Carbon Spars

Thread starter #1
Are carbon spars in the near future for Lasers? It would make sense b/c isn't carbon stronger and lighter. How much more expensive is carbon than aluminum.

Also, are the black spars that you see in Europe or carbon, or just painted black.
black spars are just black anodized aluminum

Looks like carbon is coming at least for the radials.

Personally I hope they stick with aluminum for the full rig
We need to stick with aluinium to keep the cost down. Allowing expensive options like carbon uppers represents a move away from the laser's trademark one-design concept.
The WC proposed a carbon upper for the radial because:

1) More flexible
2) Better strength:weight ratio so less weight up top so less heeling moment.
3) More expensive: the builders can make mega profits by flogging an expensive upper to every radial racer worldwide. (Considering they charge millions for a simple aluminium tube, heaven knows what a carbon spar would cost...)
The lower mast would stay aluminium.
However, as well as all the cost disadvantages, the carbon upper would have another set back for the radial class:

The cost of buying a radial rig would increase from sail+lower to sail+lower+expensive upper. Decreasing the effectiveness of the "formula laser"
I was at the AGM at the Australian Nationals and there was talk from the International Committee that Carbon Top sections may come out this year as early as July for use in the 2005 Radial Worlds. Has any one else heard anything about this?
My guess is if the carbon spar is more bendy then less people will use it as it will bleed off power before you need it to. If the spar is more stiff then we will put more loads on other areas of the boat that normally did not see the leach tension created by a stiffer spar,thus breaking other parts that didnt break before. Hobie Cat went through this and had to amend its class rules to only allow the new upper (made of FG) over the older stiffer aluminum tops.... As crazy as this class is, my guess again is people will buy whatever spars they feel make themselves go fastest over which spar lasts longer or costs least.


New Member
Well in australia at least there has been great talk about the production of carbon top sections that are appparently "coming out for sure within the new 12-18 months" (i don't think so), there was also a rumor of adding extra length to the rudder to reduce wheather helm. I think that this will not happen laser was made as a sheap simple boat that everyone could afford and that is a major reason to the sucess of the boat, once we start to add carbon and other exotic materials to the boat it turns into another skiff boat or a moth were it isn't actual skill were testing but the bank acount of the sailor! I think if we did end up with carbon spars that then you should only be allowed carbon spars and eliminated the choice of aliminium and carbon spars to keep it all one design. But i think it would be better for the class if we leave it the same way it has been for the last 35 years. ;)
Tom wrote:
> Laser was made as a cheap simple boat that everyone could afford
> and that is a major reason to the sucess of the boat ...
> I think if we did end up with carbon spars, then you should only be
> allowed carbon spars, and eliminate the choice of aliminium and carbon
> spars to keep it all one design.

This interests me! But I think the thread has now evolved into a "Laser Class" rather than "Laser Sailing" thread. As such, I will take this to the "Laser Class & Politics" Forum. I just need a bit of time to think about it.


sailing is all about relative speed making the boat faster(albeit not much) will not make a difference to racing other than make it elitest especially in the junior classes were you see a certain element of who's parents got the biggest wallet, the opposite side of the coin would be bringing the laser into the 21st century but at the end of the day its all about $$$$.
We measured a few one season old top sections and spent a little time driving our design software to see what we could manufacture (in carbon) that would give a similar bend rate and increase the durability of the laser top section. Here is what we came up with.
The carbon spar is within 3% of the one season stiffness of the vangard supplied top section. The weight is 3.83 lbs. The EI is 2.12X10 to the 6th. The OD is 1.8" and the cost of manufacturing one of these is $217.00 (bushings would still be needed). This is the real stuff not an inexpensive polyester pultrusion but a carbon epoxy high performance composite. Of course if we could make more than one (lets say 100) the price could drop 25% from the single figure. The best arguments for giong carbon in the top section are for durability and light sailor satisfaction. The rig will be more responsive in a puff as the material (carbon) does have a greater youhngs modulus than the draw aluminum. If any one is interested give us a call or contact us and we will be glad to export the design file.
Thanks Tony, other skiff spars and $ can be seen on our web site
My understanding is that the spars currently being tested are a carbon/fiberglass composite, not strictly carbon, hence the cost will be lower than that estimated by Anthony Delima. One would have to believe that the initial run of these spars would be of order 1000 (this is my guess based on a rough estimate of the number or Radial sailors who might want to switch) so it should be possible to realize at least the 25% production discount he mentions.

I'm told that these spars are currently being used by the Newport Fleet in their winter and spring series. So, those of you near that area should hop on down to check them out. Or ask someone down there what they think. These spars were also tested in Europe and the European Region Chairman reported that the feedback was a unanimous "when can we get these?!?" I'd be interested to hear from Europeans who tested the spars, especially if this statement were not true.

I'm sure the price of a "carbon" upper will initially be higher, though I don't see how the builders are ever going to make "mega" profits from its sale. On the other hand, if what I hear is true, then it sounds to me like a "carbon" spar will be a better value over the long term, especially for people living in areas similar to where I am (San Francisco Bay).

Here we have the problem of the aluminum uppers developing permanent bends and failing frequently, both problems almost entirely the result of having to rivet the mast collar to the upper. Having to always sail with the rivet aft leads to the permanent bend at the mast collar (especially after a nasty death roll with a bit too much vang on). Corrosion eventually weakens the mast around the rivet hold eventually leading to failure (or, more commonly, someone gets frustrated with the permanent bend and tries to go sailing with the rivet forward). It is quite common out here and even I have quite a collection of future booms in my garage.

The testing done so far indicates that the "carbon" spars will have a higher yield (breaking point) than the aluminum spars, they won't develop permanent bends and, more importantly, they appear to be much more uniform in their bend characterisitics (and it is really true that people will go to a dealer and weigh aluminum spars to get the "stiffest" or "bendiest" according to their preference).

Remember that the goal of the "carbon" spar development is to address a common complaint: the top Radial sailors are "larger" than desired (look at the results of the current Radial Worlds in Australia - Michael Blackburn, a bronze medalist in the Laser, is at the top of the leader board in the Radial). Changing the sail by itself has helped but has not been the complete answer. However, boat to boat testing in Europe has shown that the "carbon" upper will open the weight range allowing lighter sailors to be more competitive.

I will try to see if I can get some people currently using these spars in Newport to make some comments (no guaruntees!).

Tracy Usher
ILCA-NA Vice Chairman
The World Council asked the builders to continue research and development on Carbon top masts for the Radial. The goal is to produce a new Carbon top mast that would last longer than the Al top mast (ie be significantly less likely to bend or break while sailing), feel somewhat more flexible, and not cost more that 3 times as much

First, the spars in current testing do have carbon in them but they are not entirely carbon. They are a fiberglass/carbon composite. The two best reasons for this are that a full carbon tube would be punishingly expensive, and that carbon is not the most durable stuff in the world when treated to "real world" conditions - impacts, dings and the like. Nonetheless, we have started to call them "carbon tops," and it's convenient to do so, so let's just agree for now to call them "barbon tops." The windsurf guys were referring to "carbon spars" for a decade before any 100% carbon spars were in production.

Second, it is currently an issue on the table for Radial sailors. As someone very correctly pointed out, there is much evidence that the most desirable weight for Radial sailing is a good notch higher than was originally intended. The Mark 6 sail made life easier for lighter sailors, the carbon spar is another outlet for making top level Radial sailing more accessable to lighter people.

Cost is an issue. These new tubes are significantly more expensive to produce than aluminum tubes. If the cost is too high, the project will not fly. A little Johnny Cochrane-ese for you there. The sourcing and type of the spars has obviously been profoundly affected by cost issues. Everyone wants to keep the cost as low as possible.

The benefits to the sailor are, potentially, huge. Yes, the initial cost will be higher. The motivation is to increase reliability, durability and repeatability while lowering long term ownership costs, or at least minimizing expense creep.

The tubes that we have tested have proven to be very rugged over the test period. In "lab" testing, they have proven to be tremendously stronger than aluminum tubes. On the water, we have seen them stand up to 25 knots of breeze with no issue at all. We recently did a bit of harsh "real world" testing, where I seasoned a few carbon spars by beating them against trailers, throwing them to the ground, hanging family members from them and whatnot, and then giving them to close friends and family members to go and try to break. We did excercises like repeated top mark roundings with full vang and cunningham on, deathrolls at speed, brutally excessive rocking, etc. The wager was that any sailor breaking a top would have the sail that he was using replaced with a new one, so the motivation to break them was there in spades. None broke, nor have any of them broken in normal sailing since.


New Member
Samez i Havent got evough money to spend on a new carbon section every year due to UV depletion of carbon( which it is most famous for)!
Carbon is not that badly affected by UV, and in any case, it is covered while it is IN the sail. It will be a good idea to cover the top when it's not in use, but it's a good idea to cover EVERYTHING when it's not in use.
A simple mast sock will be great to have if the carbon tops come into play, just like simple mast socks are great to have now, only maybe more so.