As the fleet of Volvo Ocean 65s undergo refits in Europe, Southern Spars is forging ahead on the first batch of new masts, scheduled to leave their Auckland factory in early 2017.
There are currently four more build slots available for early next year which will fill up as teams continue to commit to the race. Completing a full set of rigs will take the company’s tally up to 46 masts for Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread teams.
For the teams, time on the water is king. So Southern Spars has been pushing hard to ensure the masts will arrive to meet the yachts as they emerge from their winter refits and teams can begin training with their new masts as soon as possible. The build process has been timed specifically so that they arrive to the yachts as their refits are completed.
Another priority for race management and Southern Spars is that the set of masts are absolutely identical. Southern Spars uses the most rigorous of quality control standards and special tooling to make sure that every mast meets these requirements. Measures include embedding reference or datum points inside the mould, giving every mast a series of marks to indicate the precise location of jigs or manufacturing templates used by the build team. As a mast progresses throughout it the manufacturing cycle, it is weighed and measured to ensure it meets the final target weight.
“We are pleased with the progress that Southern Spars has made to date with the rigs,” says Nick Bice, head of the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard. “We are really happy to have them onboard helping us make this race a huge success. We know the sailors push the masts and rigging as hard as they can in some really tough conditions, and we’re happy sending them off around the world knowing that they’ve got the best kit available.”
Each team in the race has been given a choice to buy a new mast for this edition of the race. All masts from the previous race are being refurbished by Southern Spars staff. Those which are replaced will be set at strategic stopovers around the world as back-ups for teams that need them. The number and location of spares will remain at the discretion of Volvo Ocean Race management.