For this who missed this interesting snipped from Future Fibres in their recent news letter, here is their take on the reducing of the penalty of composite rigging under IRC:
(Source: Future Fibres)
At the May 2010 meeting of the IRC Technical committee it was noted that “the technology of composite standing rigging has matured significantly in recent years to the extent that it is now becoming close to mainstream……. There is now evidence that composite standing rigging has a life expectancy at least that of steel rod rigging.”
Considering the above, the committee concluded that “the rating cost of composite standing rigging will be reduced with effect from 1st January 2011” (source: IRC press office 17 May 2010).
James Dadd, RORC Chief Measurer, in his September Seahorse article on the subject explains the rationale in more detail: “We feel that the benefits composite standing rigging bring to yachting as a whole are far greater than the disadvantages. For the same given stiffness composite rigging has considerably higher ultimate strength, thus making it more likely that boats will come back up from knockdowns with the rig still intact. I have made no secret of my opinion that composite standing rigging was the main reason why we didn’t see a single rig come down in the last  Volvo Ocean Race[s] – the first time in the 36-year history of the event.
“…..For new builds the reduction in weight aloft also increases stability. With many yachts this will mean a reduction in keel weight ……. a reduction in loads and a generally more efficient design. The consequence of this may well counter any additional initial cost of the rigging. So in the long run, we see composite standing rigging as a benefit to all.”
At the same time there is also some movement towards faster IRC hull shapes. It is a common perception that more cruising orientated boats perform better under IRC, particularly under 45ft. However, in a recent article*, yacht designer Jason Ker argues that advances in technology are now allowing him to create light and fast yachts that will be extremely competitive under IRC. He contends the IRC actually does quite a good job of rating well optimized boats of different design types so that “if an owner wants to go slow in a larger boat he can” but you can also have fast, fun sailing and get an equal chance of a spot on the winner´s podium.
This is all good news for club racing – the vast majority of which is fought out in 35-45ft yachts. Two years ago, Future Fibres retrofitted an X37, called Hansen, in preparation for a windy X-Yacht Gold Cup:
“No other X-37 had the speed to keep up with us in these conditions, it made a real difference. There was much less sag in the forestay and no pumping in the middle of the mast when the boat is moving in the waves. That made a big difference!” Commented Jan Kildeggard, Hansen´s owner.
Future Fibres has a long and illustrious history of providing composite rigging to the grand prix race market and now, under IRC, smaller yachts will be able to benefit from this technology. Ten years of development has gone into making Future Fibres the lightest, strongest and most aerodynamic composite rigging available and the company’s Germanischer Lloyd approval demonstrates its commitment to reliability and longevity – a key factor for any owner racer.