the laser class "one design" sails and spars

Thread starter #1
I live and sail in Corpus Christi, Texas. Usually at least every other day we have winds gusting to 20 knts. Over the past year and a half I have broken 3 laser top sections each less than 10 months old. I have bent 3 laser bottom section (2 radial) beyond use, and each section was less than a year old. I wash my spars no different than any other laser sailor.
Last summer I purchased a radial European bottom section from an aquantence, who brought it back from a regatta. This mast has not bent even through it has been through multiple regattas and a few practices. This mast is also slightly lighter in weight. It is not the older black European section, it is the new silver one.
Also, at Smythe (a US singlehanded junior regatta) this past year I bent a new standard rig lower section useless. The boats and parts were brand new. I was charged for this section. I hiked on one leg of one race during the event. I know of two other people that bent their spars back to a condition at which they could be sold by the charterers. I had a talk with the man whose new boat I chartered. I told him of my past experiences. He went on to tell me that a friend of his imports his spars form Australia. This same man is envolved with the making or selling of laser spars in the US/NA region.
Now I do not believe these differences in spars makes a great difference in racing if any; however, if the European spars last longer, then I want them because it owuld save me money. A year ago the European spars were black. The North American spars were silver. They are supposed to be made to the same standards but they are different colors. I was told that the spars were supposed to be exactly alike. I have also been told, and know through experience, that they are not.
Radial sails have a difference in sail shape and size, as I have posted (and recieved confirmation by Murphs) once before. I understand that eventually the MK5 will no longer exist, but there is still a difference in shape directly related to sailmaker. Also the other day I took a look at two of my radial sails (one North and one Hyde, each used at two events) and felt them. The Hyde felt significantly crisper and was a slightly different color (whiter), even though it has been used in windier conditions than the North. Also, my old radial Hyde sail is not anywhere near as blown out as my old Norths and have recieved the same use. I have also been told that laser radial sails are supposed to be made identical.
All I want is for the North American sail and spar makers to use exactly what the guys in Europe use, not ofr a competative edge, but for longer lasting products.
I took a micrometer to my old lower mast section (the one with a white bottom cap) and measured tube wall thickness, it is 6% thicker than my 2002 lower section. THey just don't make them like the use too. Like a hamburger, smaller thinner cheaper.
Thread starter #3
That is interesting. My coach said he went through around 3 top sections in his laser days. One, with a white cap, lasted much longer than the others. It could be a coinsidence, but it also could mean that there was a change in builder or material.
Quick reply:

Forget for a second the reliability issue.

Mast thickness makes a great difference in racing performance! More importantly, mast tube dimensions make a huge difference. Coupled together, differences in the dimensions of mast tube and lower mast diameter and thickness can go to the extent of creating unequal boats.

This is not "speculation". This has already happened, and observed by Class Measurers in important Laser events. In one event, there was even extensive "intervention" to try to correct the problems on the spot to allow the Lasers to race "legally".

ISAF President Paul Henderson's recent announcement that such construction differeneces will no longer be tolerated in the Olympic Regatta (see link on "drLaser" website) and that ISAF itself will have the "final say" in Measurement and the interpretations of Class Rules is a testament to how serious this problem actually is.

I would hope our astute president would opt for the "thicker" extrusion as used in older lasers. An acquaintance of mine has bent two lower spars, Thinking they had a warranty he contacted Vanguard. They told him to cut a cross section out of the spar and send it to them, if it was out of spec they would send him a new one. I never heard if he sent them a sample. Any idea what the wall thickness should be?
Laser Radial Spars are a heap of CRAP. I purchased a new boat and followed the instructions and wore them in over a month. The first windy day I used them they were bent beyond repair. I won the two races being held beating all the full rigs as well. I returned them to the dealer and they said they meet the specs so they will not replace them.

I thought I would buy some new spars from the UK as I had a friend bringing his Fireball out for the Worlds. These were a heap of crap. The wall thickness was half of the Australian Mast. This mast was warn in over 2 weeks sailing every day in light winds (no more than 10 knots). During the nationals we sailed in Medium conditions up to 15knots and on the first windy day I pulled on my vang and the bottom section split down the back edge opening up. The top section wedged itself in the split and bent over backwards. I didn't even get the vang fully loaded when this happened. I found a weak point on the mast where it looked like there was a join.

Laser sail are a heap of shit but since everyone has to use the same design then it is fair. Ha ha ha, I purchased 2 new sails this year and they was over 5cm different in each direction.

Lasers have no quality control system in place and to many people happy to sit on the fence and put up with crap.

It is my choice to sail one, so I will have to put up with it.
Thread starter #7
This is just a follow up on the spars. Earlier in April, at the radial youth worlds in Australia, the US youth team (myself included) found it significantly harder to pull the cunnigham on due to the stiffness of the upper sections. It had never been so hard to pull on the cunnigham in the US with NA made masts (these weren't brand new spars, as they had been used the week before). I talked to the PSA (Performance Sailcraft Aus) rep at the regatta, and he said that they use a higher quality of aluminium that the NA suppliers do, so his are stiffer and last longer.
over here! all good sailors will bend their top sections in 25+ all the time! i just re-straighten mine if the bend is not serious but ive got two top sections just in case one is irrepairable!
mattsterett said:
I talked to the PSA (Performance Sailcraft Aus) rep at the regatta, and he said that they use a higher quality of aluminium that the NA suppliers do, so his are stiffer and last longer.
I've heard this before too.
One design. Hmmmmmmm.............
The spars are cheap though, $180 Aussie pasos for a full rig top section and it comes complete, you can buy it on the way to going for a sail and use it immediately. Compared to $1400 for a aluminium blank for a popular catamaran, plus $400 worth of parts to fit it out and a couple of days labour. They break just as often as Laser top sections. All boats have on going costs.
The sails are poor quality, my last one was covered in excess glue and I had to restitch it proir to use as some of the stitching wasn't done on both sides.
It was a North sail, I suspect it may have been made in Asia as I heard this may be happening. The leech fluttered worse then my 2 year old sail from day one.
My husband has had problems with a barely used Radial spar purchased in 2003. It was used less than 10 times. In May of this year the bottom Radial spar broke at the location where it meets the deck. It was funny to watch, the sail fell down in slow motion. The winds were close to 20 mph and we were having fun doing beam reaches. Luckily the winds had died down some when this happened. The place where it broke was near where a sleeve is inserted inside the spar at the vang tang. We have the old style vangs and before the reaches he loosened the tension on the vang. The orignal 1999 Radial spar lasted through lots of sailing in 15+ mph winds. The reason it had to be replaced was that it bent when he sailed in a tropical storm with about 35 mph winds. We were okay with the 1999 spar failing but the 2003 spar failing after very little use is very frustrating.
i had the same thing happen with a 2002 radial lower section: it was entering its third summer of use and failed going around a leeward mark. i heard a sound, but ended up sailing two windward legs with it bent twenty degrees back right where it exits the deck, with just the inner sleeve holding it together.
does anybody know what the logic is on the inner sleeve to begin with?
Although there have been comments (speculation) that spars available in Australia are made differently than elsewhere in the world, they are still not perfect. I learned a expensive lesson some time ago, when I bought my new boat I could not get the brand new top section into the brand new bottom section, and bought new parts to remake the mast that still didn't fit.

I went out and bought a vernier caliper so I could accurately measure the spars and plugs and was dismayed with my results. The brand new top-section bottom-plug was more than 1mm larger than the inner diameter of the bottom section, so the two parts were never going to fit. Worse still, the top section cuff was over 2mm larger than the bottom section opening!

I had two old bottom sections, two old top sections and one boom made from an old top section at home, so decided to measure all of these up. Although all of the spars were (to the best of my knowledge) all made in Australia, no two measurements on any of the three lower sections were the same, nor were any of the top sections. They were all different in length, inner diameter and outer diameter (therefore wall thicknesses were different) The differences in mast fitting sizes was enourmously varied with the maximum difference between a bottom plug and cuff of over 3mm.

I knew of people doing some top-section testing prior to purchase but never really knew why or what they were testing for until I bought my new-does't-fit-together-mast. The testing conducted was to weigh a blank top section, no fittings, no holes drilled etc. Discounting the heaviest and lightest spars, lay the remaining medium weight spars on rails that are perfectly horizontal and give them a slight push. The mast will stop rolling and settle with the heaviest side down. Spars which have a pronounced heavy side obviously dont have uniform wall thickness and are therefore rejected. The remaining one or two spars are the candidates for the top section. Note: the heavier side of the spar is marked and will be the aft side of the mast when constructed to be relatively stronger than if the heavier side is forward.

Frustrated, I took my verniers to the local Laser chandlery and sat down with boxes of mast plugs and cuffs and measured them all. There was substantial deviation between all of the fittings. It took some time, but eventually I found sets of fittings that would all fit together to make up three masts that I had at home. I was able to make a stiffer mast, a medium mast and a lighter springy mast (which didnt need any new fittings)

I snapped the light mast one day in a blow, and decided that I would give the broken top section the roll-test. To my surprise (really, I shouldnt have been surprised) the mast that snapped had a dramatically heavy side, that was to starboard when the mast was made up. Additionally, there was a change in wall thickness from the bottom to the top of 0.2mm with the bottom being the thin end! Anyway when the mast snapped, of course, it completely shredded my sail, so it ended up being an expensive lesson.

Now I carefully measure my masts and fittings at the shop so I dont have to waste money or time sandpapering/filing down fittings, and order new spars blank so that I can test them prior to purchase. Fortunately, I haven't had to buy anything for a while now because I got everything to fit together like it should. (I am touching wood!)

I represented my quality control claims to my local Laser Association and ILCA four years ago. Hopefully, they did the right thing with the information and are now keeping a closer eye on the products coming from the monopoly of Laser equipment manufacturers. If you are having difficulties with the quality of products in your area, complain to your Association and ILCA. If they dont know a problem exists, they cannot fix it!

Hope this helps.
A Couple of observations:

It seems everyone who posted here on this subject has sail nos. from 167xxx to 176xxx. It seems the same at our club, as far as spar failures go.

I've owned boats from 1041 to 148469, and now have 66451 and 66458, both now have 15:1 vangs. I don't vang til 2-blocked, but sometimes close, yet I don't seem to have any spar problems. I'd have to presume the older spars are "stronger". (Knocking on wood!) Also, I have no experience with radials.

Aluminum is alloyed for various reasons, including tensile strength, toughness, etc. So, there are a lot more variables than just wall thickness that could be causing the failures we hear about. Personally, I'd be hard pressed to just go out and buy another of the same, especially after a failure that cost me a race, or ruined a nice sail? I'd be scrounging on ebay or yard sales for older sections.
Yeh, Radial bottom sections are notorious for bending, but the "don't fit" scenario was a problem throughout 2003 (in Aus). I sent one back, it was replaced (said to be outside specs) but the replcaement didn't fit either, so I returned it for credit anyway, and waited. I also lobbied hard to the NSW & Qld dealers, who were similarly unimpressed and having to machine down the top section plugs to make them fit. Their loyalty was admirable, they defended the builder! At the same time this defeated the interchangability of rigs promoted in the "Laser Formula" (Class handbook) Also smaller diameter=weaker. I also e mailed several times to Jeff Martin ILCA HQ who did'nt even have the courtesy to reply! I think he forgot who pays his wages...we all do
Try as we might to find out, the specs are top secret, and no one will tell what they are meant to be, so us poor consumers (suckers) have to cop it sweet and hope the class builders do the right thing. By December a new batch were hot off the press, and hey presto, they fitted the top section off the shelf, but not yet for public release, there were about 70 of the duds in stock to clear first...
So the bottom radial sections now available are good again, and while only anecdotal, seem to hold up well, and certainly were put through their paces at the Radial Worlds.
I think the specs should be publicised, if the suppliers are doing the right thing what do they fear in telling us?