective, solution will be to create a composite tube laminated directly into the hull. But he accepts that persuading designers and boatyards to incorporate such far-reaching ideas won't initially be easy. "We're working on a project for Sunshine, a Tripp 38m currently building at Vitters, although this version is in stainless steel tube," says Hutchinson. "People are sometimes more comfortable using steel, although I'm sure it won't be long before we're working with someone on a UDT project in composite."
Peter Lassche of Vitters Shipyard comments: "The benefit of this technology is to have the turnbuckles buried underneath the deck, making for a clean and aesthetically beautiful deck. The challenge is to keep it as light and clean as possible, while still being practical for every day use." And Jens Cornelsen, project manager for Sunshine adds: "Whilst I think incorporating a UDT system is going to be technically challenging, it makes that area of the boat look very elegant. It's a nice feature."
Hutchinson points out that although the UDT system going into Sunshine is a first, it is still the result of many months' intensive research and development into the technology. "Our plan is to enter into a full design programme for the next three to four months, to produce UDT systems that will cater for every size of yacht from 12 to 60 metres.
"At the moment, as with many innovations, this is being driven by demand in the superyacht market and the UDT is very much a custom project application. However, given time, there's no reason why it couldn't penetrate the broader market. The yard has to design a UDT system into the chain plate of the boat, so it will take time for the technology to filter through to the production boat market. But there's no reason why a Dehler 44, for example, couldn't have an Under Deck Turnbuckle system. It will be lighter, offer less windage and will make for a much cleaner look. Who wouldn't want that?"
The Future Fibres team was in force in Palma for the Dubois Cup and The Superyacht Cup in June, both on the water and ashore, offering superyacht owners advice on upgrading their standing rigging to PBO. Sample presentation boxes containing short lengths of stainless steel rod rigging and PBO rigging proved an effective way to demonstrate the weight savings gained with PBO – and the Future Fibres sales force were almost redundant as one influential owner came back for more samples to convince to his fellow superyacht owner friends to make the switch...
Future Fibres CEO Tom Hutchinson who was racing aboard the Dubois-designed Midnight, winner of the Dubois Cup, says "We congratulate the organisers and competitors of both events and are proud to have been sponsors of The Superyacht Cup and have committed to the event for three years. We had a lot of interest in our rigging, the superyacht industry is clearly convinced as to the benefits of PBO – especially since Future Fibres PBO cables have now received Germanischer Lloyd approval".
An impressive 15% of the yachts racing were already rigged with Future Fibres PBO, however a fair number remain ripe for conversion as their rods become due for renewal. Jerry Turner, senior naval architect at Dubois Naval Architects (probably the most prolific and respected designers of performance superyachts) commented that, after a few years of close observation of PBO's performance, "...in general of course it is the way ahead just as carbon rigs have become the norm and there will be a rapid take up of PBO. In 10 years time we will be wondering why we were sailing with the equivalent of propeller shafts up our masts!"
TV cameras and Spanish press were out in force to witness Francisco Camps, the President of the Valencia region, attend the opening of Future Fibres' brand new mast-building facility. Situated in the building adjacent to Future Fibres' existing rigging business, which has been here since 2004, the new manufacturing facility is already taking orders for state-of-the-art carbon composite masts for some leading edge sailing campaigns. These include orders for an IMOCA Open 60 project and a Volvo Open 70 project for next year's Volvo Ocean Race, which starts in a year's time out of Alicante, just a short drive from Valencia.
In a fairly significant development, Future Fibres is pleased to announce that it has teamed up with leading mould specialist Persico Spa to design and build carbon masts for high-end customers in the grand prix race and superyacht markets.
The new venture, Future Spars, opened its doors for business this July, with the installation of a 50 metre autoclave, in a new factory next door to Future Fibres’ rigging facility in Valencia.