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Southern Spars Invests in Carbon Fibre Rigs for Performance Yachts

  • Friday, 6th August 2004
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

Southern Spars has swung its design and manufacturing expertise into the manufacture of “off-the-shelf” carbon-fibre rigs for one-design performance class yachts.

Production has started in a self-contained factory in Auckland. Target markets are the growing number of one-design fleets up to 65 feet in length right down to the Olympic class and club dinghy class fleets.

Southern Spars aims to bring to off-the-shelf production spars the same quality and design innovation for which the company’s custom-built spars for top-end race yachts and super yachts are renowned.

Southern Spars director Mark Hauser says: “We will be a competitive producer of spars ranging from the P Class dinghy right through to 60 and 70ft production yachts.

“Owners of new generation production yachts demand performance above the deck for racing and passage-making as well as comfort below deck for family cruising. This market is growing very quickly in Europe and North America where manufacturers are actively promoting competitive class racing.

“Until very recently the cost of carbon fibre spars compared with aluminium inhibited the uptake of carbon. Owners and designers also had issues with quality, both in design and finish, in carbon production masts,” he says.

However, with alloy material prices rising and carbon fibre manufacturing efficiency gains, the price differential is reducing every day.

Mark Hauser says with the price differential continuing to close rapidly, owners are looking to carbon fibre masts for new builds and to replace alloy rigs. “The benefits are great – for example carbon is significantly stiffer, stronger and lighter.”

The new factory, in the Auckland suburb of Kingsland, will build masts for yachts from dinghies to production boats up to 65 feet.

One Design General Manager John Clinton has been involved in four America’s Cups and a Whitbread campaign and is a well-known sail designer who has been running his own sail loft specialising in one design sails. John also coaches New Zealand Olympic sailors.

Projects Manager Matthew Smith first sailed in the Whitbread on Outward Bound in 1981-82 followed by NZI Enterprise, Fisher and Paykel and Tokio. He was with the New Zealand Challenge in Fremantle in 1987 and the Tag Heuer America’s Cup challenge in San Diego in 1995. His company C-Spars has been absorbed into Southern Spars.

Production Manager Ian Matthews’ has a leading edge background in Formula 1 racing, aero-space composites and production boat building in the United Kingdom.

Last year, Southern Spars moved its one-design production from the United States to Auckland and has been making spars for a number of classes including Mumm 30s and Melges 24s in Auckland.

“”It makes commercial sense to have the manufacturing close to the design and project management base and that is in Auckland,”” says Hauser. “”Even with transport costs to Europe or North America factored in, we can be price competitive. Omohundro has developed a great deal of expertise with one-design rigs, building them for Melges 24s and Mumm 30s, among others.””

Southern Spars has also acquired the sole agency for Kilwell tubes for marine use for masts in yachts up to 20ft and for booms and poles for bigger boats.

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