Alto – a New Mast Section, or maybe What the Epsilon Used to Be….??

Our fabulous World Champions, Graham Vials and Chris Turner, won their first World Title in 2011 using an “experimental” mast section (for FFs) called the Alto.  We’ve written about it before and if I recall correctly has also won the fireball worlds in recent times. Graham and Chris won the 2011 worlds with a race to spare.

click here to read this very revealing item by Graham

click here to read a small piece by Selden on Y&Y.

In 2013, they won again.  And again with a day to spare.  And again with the alto rig.  Doesn’t sound too much of an experiment now does it??

The Epsilon has been with us for a long time and been dominant in our class.  However, as many people know, it has changed over time.  The die became well used, so the mast walls thickened then the die was replaced and the walls got thinner again.  I also think the weld process may have changed, shifting the characteristics yet again.  An alto section is like a cumulus section with thicker walls apparently – same fore and aft bend as an epsilon but we more give sideways.  I wonder for the moment if that’s pretty close to the Epsilon as it used to be??

I understand from Charles that the bend characteristics of the topmast have much improved relative to the epsilon.  It’s to do with a more constant mast wall thickness in the top and the way the taper is welded in. The gust response by may well be much improved as a result.  Do you remember the new mainsail cut that we saw at the Dinghy Show last March?  I wonder if that is relevant to the Alto?

The Alto Section Mast…..Another Customer….

I understand from Sue and Peter Bannsiter at the Dinghy Show that Sue’s next birthday present is going to be an Alto section mast…..

They apparently weigh about 24-25 stone between them and feel from Graham Vials comment (see last week’s blog from Graham) that it might suit them well. We had good conversation too as to whether an Alto mast alone would deliver quite a few of the benefits of the new rig design. Interesting….

I wonder if Peter is going to gift wrap it??!!…..


More on that Alto Mast Section…. David Hume Speaks….!!

A very interesting and refreshing article by Graham on the new mast section. Yes I think it is fair to say, from the grunting you tend to hear, the Fifteen open fleet has gravitated to the heavy weights over the past decade.

Way back when I sailed a fifteen on the open circuit, we probably had about eighteen stone aboard, but the boats were softer, less rigid and possibly more forgiving then, so we were still quite competitive.

Nevertheless, on the strong recommendation of Charles Apthorpe I purchased a Proctor E section mast. So over the winter of 1995/1996 I put an Ovington Smoothy together in my garage. The new boat was constructed around the E section, with a beefy kicker led back to the mainsheet control, finger tip control of genoa halyard – rig tension – on the console and a double purchase at the bridle end of the mainsheet, otherwise a strict minimum of string, pulleys, blocks and consequent expense. We did not need carbon to keep this baby down to weight!

The concept was to sail the Fifteen like a big dinghy, which essentially I think it is, and let the rig do the work. We hoped to concentrate on placing the boat on the right place on the course, rather than on masses of coloured lines sprouting from the middle and sides of the cockpit. It worked well for us, both on inland and open water, Although now the boat is only enjoyed for club sailing – anno domini -. both me and the boat!

It is hoped that our sailmakers and other open fleet alumni continue to develop Graham’s ideas. We need the fleet to grow and prosper, so a bit of extra lateral thinking to develop a fifteen with less need of ‘beef’ or ‘grunt’ might serve to enhance the appeal of the class to a broader section of the sailing fraternity. The Fifteen can be such a rewarding and enjoyable boat to sail it should not depend on size.

Perhaps it’s a shame that Graham let slip that ‘nugget’ about downwind speed and place gains. What is the aspirant club sailor going to do with his tape measure now? He is sure it’s all about rake, but it could be about the mast!

It’s a challenge, will the fleet pick it up?


David Hume

FF Epsilon Masts… Selden Sail Feeder…

Recognise This??  It’s a sail track feeder for an Epsilon Alloy mast.  Now there was a time that the sail track on a Selden/Proctor mast was sort of gently curved outwards so that the mainsail could get entry – and the surface was smooth and kind to the sail.

Now the slot is cut away. It leaves sharp edges which can damage the sail, so it needs an attachment – and that is what you are looking at in the photo on the right. It is secured to the inner mast wall by a monel rivet.

It looks simple enough, doesn’t it? Well – you must admit it also looks frail.  After just two years I have just had one snap off one of its little ears at the top. There’s not much holding them on ….

I’m sorry the photo is a bit blurred – my little automatic camera was busy focussing on the grass in the background – but I think you’ll see the starboard ‘ear’ that snapped off. It exposes a sharp metal edge on the sail track entry – sharp enough to rip stitching and sailcloth (on the hoist)… as we found out to our cost.

Replacing it should be simple enough –  though in our case, when drilling the old rivet out, the d….. thing started spinning in situ. Anyway – we got the thing extracted eventually, only to find that the nose of the rivet gun was too large to nestle inside the sail track. Our rivet stands a fraction proud. So all in all, not a very impressive setup.

The main reason for writing about it here is that they only cost about a fiver from P&B  – with rivet. So for all you folks going to Hayling in July for a couple of weeks racing, I suggest that if you have one of the newer Selden masts with this fitting, take a spare or two with you. Plus a pointy nose rivet gun….  Else you may spoil your fortnight !!

Flying Fifteen Mast Step…

Adrian Barrett recently asked me about the mast step and mast heel of his Classic FF, 786, “Flying Picket”….

The question basically was whether to screw it in of glass it in as well. Funnily enough the VC and I have had reason to look at the mast step in Midnight, 3181 and 3934 in recent months. In Midnight, the step actually turned out not to be in straight, and as you may know on 3181 we had the whole lot out. We had to move the mast heel forward a fair way. The problem on 3934 was that when we took it to P&B for a tune-up, Alan Bax could not get the heel back as far as he wanted – we ran out of track.  So my inclination would be to screw it only – you never know when you have to move it….

On 3644, by the way, one of the few serious mishaps in 10 years was that after one Datchet Blast of a race, the screws holding the step in sheared off – well all but one of them. The step was left swivelling around the one remaining screw. Want to see me frightened…..