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J Composites 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Equipment to create a performance edge for sailors at all levels of competition

by Simon Bevan, Super Spars 17 Apr 2018 14:00 BST
Super Spars on Christian Birrell and Richard Anderton's Fireball © Super Spars

Today, customers all but take for granted that they will be given a high level of choice and customer service. Yet in so many ways, dinghy sailing appears to be stuck in the old ways of offering the products a company wants to sell and not personalised or configured in the ways the sailor really needs.

It is vital to get the very best boat speed out of your rig. Sailors often need help to pick their way through the minefield of different mast combinations and are often left to grasp the nettle only to later learn that there is a more suitable solution.

At Super Spars we believe sailors should be at the centre of the decision process, treated as individuals and matched to a winning package of mast and sail, starting with the rig design. There is currently a tendency for the sailor to be shoehorned into a solution that will not meet his/her expectations.

A very good example of this is mast building. There is a very high degree of mutuality between the mast and sail; one without the other is not a lot of good. Yet despite this, some mast builders and sail makers seem to work largely independently of each other with the customer often being caught in the middle. If sailing isn't going well, it is often perceived as a question about the mast; is it too flexible or too stiff, rather than considering whether the total rig is optimised or not.

We at Super Spars are encouraging sailmakers to work with us to provide a matched rig and sail that is optimised.

For example when one buys a car there is usually a checklist of requirements; size, number of seats, petrol/diesel, engine size or fuel efficiency etc.

So why shouldn't a sailor have a check list so they can make sure that they get the right product that suits their requirements, for example:

  • weight of sailor
  • combined crew weight
  • typical sailing conditions
  • sea, reservoir, river,
  • light, medium or heavy winds etc.

At Super Spars we believe each team or sailor should be treated as individuals and matched to an optimised and potentially winning package of mast and if possible to the sail.

Is it little wonder that so many so-called 'traditional' racing classes have struggled in the face of offerings from the Single Manufacturer One Designs (SMOD), boats such as the Laser range and the XXers.

How much simpler to just have no choice at all and just sail with the gear provided, even if this too is not right. Clearly, "One size does not fit all!"

We challenged this kind of thinking and created new processes of rig design and manufacture several years ago.

Super Spars developed a range of M7+ masts for the International 470 class (sailed at the Olympic Games). This range of masts was originally developed for sailors around the world who were working towards the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and where the historic wind conditions were typically light.

Crews wanted a stiff mast for light winds. So, in 2006 Super Spars produced an M7+ mast section that was heavier. Essentially proportionally heavier mast tubes means proportionally stiffer.

In 2007, 470 sailors started to worry that the conditions in Beijing might be a little windier so we produced a medium weight M7+ mast section.

The result of this work was a range of M7+ masts in standard, medium and heavy weight/stiffness to suit the crew's weight, the wind conditions and whether the sailing venue is inland or sea based.

Following this several prominent sailors - including Christian Birrell and Matt Biggs of Birmingham Dinghy Services - approached Super Spars, to address these issues specifically in the Fireball and the Merlin Rocket classes.

Christian and Matt recognised the issues highlighted above as an increasing failure of the current customer service model in the provision of equipment for dinghy sailing.

We used our 470 mast weight range and replicated this process in the Fireball fleet and this has proved to be very successful with users winning National, European and World Championships.

We are now working very closely with Matt Biggs and HD Sails using the same process to develop a range of carbon masts for the Merlin Rocket fleet.

Super Spars recently launched a similar mast weight concept for the Solo class.

This approach uses three different weights of mast tube and interchangeable multi length sleeves that can be easily changed to suit sailing, wind and sailing conditions to make the ultimate Solo mast.

Matt and Christian knew that to resolve the underlying issue it would require some radical thinking. Drawing on their extensive sailing experience they reasoned that the only way to make the treatment of the total rig, both mast and sail, work in a seamless manner was to have both the design and delivery activities working together in a single organisation.

The result was to develop a new approach to sourcing solutions for sailors, one in which spars and sails are seen as an essential combination aimed at meeting the sailor's objectives.

Only then would the sailor have an integrated approach with sailmaker and mast maker working together on needs analysis, communication and development.

At Super Spars we strive to give sailors what they need, when they need it and to make the rig match their personal checklist for their chosen class. Find out more at and contact the team at