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February 17, 2023 3 min read

ILCA Carbon vs Aluminium Top Mast

A common question among Laser and ILCA sailors is whether you need or it is worth buying a carbon top mast section.

If you have just damaged or bent your top mast and are looking at buying a replacement you might just be looking at the price of the carbon mast and seeing the cost difference.

In this article we take a look at the benefits of having a carbon top mast section. 

The Key Differences

The obvious first difference is the material the two masts are made from. In most cases Carbon Fibre can be from 2 to 5 times more rigid than aluminium at the same thickness and profile.

Another key difference in manufacturing of these masts is the carbon masts are made to a small weight tolerance. With the Aluminium mast we used to see a significant amount of variation between the weight of the top masts. However with the carbon composite masts this variation is a lot less and the masts weights are closer together. With the aluminium masts they are extruded and it is a lot more difficult to keep the mast the same weight.

If you are reading this after buy a new carbon mast you may have been surprised to see the mast is slightly longer than your aluminium mast and you might have found it more difficult to join your lower and upper mast.

The Carbon top mast is approximately 6mm to 8mm longer than the Aluminium mast. This is great for a standard MKII or ILCA7 sailor and lightweight sailors that need more downhaul in stronger winds.

There are a couple of different manufacturers of the carbon top mast so you might find that the diameter of the plugs and plastic fittings are slightly different to your older mast.

The last difference to consider when thinking about upgrading you mast is maintenance, and longevity.

If you sail on fresh water this might not be something you have thought about. The salt water sailors around the World have to be very particular when it comes to washing their boat after sailing at sea. Salt will get in everywhere and can do a lot of damage to metal and moving parts if you don't clean you boat with fresh water before putting it away.

The most comment place Aluminium top masts break and bend is around the mast sleeve. The mast sleeve is riveted on to the mast and the hole where the rivet is attached can corrode as there is a small amount of metal that is not anodised and once it starts to corrode you can't stop it. Due to the sleeve sliding over the mast you can not easily check this area.

The great thing about carbon fibre is it doesn't breakdown and corrode in the same way aluminium does. The carbon fibre also won't stay bent like a metal mast does over time, sailors have found this a common issue in metal masts when sailing with the more powerful standard mark 2 sail.

One thing to think about is UV. Extended time exposed to UV and in the sun can cause deamination of the lacquer on the mast. This is commonly seen in skiffs and catamarans with carbon masts that live out side in the boat park all year round. As most if not all lasers are stored with their mast down this should not be a problem for a very long time.

No matter if you have a carbon or aluminium mast it is essential that your mast is straight. Carbon will retain its shape better than metal over time as the metal will take up the natural shape with a slight bend after long term use in strong winds.

Our Recommendation

If you are sailing a standard MKii or ILCA7 we would strongly recommend a carbon top mast, it is going to last longer than a metal one which will bend under the pressure of the sail in strong winds.

If you have another sized rig but are racing on a regular basis we think you'll love the carbon top mast and will get the value out of the purchase.


If you have any questions, or would like to discuss which mast might be best for you and your sailing, get in touch with our friendly team.

You can email info@sailingchandlery.com or give us a call on 01268 222912.