Q: Would an all carbon unstayed mast benefit an 6 to 10 meter sportboat?
Specific questions: would the possible weight gain of the mast shadow the benefits of a potentially lighter boat and less drag on the rig?
A: Guess we would have to look at this 2 ways (in my humble opinion). If the spar is a free standing rotator (probably wing shape) it may bring something to the party. Free standing spars have, especially on generally down wind machines, seen some very successful racing recently. If the boat has to go upwind (around the cans, windward leeward type racing), the lack of head-stay tension (somewhat limiting jib size), spar weight, and shadow will take too large a claim in upwind VMG. We can see many examples of this in the limited development classes. Mini 6.5meters, Open 50’s 60”s and Mega multies and most of all the IACC have all experimented with every possible rig configuration. The fastest ocean racing classes are tending toward semi-stayed rotating wings. The slightly older generation ocean racers and windward leeward classes are still sticking with the traditionally stayed configurations (especially the mono-hulls). The windward leeward oriented IACC’s, PHRF, IMS, and GP boats are all basically still traditionally rigged. As we see more boats boasting twin boards and canting keels so will we see more freestanding and semi (soft) stayed rotating rigs. So the long and short of it can be found in recent history and finishing results, windward leewards go with stayed…..down wind ocean racing go free standing and semi (soft) stayed rotating rigs.
So then, after determining the boats intended racing, all we have to consider is cost and crew. There is something to be said for the simplicity of a Wiley Cat, and other rig configurations where the designer has taken the time to consider how many crew the skipper of the new “Blazing Fast 9.5” the haggard owner/skipper has to muster every Wednesday evening, including feed and beer. Rig cost can also escalate quite easily if we forget to choose from currently available hardware and jump off the end of the dock into the “everything must be custom” world. In a smaller sport boat, builders must consider cost and the boats universal race intentions (back to stayed). Personally, I like the sweeped stay (no back stay), fractional, asym spin on a bow pole rig, as it brings together bunch of options with very little compromise, minimal crew, cost efficient, good upwind and down wind VMG’s, simplicity and a cool looking aggressive square head main sail.
Just for fun lets take it one step further and consider a soft stayed, canting, rotating rig to complement our twin board, canting keel “blazing Fast 9.5” now we’re on to something, but probably just too cumbersome to be tactical with on a Wednesday night, too expensive for the general market but great for a minimum Bermuda 1:2 or Trans-pac.machine.