Future fibres - A heavyweight player in lightweight business

Weight reduction has long been a crucial part of creating a faster sailing yacht, but where the focus was once on the technology advances in hull structures, mast building and sailmaking, the emphasis today has shifted to rigging.

Here the progress in synthetic fibres has revolutionized the industry and at the forefront of the revolution is Future Fibres. 

Pioneers of continuously wound PBO standing rigging and now the industry´s leading supplier, Future Fibres supplied all the entrants in the 2001/2 and 2005/6 Volvo Ocean Races, and both finalists in the 2003 America´s Cup benefited from rigging solutions by this ground breaking company. 

Since its foundation in 1998 Future Fibres has maintained its five year technology lead by investing in purpose built plant and machinery, and with its manufacturing headquarters situated in Valencia, Spain, the company operates at the heart of America´s Cup activity. From its modest beginnings with the supply of running backstays for Lawrie Smith´s 1998 Rothman´s Whitbread Race entry, the Future Fibres PBO story has progressed steadily to a point of prominence where today it is almost inconceivable that a superyacht project team will not be factoring in the weight savings, and significant knock-on benefits, achievable using Future Fibres PBO. 

The company´s founder Tom Hutchinson has built up a talented group of highly qualified industry professionals to drive forward product development, while working in close collaboration with the world´s most renowned naval architects and yacht builders. 

"We enjoy working with people who push the boundaries and I am convinced there are further performance gains to be made" comments Hutchinson. "Our product engineers continue to amass invaluable experience from these exciting collaborations and I feel confident we will continue to lead the field with an even lighter and yet totally reliable product." 

Working with the best
With clients including America´s Cup teams, Volvo Ocean Race syndicates, Vendee Globe competitors, and numerous superyacht and multihull projects, Future Fibres continues as the supplier of choice for project managers in the high performance sector of the yachting market. 

This unsurpassed experience in the racing and superyacht markets is highlighted by the fact that nearly 80 percent of the PBO rigged vessels worldwide are Future Fibres customers. Paramount to achieving success, both racing and financial, is utter reliability, and Future Fibres has an unblemished record in providing rigging solutions for round the world racers and superyachts. 

With more sea miles logged than all other synthetic rigging suppliers put together, along with thousands of hours of real time testing the Future Fibres product provides owners, project managers, and skippers with a level of confidence that is the envy of the yacht rigging industry. 

Typical of the growing number of designers embracing the benefits of Future Fibres technology, Dubois Naval Architects, designers of `Destination Fox Harbour´, explain their position "We have been waiting for a breakthrough in this area for years and at last a really efficient company is offering a product that we and our clients can rely on - it means a lighter faster boat and that is always our aim." 

Less is more
Reducing weight aloft has profound benefits, not least in reduced pitching and improved seakeeping, but also allows designers to reduce the keel weight while achieving a similar righting moment. The result can be a lighter more easily driven hull or for designers of larger cruising yachts, the enticing option of a more lavishly specified vessel of similar displacement. 

Future Fibres PBO technology achieves weight savings of up to 80 per cent when compared to Nitronic 50 rod rigging, and due to the high strength to modulus ratio of PBO fibre, Future Fibres cables are also approximately 50% stronger. As well as the cables themselves the connections to the mast are also impressively light, a prime example being the spreader end where the metal tip cup assembly is replaced by a single fore & aft pin. 

For new build Future Fibres has a complete range of custom made rigging hardware ,which enables the company to provide complete integrated rigging solutions to the marine industry. 

A significant and growing sector of the market is refit work, and for existing rigs being upgraded to Future Fibres PBO technology the process is straightforward, with items such as spreader ends being easily adapted to accept new PBO rigging. 

The Future Fibres technology lead
In simplest terms Future Fibres PBO rigging is based on a composite fibre loop that is inherently strong and safe and has no weak links. This approach eliminates heavy load bearing end terminals that are typical of rod and other composite rigging systems. 

PBO, or by its full name poly(p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole), is a dry fibre of immense strength which is tightly compacted as it is wound in the cable manufacturing process. To maximise its strength and long-term durability against the effects of moisture and sunlight Future Fibres has perfected a cover design that comprises a consolidating film, environmental protection layer, and a customisable braided cover tailored to specific applications. 

1,000,000 cycles in Valencia
Track record is the ultimate proof of manufacturing excellence, and with over 5000 individual cables and close to 100 complete Future Fibres standing rigging systems having been supplied to yachts around the world, the reliability of the system is self evident. Many of these vessels have logged high mileages, in some cases in excess of 50,000 sea miles, and Future Fibres has built up a unique log of `sea mile´ data and case studies on which to base further technology development, and service schedules. In addition Future Fibres PBO stays have been laboratory fatigue tested in excess of 1,000,000 cycles. 

Formula One Connections
The Future Fibres team´s ability to think outside the box has led to some interesting engineering challenges. The highly developed specialist skills within the boat building industry are well known to the motor racing fraternity and so it was totally logical for Bernie Ecclestone´s Formula One to engage Future Fibres as the leader in cable technology to solve one of its most pressing safety issues. 

Race car wheels may be relatively light but let loose in high speed accidents they can be lethal projectiles. To solve the problem Future Fibres has worked closely with the Formula One teams to develop and supply composite fibre tethers to restrain and absorb the energy of detached wheels. 

Precisely specified to provide a predictable and consistent breaking strain to render the wheel harmless after an accident, the results have been wholly satisfactory, if not at all dramatic. So next time you attend a Formula One race its worth remembering that Future Fibres is there too protecting your safety as well as the racing drivers if the worst should happen. 

A full catalogue
The Future Fibres product range includes cables for standing rigging, fore and aft rigging, luff cables, furling systems, custom strops for halyard locks, forestays, and yacht lifting. To complement this there is a comprehensive range of machined metalwork including deck turnbuckles, hangers, forks and spreader pins, all of which have been developed to the same rigorous standards as the PBO fibre cables - together they present the world´s finest lightweight rigging technology available today. 

Even so Future Fibres is committed to maintaining ongoing research and development to keep ahead of the demands of designers and structural engineers in their quest to optimise performance, but with the added assurance that an essential part of Future Fibres mission is to supply failure-free equipment ensuring successful project outcomes and secure investments. 

The Future
With its unique understanding of PBO technology, Future Fibres is indeed looking to the future with a new range of PBO rigging solutions for production yacht builders. Offering the same advances in weight saving, improved performance and reliability enjoyed by today´s leading edge superyachts, the Future Fibres production range will bring significant performance benefits to a much wider market. With capacity to quickly increase continuously wound PBO rigging cable output at its Valencia facility by a factor of three, Future Fibres is in an enviable position to satisfy the demands of a this new and exciting market opportunity. 

Worldwide Service
This commitment to excellence and consistency puts Future Fibres in an unrivalled position to offer yacht owners the ultimate in high performance rigging with the confidence and peace of mind that their investment is being looked after by the world´s premier rigging team. Additionally it has agents worldwide covering America, Europe, and Australasia, all of whom are rigging experts fully trained to maintain the ongoing Recommended Service Programme laid down by Future Fibres. 

by Jonty Sherwill 

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