Relentless innovation

Visit Ubi Maior Italia

Not exactly new kids on the block, but a relatively young group of Italian engineers are doing good things in the never-ending quest for better sail control systems…

Most of us who have been racing for any time at all will have been fascinated at how the quality of the equipment can have such a huge influence on the success, enjoyment and also the safety of our sailing experience. On nearly every type of sailing craft – racing or cruising – one of the principal ongoing challenges is not with the rigours of the weather or the sea, but with friction and the inefficiency or otherwise of the hardware in harnessing both our human energy and the energy provided by the elements to propel the boat forward in the most effective way possible.

Main picture: One of the benefits of recruiting a top Italian sailor is he will be likely to have an inside track on the latest equipment coming out of Italy’s famous cauldron of engineering excellence. Former Prada skipper Max Sirena is now with Grant Dalton at Team New Zealand, big users of Maior Italia products

And for many of us there is nothing more annoying than knowing our peak performance is being limited by inefficiencies – especially in our equipment.

At UBI Maior Italia they take this annoyance seriously and a passion for improvement drives an unrelenting drive towards innovation in design and fabrication of the very finest in line and sail-handling systems. The team’s experience of and close relationships with the top sailing programmes in the 52 SuperSeries and other pinnacle competitions have helped the company develop a range of products that has not only grown in popularity among these teams, but has now earned peer-reviewed design and innovation awards at major marine trade shows.

Above: a shared passion for what you are doing is a big plus when seeking great new product solutions – this is the talented young team behind UBI Maior Italia.

So how is it that a block or a furling system can be improved by UBI Maior Italia when there are dozens of other excellent companies and design groups who have been attacking the same problems for decades?

The answer lies in the uniquely small and focused nature of this Italian engineering business, where sensible innovation in design and quality of manufacturing are the driving principles,allowing the customer to enjoy solutions made specifically to their needs.

And as these needs evolve with boat, cordage and sail design, as well as the constant improvements in boathandling that come in the most competitive racing environments, UBI Maior Italia is uniquely positioned to respond quickly and effectively to keep their customers at the cutting edge of competitiveness.

Since its foundation UBI Maior Italia has distinguished itself for this innovative approach. Their history is filled with numerous industry awards and world patents, in recognition of them being a market leader in innovation.

It is Rewind that caught the world’s attention, the first modern sail furler with a ratchet system. This product line has been aimed at assisting the solo bowman or shorthanded crew during furling and unfurling of gennakers and Code 0s. The use of Rewind allows a crew to let go of the furling loop midway through a manoeuvre without the sail unfurling back out – this reduces potential sail damage and increases the sailor’s safety, especially in rough seas when he can let go of the loop to keep his balance or deal with an unexpected problem.

Above: UBI’s Rewind furler incorporates a non-return ratchet, very familiar to most Flying Dutchman sailors, but at rather larger scale. Angled bearings are used to deal with the high lateral tack loads in UBI’s top-down furler (below).

Below: the Jiber luff furler system

Subsequently in 2012, after an intensive testing campaign, UBI Maior went on to patent another innovative jib furler. Called the Jiber, it is a device that no longer needs an aluminium headfoil to furl the sail, but only the rod forestay itself to rotate. The savings in weight, cost and aerodynamic drag will make this furler a preferred option for many cruiser-racers.

The idea came from Imoca 60s who have been using textile cable furlers as furling stays for some time, but this solution was often regarded as too extreme for the average sailor because the jib is bound to the torsion cable. A key difference is that with Jiber the sail can be hoisted up and down, and the halyard tension can be adjusted at any time; it can also be used reefed. Eliminating the need for the aluminium headfoil extrusion realises a significant weight saving, and this is weight aloft that affects the righting moment and pitch gyradius of the boat. The reduced drag from having no headfoil at the leading edge of the jib is a bonus.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and when bigger, stiffer and more powerful Code 0s appeared they put tremendous stresses on a top-down furlers’ free tack attachment. With much higher lateral loads ball bearings were no longer enough and a new solution was required. The answer came in 2015 with a clever new geometry: two angled rows of roller bearings (right) provide the support needed to accommodate the angled loads, all arranged in a compact low-windage package. After that Maior Italia started to utilise the same new system in various other applications: from the shuttles of the bigger sizes of the Jiber, to custom titanium gennaker blocks made for the latest WallyCento.

Many of the world’s top sailors are getting interested in this young company. Max Sirena from Emirates Team New Zealand said: ‘We chose UBI Maior Italia for the high quality of their products as well as their flexibility in creating custom parts,’ while in another arena top navigator Nacho Postigo said, ‘Lighter is faster, but to finish first, first you have to finish; I now use a lot of Maior Italia equipment because it offers a sensible balance between weight and reliability.’

Up-and-coming yacht designer Matteo Polli has equipped his ORC champion Italia 9.98s as well as other boats with the company’s products, and says, ‘This range of products allows me to find the right solutions for my projects. An optimised deck plan with Maior Italia’s light and elegant equipment can make a measurable difference when you start racing seriously.’

You will also find extensive use of this young niche company’s products onboard the Mills 65 SuperNikka, the new Mills- Pininfarina-Persico WallyCento, the Verdier/VPLP Imoca 60 No Way Back and Emirates Team New Zealand’s various America’s Cup catamarans. Surely that’s a pretty decent roll-call for this talented and enthusiastic group of young Italian engineers...

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