Ask SAIL: Old Boat, New Rig?

My brother and I own a 1966 Hinckley Pilot sloop that has been in my family for two generations. We love the boat dearly and normally spare no expense maintaining it. However, my brother now wants to install a carbon-fiber mast, and I’m wondering if it’s worth the money. Will it really make much of a difference on a heavy boat with a full keel? He’s talking about fiber rigging, too, which also has me worried.
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Pat Sandley of Tiverton, Rhode Island asks:
My brother and I own a 1966 Hinckley Pilot sloop that has been in my family for two generations. We love the boat dearly and normally spare no expense maintaining it. However, my brother now wants to install a carbon-fiber mast, and I’m wondering if it’s worth the money. Will it really make much of a difference on a heavy boat with a full keel? He’s talking about fiber rigging, too, which also has me worried.

Win Fowler replies:
Whether a carbon rig is worth the money is subjective. Whether it will dramatically improve your boat’s performance is not. I know a handful of Pilot owners who have switched to carbon (and also added a couple of feet of mast height) and none were disappointed with the result. The boats are stiffer, despite carrying more sail, livelier in light air, and more comfortable in a chop due to lower pitching moment. The same advantages accrue from installing composite rigging, but the benefit-to-price ratio may not be as high.

If you do decide to go ahead with the switch, smart shopping is the key to a good experience. Not all carbon masts are created equal. Be sure to get quotes for every detail, including weight as well as price. Once you choose a supplier, you want an ironclad contract guaranteeing you will receive exactly what was quoted. And don’t forget that if you do go for a taller mast, you will need new sails as well.

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