(Source: Future Fibres) When British sailor Mike Golding crossed the finish line for the latest edition of the Vendée Globe, he joined a group of elite, record-breaking yachtsmen. After over 88 days at sea, Golding, on-board his custom-built racing yacht Gamesa, became the first person to ever complete the singlehanded round-the-world course three times.
Golding attributed his latest achievement, in part, to the bespoke mast and boom package installed on his advanced Open 60 yacht: “We had a fantastic Future Fibres mast on the boat and it is the first Vendée Globe race, in fact, the first round-the-world race that I haven’t had to go up the mast once and that is the real acid test.”
Comments like this help demonstrate the benefit of choosing a partner for which custom and bespoke projects form the basis of the company’s core capabilities. Future Fibres’ 15-year association with the Vendée has seen it deliver bespoke composite systems for almost half the total fleet – highlighting its reputation as a key centre for R&D and a trusted provider of fully optimized composite solutions, designed for total reliability in the most extreme environments.
“Quite simply, the Vendée Globe is the Everest of yacht racing – designed to push the sailor and the boat to the limit,” commented Tim Meldrum, Future Fibres’ head composites designer. “The philosophy of the race is all about the latest technology and the most advanced, performance-enhancing modifications so there are very few rules and restrictions when it comes to mast and rigging.
“Every season we look to achieve performance gains in the region of three to four per cent, using our unique experience and unrivalled design and manufacture capabilities to achieve, what are significant gains. On Gamesa, for instance, we focused on weight reduction without compromising tube stiffness or reliability. The previous mast on the boat had an all up weight of 450kg and through a process of both laminate and fitting optimisation we achieved a 50kg (11%) saving. For the next rig, we cannot expect such significant gains but our target, based on ideas we already have for further gains, will be 380kg – a further 5%.
“Our aim is to identify the frontier of what’s possible in terms of performance, and then push that boundary. This particular solo circumnavigation is one of the hardest racetracks and the mast and related systems have to be self-sufficient for almost 100 days of constant sailing without failure or intervention. Performance and safety are keys to prolonged success within this field,” concludes Meldrum.
According to Future Fibres’ director Phil Anniss, achieving these gains and maintaining a strong competitive advantage derives from a detailed technical understanding: “If you want to maximise a composite material’s potential, regardless of the application, you have to understand how it works at an elemental level. Today, we partner with the world’s leading scientific and academic institutions to do exactly that and we have an in-house team dedicated to using this information to drive performance improvements and develop our manufacturing processes.”
Whilst consolidating its leading reputation and position within grand prix yacht racing, Future Fibres has expanded its offering far beyond the world of professional sailing: “We believe the level of experience, data and understanding we have accumulated is fairly unique within the composites arena. And for us, the benefit of this investment has been that our design, prototyping and manufacture capabilities are increasingly being noticed by a broad range of non-marine markets, especially by those looking to leverage our distinctive and transferable skill set.
“Future Fibres is today a custom composite solution provider with an incredibly rich history. That history has provided us with a wealth of experience in engineering performance-based solutions for extremely challenging environments. And as we move forward, our strengths and the understanding gained in one area will continue to benefit our clients from other industries through savings in time and cost, optimised design and manufacture techniques, and most importantly, in the delivery of unparalleled performance based solutions.” Anniss concluded.
Future Fibres’ composite capabilities will be on display at this year’s JEC Europe show in Paris (12th – 14th March 2013). At the show the company’s representatives will be on hand to discuss current and historic projects, as well as demonstrate how its design and manufacture expertise can benefit a wide range of applications.