60ft tris start their engines

The Daily Sail spoke to designers Nigel Irens and Vincent Lauriot Prevost about mast breakages and structural failures
Action in the 60ft trimaran fleet is hotting up with the ORMA 9 Telecom Grand Prix looming at Fecamps in northern France at the end of this week (12-15 September). This is the final event of the season prior to the start of the all-important Route du Rhum singlehanded transatlantic race in November. Sailing at Fecamps usually provides the 60ft trimarans with some lively conditions and for competitors it is a favourite on the annual circuit because of the wind and the interesting effect the high cliffs along the coastline has on it. Race pundits (that would be us) will see the Fecamps Grand Prix as a good indication of who is up to speed and who is not really ready for November's transat, particularly after a season dogged by a large number of major structural failures. Snapping like twigs Following the dismastings of Belgacom and more recently Alain Gautier's new Foncia II, Espace Composites, the builder of these two carbon fibre wingmasts, have identified a construction flaw in their latest generation spars that can cause them to fail when sailing under one or two reefs and the staysail. Espace have specified a fix that must be made to the masts to prevent this recurring hopefully. This requires uni-directional carbon fibres to be bonded into the inside of the tube to give the mast more 'hoop strength' and cut down the ability of the spar to deform under compressive load. One can only begin to imagine what an awkward job this must be to carry out inside the narrow confines halfway up the mast. However designer Vincent Lauriot Prevost is not convinced that there is necessarily a structural problem with the trimaran's carbon fibre wingmasts. "It is difficult to answer about the mast problems because nothing is really clear,"