Alto Mast Section…..!!

A talk from Charles recently prompted to go and see what was said in the FF Blog about the alto Mast Section last year.  I found that the blog link to the Selden website no longer works.

Seledn Mast Sections

You can though download a brochure and check out the mast section detail there. For the sake of ease, I have inserted the data page above for you to compare Alto and Epsilon.

You can also download it by clicking here.

If you get to printing out the digital brochure, there is a great description of the manufacturing process there. Check out the page about the new “plasma-cut” taper and automated welding.  It sounds to me that there will be much less variation in top-mast flexibility and gust response from now on.

Our Datchet Heroes….!!

Flying 15 Worlds 2013(John and Helen – thankfully leading in this photo!)

All the Datchet readers of the FF Blog will have been keenly following John Hanson and Helen Hepworth through their adventure at the Hong Kong Worlds.  They’ve regularly managed to send us some great photos and snippets of news to liven up our two weeks of rain and gloom !

John and Helen at prizegivingHow did they get on?? Pretty stunning really – top half of the fleet and very consistent!! 23rd overall out of 52 entrants, best a 16th and their discard was a 27th.

Flying 15 Worlds 2013They had some trials and tribulations during the HK Nationals week when the shroud plates gave up and the rig was down for a day.  The boat, Hakuna Matata GBR 3539, was registered in late 1995.   It has some history and was built I think for the Jerwoods, 2nd in the Worlds this week.  At the Club we have watched John renovate the boat gradually over time, moving up the fleet as he did so.  Now we can’t catch him – very impressive!! One delight has been to see John and Helen very patiently using stern mounted video to help them develop technique and hone skill.  John told me it has been the single biggest contributor to their performance improvement.  They use the camera set at very wide angle so you can  see right up the leach plus observe what the team are doing… and importantly the horizon!!  I wonder if John can make some general training videos out of his footage for the new online training area on the BIFFA website.  Must ask him….

Flying 15 Worlds 2013So the boat is 18 years old, and still winning races, and can finish in the top half of the Worlds?!  What a tribute to the Ovington Mk IX product, don’t you think??  It’s a great example that you can get into top class FF racing for a very modest cash outlay – and the boat is going as fast probably as it ever has.  It has been sold now – the new owner is a new Datchet member, which is great news for us.  John and Helen will now be sailing a Mk X, and a lovely boat!!  We’d better get used to seeing the back of it!!

Flying 15 Worlds 2013

All images ©RHKYC/Guy Nowell

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

Graham Vials Speaks on the Alto Section Rig !!……

We initially chose the Alto rig because we were a little lighter than the other leading teams.  The Epsilon is very well proven with teams that are 27-30 stone combined, but we were approaching the worlds with crew weight nearer 25 stone.  People are often too keen to follow the trend previously set within the fleet and it’s fine to use proven kit where you are the same weight as the best in the world, but it makes no sense where you are nearly 2-3 stone lighter than your competitors.  I strongly believe there are advantages to sailing the Flying Fifteen with less crew weight.  Downwind the performance gains are massive – and you can always gain more places downwind than you ever can on a beat.  We therefore needed to choose a rig that would allow us to remain competitive upwind in the medium winds.

Seldon recommended the Alto mast – which is almost the same stiffness fore and aft as the Epsilon, but a little softer sideways in the top section.  We rigged the new boat with the Alto, and it soon became apparent that the new mast felt very good in the boat – especially with a slightly modified luff curve by Alan Bax – which suited the Alto mast well.

In theory the Alto mast should probably have been slightly slower in light to medium breezes, but we saw no signs of any decrease in performance.  The mast definitely had advantages above 12 knots of breeze, where the mast becomes more responsive and the boat tends to drive forward in the gusts rather than wanting to round up into the breeze.  Consequently we could sail with less weather-helm and reduced drag from the rudder.  Another concern was that pointing ability would be affected by the softer mast – but this was simply not true.  Once the mainsail flattens off the jib is able to be sheeted slightly harder, which retains pointing ability.

We set the mast up with the same rig tension and standard P&B pre-bend, as used on the standard Epsilon rig.  This provides the perfect mainsail depth in conditions up to kicker sheeting.  Once the breeze increases the kicker tension would start to bend the mast and reduce mainsail depth – reducing power.  The main advantage however was the responsive top mast, which automatically releases power in the gusts.  Consequently the boat would almost sail itself in the gusts, with only minimal mainsheet adjustment required.

Graham Vials

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 !!