Laser C-Rig history
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Laser C-Rig history

Laser C-Rig history

6 March 2019

It’s been about 4 months since Eric Faust (Exc Sec of ILCA) showed the C5 video at Sarasota, which was then shown on Sailing Anarchy, Scuttlebutt and other social media platforms and some suggested that I should not add facts to spoil a good conspiracy theory.

It’s time to just set the record straight so the conversation can be re-centred.

C-Rigs, as they have become known, spun out of a far more comprehensive rig development project that Up Marine started in 2012.   In chronological order:-

Up Marine decided to use the Laser because of its superior numbers and simplicity.

Chris Caldecott (GM, PSA) found out about the project, mid 2014 and asked if we could ‘screw’ the development to generate a new carbon rig for the Laser.   MoU’s were generated and we altered focus a little.

At the 2014 ILCA conference (Nov), I am told, Chris showed photos and reported on the development.

2015 a Worldwide Patent was applied for (by Up Marine) and has been subsequently granted.

2015 ILCA conference (Oct), what is now referred to as the C8 rig, was reported in glowing terms and I am told that focus changed from the C8 prospect to the C5 and the plight of Asians given that the 4.7 rig which is hugely successful in Europe, has failed to gain traction elsewhere to any reasonable level.   Hugh Leicester (VP ILCA), Chris Caldecott and I met on the sidelines of the Sail Sydney regatta and Hugh saw the rig first hand.

There is correspondence between ILCA and PSA re the rigs, expressing “excitement”.

Just a side note, at this point the C-rig project had chewed through 28 masts, and 4 sails! It had been sailed by the likes of Tom Burton, Gerard West, Brett Perry and possibly 10 other biggish sailors. What has become known as the Flame Rig photo, the boat is being sailed by Chris Caldecott and the photo was taken by myself, in Chowder Bay Sydney 17th Dec 2015.

In February 2016, Prof Tracy Usher (Pres of ILCA) travelled from San Francisco to Sydney for the day to sail the C8.    Subsequent meeting at the Royal Sheaf hotel with Tracy, Hugh, Chris and myself started to map out a process but at this stage, the Asian issue and the lack of traction of the 4.7 started to come to the fore.

Mid 2016, lead builder started to move from PSA to PSJ, mostly due to the physical stature of the principals.     Chris is 95kgs and a big man, whereas Takao Otani (Owner, MD PSJ) is significantly lighter.

Plus, Takao and I had met in Montreal in 1978 under the watchful eye of the late great Ian Bruce and had become life long friends.    Takao was pivotal in the 49er and 29er programs being a founding partner.   The 29er just would not have happened without Takao, so there was considerable history between the 2 of us.

By late 2016 a complete re-thinking of the smaller stature rig had started and we trialled various breakthroughs, the biggest one was the spliced mast which allowed us to get the Centre of Effort in the right place WRT the CLR which in turn leads to weather helm (or in this case lack of it) without ridiculous mast bend, which leads to longevity and ease of pulling the mainsail up.

By Early 2017, what is now known as the C5 was being sailed out of RSYS, by their junior program and a rolling development program had been put in place in which the rig and the fitting development evolved at a rapid rate.    Nothing quite like arm’s length testing.

There were various meetings between Tracy, Eric, the late Jeff Martin, Takao and myself, mostly at WS conferences.

Early 2018 Takao visited Sydney and sailed the new C5 rig and was very impressed, it was a day of a lot of wind.  (Takao had not seen the C8 so I sailed it) and videos were made, these videos were sent back to Tracy and ILCA and a decision was taken that ILCA should generate (and pay for) a video before the next WS Conference, which was May 2018.

The weather did not co-operate so there were a few attempts but we did get the video to London in May, but it was not shown.   I was overseas at the time, this job fell to my son, Harry.

March 2018, Up Marine and PSJ entered into a formal contractual arrangement WRT the C-Rigs.

Mid 2018 both Tracy and Eric travelled to Sydney to, among other things, see the C5 which again happened at RSYS and the “talking head clips” that you see in the video were done then.

Also mid 2018 the project spun off the 29erC rig that is now being used in China extensively!

One of the C5 rigs was flown to Japan for Takao to test in the local market. That lead to some subtle but significant modifications.

There was a meeting on the sidelines of Sarasota WS Conference between Takao, Tracy, Chris, Jeff, Eric and myself re the introduction of the C5.

By late 2018 ILCA/ALCA had decided that the C5 should be released into a nationwide (Australia) trial.

Ken Hurling (Pres ALCA & VP ILCA) who was already aware of the project embraced this opportunity with both hands, and the minutes of those meetings are in the public space, so I won’t repeat them.

The last 4 months has been chaotic.

We took the decision, that if you are going to have a family of rigs, then you have to actually make them otherwise you have no idea of what pit-falls await you, so we did just that, C8 was relatively easy until we made the decision that all rigs should be of such a length they can be “checked in” as over size luggage on most commercial flights.    C5 & C6 are relatively easy.   C8 is more complicated.

Clive Watts (owner of CST) developed a new technique to “kink” the mandrel in the winding process, so it comes off the machine finished.  Click on image to enlarge.

The rig then went to Davenport, Tasmania to be sailed by as many kids as wanted to, it was flown back, and along with the C6 underwent 5 days of intensive testing and refinement by Takao and myself including Ian MacDiarmid tweaking the sails daily, fitting changes, re-running systems. This all happened Dec 2018.

ILCA wanted the C5 rig with a full specification “suitable for the LCM” so they engaged Clive Humphries (tech officer, ILCA) to generate the whole spec.   Clive travelled to China with Ian to oversee the whole sail making process, he also liaised with Clive Watts about the mast making process and he spoke with me and has a full set of drawings/3d files.

Feb  2018 some parts of the project have been spun off to be used on the 49er- FX rigs post Tokyo!

2 days ago, we (Chris, Ian, Clive Watts and I) put every rig in a Laser and checked the whole process and those 3 rigs, C5, C6 and C8 are on their way to Valencia.

The plan is to produce 100 C5 rigs for Australia over the next 4 months and scatter them across the country with a few leaking into Asia and no doubt to other parts to test the whole process that we have gone through to ensure it is fit for market.

Again, ALCA position, how they plan to do that along with PSA, is in the public domain.

Arms-length testing is critical, we have learnt that time and time again, nothing beats it.

From my POV, the C5 is near perfect in terms of a final product.

The C6, yes I have sailed it, and I have watched Takao sail it, but I have not seen a young 60kg girl/boy sail it.  It has been sailed extensively with glowing reports, but I can’t sign it off unless I see it with my own eyes.     That will happen mid this year maybe, and there will be maybe 5 rigs made.

The C8, in a previous incarnation, I have sailed many times, in everything from 5 – 30 knots, I have tried to break it, I have also capsized it and it’s a lot of fun.     We are not done on the “checked luggage” solution yet, but the rig looks good.   Chris has sailed it and believes it’s “fit for purpose!”.

Again, that will all happen later this year maybe, and there will be maybe 5 rigs made for test.

The feedback from Ken, the analysis of the feedback coming from SM, particularly the interest coming from Asia, in particular for the C5 concept would tell me that Tracy and the ILCA/ALCA have hit the nail right on the head.   This has been a clever, think outside the box, structured plan.

This will always be a situation in flux, and change is always painful, but if done well, it always leads to significant up-side, and if you need any examples of that, the Radial rig is a case in point as is the Carbon rig on the 49er/FX –  both have lead to significant growth in the classes and in the case of the 49er/FX massive reductions in running cost.

It will be a busy year.

Julian Bethwaite

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