Team Philips - Noble comments on masts

Barry Noble, one of Team Philips' mast designers, admits a ‘failure of concept’ - story by Christian Fevrier and Sean McNeill/
Greater friction from higher than calculated side loads have been cited by one of Team Philips mast designers as the primary cause for the near loss of the port mast in early October. ‘I have to admit that's a failure of concept, because of the unexpected huge loads at the heels of the masts,’ said Barry Noble, who together with Martyn Smith designed Team Philips unique freestanding masts. ‘You must know that at the beginning of the venture, we had just enough money to build the moulds of the hulls. With the huge size of the boat, and no time to test a half-model, we had to rely on our own experience!’ On October 5, six hours after beginning a trans-Atlantic crossing to New York, Team Philips port mast collapsed on top of its bearing. Alarmed by the radical movement from the spar, the crew lowered sails, used halyards to stabilize the windsurfer-like mast and returned to the build shed in Totnes, England, on the River Dart. The mishap occurred seven months after 45 feet of the port bow broke off during its first sea trials last March. Each of Team Philips 2.5-ton masts (3.3 tons including the wishbone and mainsail) slots into the hull like pens into inkwells. There is a self-aligning bearing at deck level and massive structure below, including bulkheads fore and aft of the mast step. Between the bulkheads, a bronze cup at the bottom of each mast sits on a melon-sized titanium ball. The ball-and-socket joint gives the spars full 360-degree manoeuvrability. ‘The mast has a socket (a bronze, half-spherical cup), which was bonded in the heel of the mast,’ said Noble. ‘The socket rotates on the titanium ball fitted in the bottom of the hull. We also had a horizontal ring, bolted under the equator