What are the Benefits of Composite Rigging?

15 February 2021

To keep the sail stretched for the maximum wind capacity, sailing yachts rely heavily on their rigging composition. Most commonly, standard rigging is comprised of fixed lines, wires, or rods that stabilise and support the mast, bowsprit and sails against heavy wind loads.Innovation and technological advancements in the yachting industry have lead to the development of composite standard rigging. Composite or synthetic fibre rigging can be made from carbon fibre, polybenzoxazole (PBO), or aramid,  and is known to provide great performance improvements to sailing yachts, as a result of its, strength, weight and materiality characteristics. Changing from wire or rod to composite fibres is one of the most cost-effective performance improvements that you can make to a yacht.

Notable Strength

Depending on the type of fibre used, the overall break strength of the composite cable can be 50-60% higher than the rod equivalent, and the working loads are the same, meaning you have a much greater differences between working and breaking loads and therefore increasing safety. The strength of composite rigging comes from the material itself and the way it is constructed, which is in long continuous loop lengths.

When changing from rod or wire to composite standing rigging,the new rigging will be specified on a “stretch equivalent” basis. This means the composite cable will be designed to be the same stiffness / stretch as theold rod/wire, this ensures that the mast is properly supported and performs as it was originally designed, if not better.

Reduced Weight

For years yacht designers have been reducing weight in other areas of yachts to improve performance, but have struggled to do so in the standing rigging. The introduction of composite materials has significantly improved yacht performance because it used to be stainless steel and quite heavy.

The exact numbers vary depending on fibre and system choices but, as a general rule, changing from wire / rod rigging to composite will create an approx. 75% weight saving. On average, every kilogram saved from your mast and rigging package, equates to adding 4kg to the keel, which has extensive benefits to a yachts sailing performance.

Other benefits of composite rigging include:

  • Increased righting moment / stability, means faster sailing
  • Lower Centre of Gravity, means better handling and responsiveness
  • Faster acceleration as a result of reduced weight
  • Less pitching moment,which makes the yacht faster upwind in rough seas
  • Lower heel angle and reduced rolling at anchor
  • Reduced fuel consumption while motoring

Material Options

The most common materials used in composite rigging are carbon fibre, PBO and aramid, each of these has varying beneficial materiality characteristics. Carbon fibreis known for its excellent vibration damping quality and high performance, PBO is a synthetic polymer material that has very high strength and excellent thermal stability. Aramid is also an excellent option for composite rigging due to its resistance to impact and abrasion.

Cost

The main catch with composite rigging is that it is more expensive than rod and wire. Firstly, if you are changing from rod or wire to composite, there will be additional costs to change the spreader ends to take the composite fibres and potentially the top take off fittings. Then there’s the higher cost for materials and more time involved in making composite rigging.

While composite rigging is known to be stronger under load, it can be more exposed to chaffing from sharp surfaces or objects. If one section of rigging is damaged it means the entire side of the rigging needs to be replaced, as they are all joined together. Where as with rod or wire rigging if one stay is damaged in an incident, you can get away with replacing the damaged individual stay. In saying that in terms of rigging age, if one stay is damaged because of its age(ie. has a broken strand of wire and is in excess of 10 years) it’s a good indication that all of the standing rigging should be replaced and is what we recommend.

Composite rigging is also periodically changed more frequently, approximately every 5 years, where as wire and rod is changed every 10 years depending on a number of contributing factors.

In conclusion, composite rigging is a great way to improve a yachts racing performance if it is within your budget, otherwise it is best to stay with rod or wire standing rigging for more casual, cruising sailing. If you want to know more about composite rigging, just contact us at Riggtech.

 

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