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Seeking advice: Carbon or aluminum?

kgodefrio

New Member
Dear All, I’m seeking some advice. I’m in the process if buying a Laser after many years of absence, and I’m trying to understand the advantages, or pro & cons of going for the new carbon gear, or to stick with aluminum.

I’m a masters sailor, my weight is 62kg/136 pounds, and plan to race Radial at club/regional level (I’ve raced Laser for many years way back). I want to enjoy racing, but I’m not going to be out there if the cows are flying!

I read a post where it was mentioned that carbon masts are more rigid and perhaps not the best in light winds. So, having the choice (and for some extra $$), what would be the advantage for me to go with carbon?

Apart from the mast sections, what’s the advantage of a carbon tiller and extension?

Thank you for any advice you can provide me with! :)
 

LaLi

Well-Known Member
The advantages (and the reasons of their introduction to the class) of the composite spars are durability and more uniform quality. On a personal level, you have to weigh the risk of breaking and permanent bending against a higher purchase price. I believe that possible differences in their sailing characteristics are secondary to that bigger question.

Carbon fibre is light and stiff and a good material for long and thin things :) The material for the tiller & extension are free, so of course the sailors go for the most expensive choice :confused: But seriously, with carbon you can make the tiller lower in profile, so the traveller works smoother.

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kgodefrio

New Member
Thank you Lali for your insight and comments, much appreciated. I see your point (good to know about tiller/traveller improvement), so I guess better to go with carbon on a new boat, so it's fully up-to-date. Give my regards to the Sibelius monument! ')
 
I find the carbon top section generates a bit more power and makes it harder to handle above say 18 knots. Depending on your weight and fitness the old top section may be just as good or better.
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
Considering your plans to race as a Master at the club and regional level, I recommend that you save your money and go with the aluminum spars. I do agree that a carbon tiller is nice because of the lower profile.
 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
Just remember to line up your rivet properly between the aluminum top section and the gooseneck on the lower and you'll be fine. I'm heavier at just under 200lbs so the composite top section works for me in breeze as well as the light stuff too. I'm not sure if it's "real" or just in my head.
 

redstar

Member
I would say go with the carbon/composite - the price might sting a little at purchase time, but you'll be grateful long term.

I've never noticed a performance difference between a composite top section and a brand new, straight aluminium one. The problem is that once you've used an aluminium section a handful of times it will develop a permanent bend that you will never quite get rid of, and that will definitely have a performance impact. The composite one will be straight forever. Also, no matter how careful you are with the rivet placement it's only a matter of time before you break an aluminium section - you'll then probably need to be towed back to the beach, will miss a day of sailing, will have to fork out for a replacement mast, and to top it all off, will most likely tear your sail.

The carbon tiller is absolutely a performance advantage - the stiffness and the lower profile both make a big difference. i don't think you would find anyone who takes their racing at all seriously who would be using an aluminium tiller.
 

kgodefrio

New Member
Thank you very much Redstar for your insight and advice, much appreciated!
I belong to the 80s Laser generation -old vang- and in those days we didn't have much issues with bending our masts. Seems that the evolution in gear has made this a common risk.
 

LaLi

Well-Known Member
The carbon tiller is absolutely a performance advantage - the stiffness and the lower profile both make a big difference.
I've raced with two types of aluminium, and two carbon tillers, and I actually don't think the difference is huge - certainly nowhere near the 3x (or so) price difference. But:
i don't think you would find anyone who takes their racing at all seriously who would be using an aluminium tiller.
Exactly. The psychological/social dimension is real: with a carbon tiller, you're signalling to everybody (including yourself!) that you're serious. Showing up at the boat park with anything else would be the same as displaying any other "outdated" equipment...

I belong to the 80s Laser generation -old vang- and in those days we didn't have much issues with bending our masts. Seems that the evolution in gear has made this a common risk.
It's a myth that "evolution in gear" has broken Laser masts, if that means "more purchase in the vang". You can get all the vang tension you want with any purchase, although you may have to use some special techniques :rolleyes:
Something that has actually changed since the 1980s is that the booms have been made stiffer, so one might think that if they don't bend, something else has to.

I think if (and that's a rather big if; I doubt that any reliable statistics exist) masts break more now than 30+ years ago, it may be simply due to deterioration of material quality. It's hard to quantify, but there have been whole batches of clearly defective spars. As a personal experience (which overrides everything :D ), of the topmasts I've owned myself, the oldest of them is the least bendy.

I think redstar exaggerates the topmast problems, but they're real and of course, going composite does away with those. Same of course applies to the Radial/ILCA 6 lower section, which have been prone to breaking. As said, it comes down to cost/benefit ratio.

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kgodefrio

New Member
Thank you Lali, great insight and analysis! As I'm leaning towards a used boat, probably my choices will be limited to what's available; and to what I'd like to add after. If it was a new boat -based on all the collected wisdom, I'd go with carbon package (as I'd go with full options on a new car).
 

MrXC

Member
Since you race radial, a local, reputable shop owner that does a lot of work with Laser and other dinghy classes told me the carbon radial lower is much more resistant to bending. He noted many regular radial racers will go through a couple of lowers a year.

That said, I'm on an all AL rig but mostly sail standard
 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
In over 20 years of competitive sailing I've never broken or bent a top section. I have bent a full rig bottom section 1 time. I've seen a TON of bent top sections and witnessed a couple of them breaking while sailing. I can count the breakages I've witnessed in all this time on 1 hand. I've heard about radial bottom sections bending, but have never witnessed a bottom section break.
 
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