Building a racing yacht today is a very different experience from how it was 25 years ago and it’s not just due to advances in materials. In fact, the basic materials and techniques have hardly changed. The resins are tougher, the carbon is stiffer, and the honeycomb is now made of Kevlar not Nomex. But compared with the materials revolution that took place between 1980 and 1995 you’d have to say that the development of race yacht building materials has plateaued.
Nonetheless, things are very different now for two reasons. First, developments of the 1980s and 90s left us with materials that have more predictable properties, and this allows composite engineers to design far more sophisticated structures. The laminate ply books we work with today are a great deal more complex, precise and optimised; and since materials properties are more reliable, engineering safety factors can be reduced.