“Stramba“, a boom-less mast is not just a project, it is a reality. The first one will be fitted on Futura, a planning, 47-foot prototype designed by the University of Bologna
by Niccolò Volpati
What is the first thing that they teach you when you go on board a sailing boat, regardless of size or shape? You have to keep your head down to avoid being hit by the boom. When you turn, when you gybe, and especially when you do so involuntarily, your head seems to be the boom’s preferred target.
To avoid this problem once and for all, a team called Stramba has been created, with its base at Riccione. They have designed a new kind of sail rig, and they have patented it. The unusual thing about it is that the boom is in the shape of an upside down “U” and it doesn’t have a boom.
The mainsail can be used to tack simply by running it along this upside down “U”. It all looks very nice, but it is not the first time that we have seen futuristic designs on paper. The difference is that this is not a design, but a reality.
The prototype exists, and they are developing the product: it will be the sail rig of a new, planing 47-footer that will be called Futura. The definitive mast will be 19 metres tall, and will have two transversal pieces. The first, half-way up, has the role of stiffening the mast, while the second, which is located at the base of the curve of the upside down “U”, will have the role of housing a trackway along which runs the peak of the genoa during tacking. The mainsail is run up thanks to a T-shaped guide on which the runners pass, one for each batten, and one at the middle of each sector. To avoid excessive effort, the main halyard is moved by an electric winch.
The mainsail has a double square top shape, given that the backstays are internal to the circuit on which the sail runs, it is possible to optimise the shape of the mainsail without any particular limitations. For the tension in the leech, the system takes inspiration from the mainsail of the Optimist, where the halyard tautens both the sheet and the leech. And there will even be a reefing system that is still being worked on.
All of this is aimed not just to avoid head injuries, but also to simplify on-board rigging. To anyone who might turn their nose up at this, we can say that, in addition to the credibility generated by the fact that this is not just a 3D project seen on a computer, there is a team that deserves real respect.
Futura, a 47-foot boat with 2.40 metres draught and 4.60 beam, is a project created by the Department of Industrial Engineering at Bologna University, coordinated by the engineer Alfredo Liverani (for water lines) and Q-iD, for design.
The Stramba team, in addition to the CEO Daniele Mingucci, is made up of three engineers, a young designer and a third-level Italian Sailing Federation instructor. Massimo Tamburini, Filippo Rossi and Stefano Signori are the engineers, while the young designer answers to the name of Saverio Panichi and the sailing federation instructor is Giuseppe Dimilta. The boat is being fitted out at the Zuanelli shipyard in Padenghe del Garda, under the supervision of Mario Zuanelli.
If everything goes the way that the people who are working on it expect, Stramba will give life to an innovation that will allow sailing boats to be revolutionised. Not just because onboard rigging should be easier, but above all because new spaces should become available.
Imagine a deckhouse without the boom, which hangs over it like a Sword of Damocles. The area in the middle of the boat could become an open-air living area. Also Futura will have just a single wheel, in the middle of the cockpit. By not having a large deckhouse that restricts visibility, it isn’t necessary to have two steering points. And the same is true in the dinette.
Designers will no longer have to come up with solutions to minimise the discomfort and the encumbrance from the presence of a boom that swings over the deck. So essentially there is easy sailing, comfort and a lot of space on board, both above and below decks. For the time being, the new sail rig can only be seen in the forecourt of a yard.
To see it in action on the Futura you will have to wait until autumn. Perhaps some time in the future it will become normal to talk about “an Italian sail rig” just as we often hear people refer to a “German mainsheet system”?