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Future Fibres masts and rigging dedicated to superyachts

News International-French

15 Apr 2013

Future Fibres have quickly established themselves as a leading supplier of composite masts and rigging to superyachts. The scale of projects currently underway tells the full story.

They say seeing is believing. However when it comes to experiencing the Future Fibres Valencia facility first hand, disbelieving is a closer truth. The scale of the projects in production is leaving visitors impressed – Future Fibres is producing some of the biggest superyacht mast and rigging projects the world has ever seen.

A walk through the 15,000m² manufacturing space is an insight into the vision and investment behind the venture. Future Fibres' founder, Tom Hutchinson, talks about the company's objective: "When we set up our mast business, our aim was to build both the biggest and fastest rigs in the world. Over the last three years we have made a significant investment in order to expand and upgrade our infrastructure and facilities here in Valencia, which has resulted in a factory specifically designed for delivering large custom projects of the highest quality."

Composite masts

In 2010, Future Fibres created its mast division with the goal to lead the next wave of spar development. The success of this venture has been built on a world-class team, an integrated design and build process and precision manufacturing. Italian superyacht builder Perini Navi is now experiencing the benefits first hand, after the contract was won by Future Fibres in April last year to supply a spectacular 60m sloop. During a recent visit, Laura Bruni, project manager at Perini Navi Mast Division commented: "The 60m sloop project is the first carbon mast that Future Fibres has been contracted to build for Perini Navi and we are delighted with the decision we made. We have had regular visits and updates with both the design and build teams at Future Fibres and we have been very impressed by the level of professionalism and service that has been offered to us. This mast is looking like a large version of a grand prix race boat, moving the Perini line onto the next level."

At the Future Fibres factory, a walk down the length of the 76m long Perini mast is nothing short of spectacular. Tim Haynes of THL Yacht Riggers observed during a recent visit: "The mast quality straight out of the mould is impressive. I have seen finished masts on boats with more surface defects than the Perini tube straight out of the mould!" Having invested in some of the most advanced quality tooling with technology partner Persico Spa, Future Fibres is now pleased to be seeing the benefits. During the finishing stages of the Perini mast, the precision surface will provide the perfect fit for external parts and improve overall build accuracy and consistency. Laura adds: "The owner wanted a clear coat finish on the carbon mast. The production methods and tooling that Future Fibres offer allowed us to achieve this with very little wasted weight and time with cosmetic filling and fairing."

Furling booms

Future Fibres is currently manufacturing four of the biggest furling booms ever produced – all in excess of 25m. The demands of building such structures are considerable and similar to the manufacture of a mini-maxi race yacht in terms of scale and complexity. In order to build these booms at the highest technological level, Future Fibres has created a dedicated facility. Dubbed 'Boomland' due to its size, the 4000m² space features a dedicated paint area, specialist lifting equipment and a 40m long climate controlled oven which doubles as a clean room, providing the perfect conditions for pre-preg composite manufacture.

Furling booms are one of the most complex systems on a superyacht and the design requires an 'inside out' approach. Each of the four booms currently in production started with detailed calculations of the furled mainsail upon the mandrel. A lofted 3D shape was then wrapped around the sail-roll as closely as possible, whilst still reserving the space required for internal systems and structure. To ensure the most optimised and reliable laminate solution, Future Fibres collaborated with composite FEA specialists Ixent, running more than100 iterations of different structure configurations and laminate variants. Thomas Hahn of Ixent explains: "The need for these structures to have an opening for the sail exit, yet also the ability to take large bending and torsional loads, creates some very unique buckling modes that must be resolved through critical rail stiffening and framing methods. We have been able to engineer the buckling margins we were after while keeping the weight to a minimum."

Performance rigging

Future Fibres' dedication to superyachts is also apparent on the rigging side of the business. The factory has been expanded to cater for the ever-increasing cable sizes and investment has been made in specialised equipment. Four new production lines have been installed (for winding, taping, curing and finishing) and the infrastructure is now in place for the production of carbon cables up to dash 1500.

Superyachts benefit significantly from composite rigging. While performance criteria priorities may differ from a race boat, at this scale, the weight saving benefits alone equate to a significantly lighter ballasted boat which in turn reduces the required structure and associated material costs. The recent project for the 60m Perini Navi ketch had almost a kilometre of bright red solid carbon cables. The 66 composite cables provided a weight saving over the equivalent Nitronic rod package of over 6 tons.

Despite rough economic waters, it is common knowledge that luxury yachts are getting bigger, with a number of projects under construction in excess of 100m. In the past, yacht size was constrained by the excessive weight of aluminium masts and steel rigging. However, carbon masts and composite rigging have removed these restrictions and freed designers to push the boundaries of megayacht design. Future Fibres, with its dedicated superyacht facility, world class team, design and infrastructure, now has everything in place to deliver bigger and better than ever before.


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