There are obvious benefits to a carbon rig… lighter, stiffer, better power transfer, increased stability, easier to maintain… and when talking about replacing a wooden rig, those benefits are even more dramatic. But is a classic still a classic with a carbon rig?
When our team at GMT Composites built a carbon rig for the 1929 Alden Schooner SummerWind, the rig weight was reduced by 2,800lbs, while being 20% stiffer. The owner reported a better sailing boat that pointed higher, had a more balanced feel, and one of the best benefits was being able to carry more sail area in more breeze. All pros no sailor could deny, but what about aesthetics?
This spring, Lion’s Whelp, another Alden Schooner rigged with a GMT carbon spar, is being re-launched after a few years out of service. Thanks to the long life of carbon, the fact that it will never rot, and the ease of paint touch up on carbon, the riggers were mainly focused on repairing some outdated electrical systems. A testament to the longevity and low maintenance of a carbon rig. But what about authenticity?
Just recently, the folks from the Classic Yacht Owners Association put out an article stating that part of owning a classic yacht is “about being a steward of a piece of history – or a piece of history in the making.” Does carbon have to impact that stewardship? Many of these boats have modern electronics, plumbing, and other systems, why not a carbon mast as well? As designer Chuck Paine has pointed out, Nat Herreshoff, one of the most famous yacht designers in history, used the most modern materials he had available at the time to design some of the most impressive and iconic yachts known to date. Don’t you think he would have used carbon rigs if he were still designing boats today? With the advancements in faux bois (fake wood) painting, and some seriously talented artists, the aesthetics are covered, so why not go carbon?
GMT Composites is celebrating our 35th year of business, and we pioneered the advancement of faux bois carbon rigs. We have built some very impressive faux bois carbon rigs, with very happy owners, and we want to know what the sailing community thinks.