Southern Spars’ acquisition of Future Fibres increases product and service options for customers around the world
Southern Spars’ acquisition of Future Fibres brings together two of the leading specialists in the field of composite rigging and spars. Once competitors, the combined companies now give customers access to multi-faceted research and design and a global sales team to provide need-specific rigging solutions.
‘Southern Spars initiated the acquisition of Future Fibres to expand our rigging business,’ says Richard Lott, CEO of Southern Spars. ‘By joining together the two companies we can give the customer more options, for standing rigging, furling cables and mast manufacturing. Also, we now have more global coverage and strong footprints in North America, Europe and Australasia. We can invest to develop new products and technologies that immediately complement our existing range.’
‘When we were reviewing the proposed deal beforehand, it was the rigging business that made it appealing,’ says Scott Vogel, Southern’s chief technical officer. ‘Future Fibres work with a few different fibres from us – PBO, Dyneema and Kevlar. These can make products we couldn’t make with our ECsix carbon rod technology.’
Product range going forward
- Southern Spars’ ECsix multistrand carbon fibre standing rigging will remain the flagship product. ECsix has awardwinning characteristics of strength, durability and longevity proven to last over 10 years. It was also chosen for the new Volvo and Imoca 60 yachts.
- Future Fibres’ Torquelite flexible furling cables, made from either PBO or Kevlar. For furling headsails these were a key driver for this acquisition. They are also on the Volvo boats.
- TSC solid carbon rod rigging – This Future Fibres product has been sent back to the development team for now, pending a planned re-release in late 2015. Likely for use in inshore racing applications only.
- PBO Standing Rigging – Letting customers with existing PBO standing stays replace their rigging like for like.
Vogel has confirmed that TSC was going back to R&D for further refinement. ‘We don’t think solid carbon rigging is a bad product per se, but it does have higher risks and lower durability properties when compared to super-safe multistrand ECsix. ‘We just need to understand these properties better for our customers. Then we need to make sure that their type of use fits that risk profile; and for many customers their use will not fit that profile,’ he said.
‘Our customers care about having the best products. We want to make specifying, ordering and using the world’s best rigging products easy.’
Southern Spars’ reputation is built as much on its masts as on its rigging division. Another feature of the purchase is the milled aluminium mast moulds that Future Fibres’ partner Persico Marine had built for the company. These tools are made in 4m sections to provide flexibility of shape. The same tool can also produce optimised fixed and rotating sections.
‘We were interested to explore what these moulds can do for surface finish straight from the tool. This could have significant benefits in terms of weight reduction and final finish,’ said Vogel. ‘Combining these tools with our present range will offer our customers more variety in terms of section size and geometry. We will also get to see if they are economic for wider use in the future.’
Another benefit to the customer is access to the R&D and sales teams of both businesses. Southern and Future Fibres, over the years, took different paths to develop rigging: Southern Spars used carbon fibre and Future Fibres initially used PBO. Now there is a combined 11-person R&D team with complementary knowledge and test data from all of the different materials. They can therefore deliver the perfect combined, integrated solution for each given application.
Similarly, an enlarged sales team around the world means ready access to products, while Future Fibres’ and ECsix customers will continue to access the same sales representatives they always have.
‘This is a good technology fit story,’ says Sam Watson, CEO of the new combined entity. ‘The product ranges are completely compatible and the two teams of people also fit very well together. Hand on heart I can now say that we can really offer any customer (cruising or racing) a rigging solution that will be the absolute best fit to their needs.’
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