Photo: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Future Fibres VO70 mast and rigging

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing go with the Valencia-based manufacturer

Friday July 8th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: Italy

On Tuesday the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team launched their new Farr-designed VOR70 in Portofino, Italy. Future Fibres supplied a fully customised mast and rigging package for the team which will this October become the first Arab entry into the Volvo Ocean Race.

Having only opened for business in their purpose-built facility in Valencia less than a year ago; this mast is a real statement of intent for the Future Fibres spar division. Future Fibres is also using the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing project to unveil its latest, smallest and lightest, solid carbon, TSC lateral rigging solution.

Backed by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, this is skipper Ian Walker’s second Volvo Ocean Race campaign and he is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for a podium position when the race concludes in Ireland in June 2012. “We´ve been working very hard with Future Fibres to fully optimise the rig set-up,” said Walker. “The design phase went really well, communication was very good which was one of the main reasons we chose to go with Future Fibres to build this mast.

“They have brought in some excellent people for the mast business, and their new mast-building facility - right next to the rigging facility - is world class. In this Volvo there is going to be a lot of upwind work, perhaps more even than the last race, and Future Fibres have been working hard with us on reducing the drag of our aerodynamic package on the VO70. Their TSC carbon rigging product, for example, provides the lowest-drag lateral rigging that we've seen.”

The design team for this project was led by Bruce Thompson and David Barnaby. Barnaby says this was a very exciting project for the team in Valencia to get its teeth into. “It’s been a great, challenging project; fulfilling the demands of the Volvo rule, optimising the weight and the centre of gravity, as well as overall performance and aesthetics. This rig is a great advertisement for everything we’re seeking to achieve at Future Fibres, where we’re aiming for total quality in every department.”

Barnaby also suggests Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is getting the most accurately built rig in the fleet. “Where the industry standard has been to build mast moulds out of composite materials, we’re using aluminium female tooling, which enables us to build right up to the tolerances of the strict Volvo rule, gaining maximum stiffness for minimum drag. Other tools are simply not as precise. As a result, the complete mast and rigging package came in 0.3% below minimum weight i.e. exactly as we designed it.”

Barnaby points out that the new rig is fitted with more custom-designed fittings than any other mast in the Volvo fleet. “It means the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team is getting a rig package that weighs less and will be more optimised and aerodynamic than other teams who buy from manufacturers who use standard fittings, terminations and halyard locks, for example.”

The lateral rigging and bobstay are made from TSC solid carbon rod which has proved to be the smallest diameter and lowest windage in the current fleet. The aft rigging and fixed forestay are made from Future Fibre's latest, innovative, flexible carbon product FlexC™, which combines all the benefits of carbon fibre (stiffness, strength and excellent fatigue resistance) with the flexibility, impact resistance and general handling benefits of a dry fibre cable. Finally, all of the high performance torsional cables and other strops and in-mast deflectors are PBO for their light weight and stiffness.

Ian Walker has been impressed with the quality of workmanship on the Abu Dhabi rig. “I think the rig's awesome. It's every bit as clean and neat as I could have hoped. The locks and fittings are working really well. It’s early days of course, but thus far I would say this is the best rig I've ever seen. The attention to detail, the windage reductions, the cleanness of the rigging in terms of spreader ends and aerodynamics, it really is impressive.”

Walker and his crew have just embarked on the 2000-mile qualifying sail from Italy to Cascais, Portugal, which is estimated to take the new VO70 about eight days.

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