Hi. Long time listener first time caller
In 98 we replaced our ageing stayed rig with a prepreg carbon free standing mast on our equally ageing Spencer 42. A big sister to Hal Roths original “Whisper”
I wrote an article detailing the whole event for Ocean Navigator magazine which was published in the May/June 1999 issue #98.
Since we built the mast our selves from scratch including the work on the deck and hull
most of our costs were materials. When the dust settled our cost for everything from the deck up with new sails came to about five grand less than the cost for a CT 37 project
which was happening at the same time here in Vancouver. The 37 was cutter
rigged, double spreaders with all new hardware, rigging, mast and sails. All professionally done.
If we had hired out the work it would have been beyond our budget
by a wide margin.
The gentleman we hired to design the mast, its section, lam schedule and new sail plan was Eric Sponberg a yacht designer
and certified engineer
working out of Newport
Ri. at the time but now based in Florida
. He has a lot of experience with free standing rigs as well as carbon and was a key asset to the whole project
. His contribution was worth every penny and more!
A free standing mast like its stayed brethren has its advantages and disadvantages. Having sailed all my life in stayed rigs and the past 9 or 10 with a proper free standing rig I probably would steer clear of stayed rigs on my own boats if at all possible, but, hey, never say never!
The primary disadvantage is up front cost and from my point of view it is probably the only disadvantage.
Most people are familiar with the freedom rigs. In order to keep labour and materials costs down to a reasonable number they were built on what were essentially aluminium flagpole mandrels.
This geometry is one of the worst shapes one can have on a free standing mast. The bending characteristics are way out whack for designing a sail with decent shape. It can be done of course. Building to a price
they really had no choice.
It is to the sail making industries credit that the damn things can sail at all. My suspicion is that the geometry of these kind of masts do nothing to help the sail maker confronted with building a sail for these things.
Eric’s design called for a elliptical shape with a modified entasis shape (think the top half of a Greek column). A series of changing tapers. Not a single
taper like a cone or flagpole). As a result the old bucket goes upwind as well if not better than most boats its size.
The new mast is about 9 or 10 feet taller than the old one. which means the rig is about 60 to 80 pounds heavier than the old deck stepped rig all up. The Centre of gravity is almost 3 feet lower than the old rig so they kinda cancel each other out.
If we were to do it again both Eric and I feel we could shave another 60 to 100 pounds off the final weight.
The work on the hull and deck was considerable and took us about three weeks full time to complete Suffice to say that there is a lot of carbon, Knytex and glass where there wasn’t before. All told we used almost 20 gallons (finished/mixed) of epoxy
nicely squeezed out I might add, to complete the hull/deck modifications.
We had a lot of fun doing this project, met a lot of cool people, and are still having a ball sailing the old bucket.
We sail a lot and have put the rig and boat through many miles of sailing in a wide variety of conditions. Not one single
creak or groan from the rig. The spartite occasionally squeaks a bit and the mast and halyards hum going upwind in a blow with too much sail up. That’s about it.
One thing we didn’t anticipate was how quiet the rig is in high winds ( to date 58 knots true). No screeching and howling in the rigging. Because of the relative quiet we tend to make less hurried and more relaxed decisions. That alone was worth the price of admission.
Handling the boat is much easier than the old rig since we can get her to go with just the main up. Tacking and gybing is a snap in close quarters. Mind you in light airs, 3 to 4 knots true we sometimes have to “snap” the big roachy full batten main over to the opposite side.
Depending on the situation often the first reef is to furl up the jib
. It’s great because you don’t have to put down your coffee to tack.
We find we are reefing at around the the same wind strengths as before. We also find that we rarely use the traveller anymore, it is mostly the mainsheet and vang. With a bit of outhaul
We still get jokers coming up and telling us that it won’t work and will fall down. Its always fun to see the variety of shapes and sizes experts come in. Its also fun planting these same jokers when we cross tacks with them out there.
Most people are genuinely interested though and if we have a moment we love taking them sailing.
Not a project I would recommend on a whim. We were just so damn curious, to not do it would have driven us nuts.. Nowadays I just get tired thinking about the whole thing.
So, yes Virginia some kook actually did this and survived.
Hope this adds something to the mix and answers a few questions.
One other disadvantage to this rig is any knowledge I had regarding stayed rigs has atrophied, badly!