49er Sails have Started Shipping

January 6, 2022 Newsletter

On Monday the 10th of January, the first batches of 49er and FX new sails will start shipping from the factory in Sri Lanka to the various global distributors. They are all being air shipped.

At the AGM in November, we communicated to the World Council that there would be 60 suits of 49er and 60 suits of FX available initially, and then we were not sure how long it would take to get more.

We are happy to update the fleet and say that there are now 180 suits of 49er sails and 120 suits of FX in production currently, and there should not be trouble getting more than that. So, as long as production continues we do not think we will have an impactful supply problem in 2022.

At the AGM we also reported that the first 30 suits of sails would ship, one per country, in mid-december. While the moulding of the sails has gone smoothly, the finishing station has taken longer to get up and running.

The sails are made in two stages. First the sails are moulded on the 3D mould, and then they cure for a week, essentially hanging from racks. After the week the sewing can begin, with battens, luffs, corners, and graphics added.

The finishing station has taken longer to get up and running than was anticipated, but it is currently completing 6 sails per day (3 mains and 3 jibs) and working 6 days a week.

Next Monday there will be fewer than 30 suits shipping, it’s something like 20 suits. Then every week dealers will be offered their percentage allocation of the weekly production, and the dealers will navigate batching of sails for economical air freight.

Because not all the nations will get sails right away, the dealers have been instructed to go by the Olympic finish list (by sailor, not nation) until we get to one per nation. Then it will move to one per team, and then onwards to open supply.

The executive will continue to monitor the level of supply, but if this production schedule continues as it’s been promised, we anticipate the 2022 season being conducted as per our initial communication, which is any sails can be used through the early season, and then only new sails in gold fleet at the Euros and Worlds.

Mast Technical

Many teams now have their new masts, and more continue to ship each week.

The 49er mast goal was to be very similar to the old 49er mast. So far indications are that has been achieved, and while the exact optimized sections may not be the same as the old mast, since it has been built for the new sails, we will only start to learn how effective the overall package is once the new sails are put up the new mast by the top sailors.

For the FX mast, the design aim was not an exact copy of the previous mast. The top section was reinforced for durability, and that has lead to an increase in strength and stiffness as well. Since the top section of the old FX mast was a weak point, the design team wanted to increase durability.

Additionally, the bottom two sections of the FX mast have been made slightly more flexible. This was for three reasons. Partly, it was to balance out the stiffer top. Partly it was to increase the range that FX sailors should be able to tune their masts in more conditions. Finally, the original design specification was for a more flexible mast, but as the previous mast came through production it was less bendy than designed. This iteration goes back to the original design intention.

While the the change in stiffness has raised questions, and caused worry to one in particular, the new sails have been designed to suit the new mast. The executive has heard this sailors concerns, and we believe the overall outcome will not be known accurately until the new sails have been used on the new masts by a large number of the top teams. Thankfully, by the end of January we expect to get some complete feedback, and we look forward to that.

In summary, for the reasons above, we expect the 49er fleet to have more opportunity to mix and match sails and masts than the FX community. In both cases, the sails should physically fit each mast, but since the design of the FX mast is intentionally different, it is less likely the sails will perform very well on the mismatched mast.