Windsurfing Masts

Length: 7 weeks (3 lectures, interim presentations and final presentation session)

Level: 1st year Sports and Materials Science course

Aims: To demonstrate the application of theoretical concepts in a item of sporting equipment and to encourage students to carry out independent research and study on the topic.

Key skills: Group work, presentation skills, independent research

Assessment: Group report and presentation

This case study involves you working in groups of 5-6 to investigate materials selection and construction windsurfing masts. Windsurfing masts have to fulfil a certain criteria and you must research into the types of material that could be used to meet that criterion.

Session 1 (lecture)

Case study learning and key skill development

Mast Technology                                                                    

Design Requirements

Materials Selection

Task: Use the Internet to investigate manufacturers websites . Find out what they 'claim' their masts are made from and how they are made.

Produce a list of keywords on mast technology

Session 2 (lecture)

Composite Architecture

Mechanical properties

Calculations of mechanical force and modulus

By the end of this session you should be able to

  • Describe the materials used in the construction of a windsurfing mast
  • Use the equations that describe the mechanical properties of a uni-directional composite
  • Recognise simple fibre architectures
  • Specify a mast stiffness and composite modulus for the mast

Session 3 (lecture)

Mast/composite structure production

Filament winding


Vacuum bag and Autoclave

By the end of this session you should be able to

  • Understand how winding pitch affects the modulus of the composite
  • Describe the steps involved in the preparation of a composite for curing
  • Understand the difference between autoclave and vacuum bag
  • Suggest a suitable production method for a mast

Session 4

Mini-presentation of work to date

Session 5

Independent study

Session 6


Case Study Tasks

1. Decide on the design requirements for the mast

2. Select a range of materials based on these criteria

3. Refine the selection based on the following cases,

Case 1 (to be considered for a weekend sailor and an infrequent sailor)

· Force 3 wind

· Required Modulus - > 10 GPa

· Required Strength - > 100 MPa

Case 2 (applies to competition masts)

· Force 5 and above

· Required Modulus - > 100 GPa

· Required Strength - > 1 GPa

4. Choose a production process


Each group will must submit a single written report (60% of student's marks) summarising the main findings and conclusions drawn. The report is to be 1500 words long (about 4 pages) not including diagrams. The main text should be 12 point text size with 1.5 line spacing. There should also be a 200 word summary with 10 point text size and single line spacing. The report should take the following format:

Introduction - page 1 - background to the mast and the sport

Materials Selection - page 2 - design criteria, ideal materials and their properties

Specification of winding pitch - page 3 - outline steps and working of calculation

Mast production - page 4 - how could the final product be made

Conclusions - page 4 - bullet points

Each group must also give a 10 minute presentation on one aspect of the case study (40% of the case study mark). You must elect 2 or 3 group members to do the presentation. Ensure you introduce who you are and the main areas in your talk. Finish with a slide showing the main conclusions.

Click on the links for tips on presentations and report writing.