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All About Opti Spars

All About Opti Spars

By Steve Sherman

McLaughlin Boat Works

Editorial Assistance By:

Alejandro Sole of Optisailors

Boom Stiffness

There are now 4 different diameters of booms available.  The smaller diameter booms can be flexed (bent) more easily then the larger ones.  When the boom bends the bottom of the sail flattens and the leach of the sail opens up or falls off spilling a portion of the wind.

But the wind does not create this bend entirely.  The bend comes mostly from trimming and hiking hard.  Assuming you trim and hike hard, skippers less than 80 pounds will benefit from the smallest 32 mm boom.

The 45 and 55 mm booms help heavier skippers get the most out of strong winds by not bending and therefore keeping the sail at full power. Another benefit of the 55 mm boom, it is so stiff that no bridle is required.  Thus, the underside of the boom has no clutter allowing tall skippers more clearance during a tack. One disadvantage of the larger booms is that they take longer sail ties. These longer sail ties create friction that can hinder the sail from rotating in lighter winds. McLub can help this.

The 40 mm boom is the standard boom used by the majority of skippers and most sails are cut and tested with this boom. For all around sailing, especially where the wind velocity goes up and down as in lake sailing, the 40 mm boom meets the needs of most sailors.

Stiffness is also a function of aluminum chemistry.  The higher the number the harder and stiffer the aluminum. 7075 T6 is the primary chemistry used in masts and booms.  Used by the aircraft industry, it is expensive but readily available and of course very stiff. In school spars where flexing can actually help and cost is a consideration 6061 and 6082 T6 are used.

This is an over simplification of the science of booms.  Personnel strength, style of sailing, waves, chop, sail cut and coaches personnel preferences come into play. There are always trade offs, like the fact that the smaller booms have thick wall sections for strength. While all the booms are pretty close in weight, the small boom actually is heavier and pulls down more in light air. Who would have thought that?

Stiff Masts

In general, you want the stiffest mast possible. 2.2 mm thick is considered the stiffest needed for an Optimist.  To add more thickness would just add weight in the bow of the boat unnecessarily. As of 2007, all the manufacturers masts are 45 mm outside with a 2.2 mm wall. Most sail makers recommend as stiff a mast as possible with Radial cut sails. School spars are bendy and therefore not recommended for the radial cuts.

We believe that sailors under 80 pounds that are using the flatter cut sails will benefit in general from a more bendy mast.  The bend will help open up the top leech and flatten the front of the sail. This positive effect more then offsets any leeward bend negative impact.


All sprits pretty much have the same characteristics.

New 2007 Spar Products

Optimax now has a MK 4, which has a 2.2 mm wall.

Optiparts brought out its 4 th boom section called “Blackgold power”. The  45 mm diameter puts it in a weight range from about 90 to 105 pounds.

Optiparts is now the exclusive distributor of the new Harken hook in block. This block features a curved saddle on one side that matches the mast diameter. The block stays in a fixed position preventing mast wear and allowing reduced friction. In place of a wire halyard, spliced Vectran line is used.  Vectran is stronger then the wire and has the safety feature of not breaking like wire tends to do, creating skin catching “meat hooks”. The halyard is finished out with the new Harken 29 mm Carbo Ti-Lite block. This complete assembly was tested throughout 2006 before being accepted by Optiparts.

The above is a compilation of thoughts from many sources.  Sailing is an art and not totally scientific. Therefore. I am sure there will be some disagreement.

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