Magma Structures, the Plymouth-based composite experts, has been awarded the Maritime Innovation Award, presented by the Royal Institution of Naval Architects in association with QinetiQ. This follows a double win at the Engineering Excellence awards where Magma Structures won the Outstanding Project of the Year and the Overall Engineering Excellence awards.

Magma Structures became the proud recipients of these awards for its development of the world’s three tallest free-standing carbon masts, built for sailing yacht A.

Standing tall at over 90m, sailing yacht A’s masts took over four years to design, test and build. The masts are made of high-grade carbon composite, much like the material used in aerospace engineering, in order to guarantee an appropriate strength to weight ratio, as well as ensuring resilience against the many trying conditions of the marine environment.

With the conceptual design handled by Dykstra Naval Architects, the load analysis and engineering, automation technology, deployment, setting and reefing, prototyping, testing, controls and monitoring systems were all designed, managed and engineered at Magma Structures. Perhaps it is these feats, beyond the immediately obvious, that have made the British composite experts so worthy of their accolades.

Magma Structures at the RINA awards ceremony

“We are delighted to have been awarded the RINA – QinetiQ Maritime Innovation Award,” comments Clive Johnson, managing director of Magma Structures. “This is a fantastic accolade for the whole team at Magma Structures…To have our achievements in terms of innovation recognised by such a prestigious professional body is a real boost for the team.”

In order to test the masts, a scale model of the boat was created, including fibre optics to monitor the loads and the operational systems. The rigging was tested in a wind tunnel to its eventual destruction, which occurred at 90 knots. The load limit of the finished masts is twice that of a Boeing Dreamliner aeroplane and an embedded fibre optic system provides real-time data to optimise the sailing performance.

Conservatism and class restrictions have at times been limiting factors for the swift development of a superyacht design. However, the individual spirit of select owners and the willingness of companies to be challenged show what is possible. While the aesthetic appeal of Sailing Yacht A will undoubtedly split opinion, both professional and public, much like Motoryacht A before it, there can be no denying the projects uniqueness or indeed its contribution to pushing the boundaries of sailing technology.  


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