Sailing is fortunate to have so many really smart and interesting people working away to pull off little bits of technical magic that, often unnoticed, play a disproportionate part in the success of the best programmes…
Nearly all of us have spent time playing with rigging to find optimal solutions for our boat, whether it’s a dinghy, a keelboat, offshore racer or even a cruiser. Ambitious performance sailors hate inefficiency, friction and failure, while we love clever, elegant solutions that make us believe we are getting every possible bit of power to make us go fast and safe through the water.
Located at the heart of the precision engineering hub of central Italy UBI Maior Italia share this passion – they have the tools, the skills and, most importantly, the creativity and inspiration to try new solutions to the age-old fight against inefficiency in marine hardware. And being a relatively small operation makes them ideally suited to custom and semi-custom design and fabrication, where standard products may not be quite good enough to achieve the desired elegance in design and function.
The process starts in the first meeting with the customer, whether it’s a naval architect, designer, boatbuilder, sailmaker, rigger or project manager, by defining the problem that needs solving. In these first discussions sketches are made and parameters are defined, and usually standard products are first considered for their suitability. For UBI Maior these represent proven designs that have met the needs for numerous other customers and fit within production quality and cost criteria.
However, if a standard part does not meet needs then further discussion identifies whether an existing standard product can be modified or an entirely new part will be needed. Options are discussed for the part’s design, material choices, timelines and the estimated costs. Sailing experience among the technical staff helps advise the clients on the right choices among these options.
Once the part has been built and installed UBI stay with the project through sea trials and even beyond to ensure additional modifications are not needed. And even though custom parts do not carry warranties, as standard parts do, this is an automatic value-added policy at UBI Maior to ensure the customer is completely satisfied – setting the firm apart in their field.
‘I always say that we are not just suppliers of deck equipment, but a partner in the project,’ says sales manager Fabio De Simoni. ‘During the first commercial approach of certain projects I never try to sell blocks, but to offer our workshop as a partner. Like other guys employed in the company, I sail a lot on different types of boats and I speak and listen to all the professionals around me – sailors, builders, riggers and sailmakers – to accumulate experience so that I may have a first answer to every problem our customers explain to us.
‘Our biggest advantage is that the operating chain for us is very short and the information between the salesmen, technical office and production team circulates very rapidly in every phase. We do not follow a linear flow pattern that goes in one direction. Every “actor” in the process may continue to participate, using feedback from the others to avoid getting to the assembly phase with an error.
‘Every customer, large or small, receives helpful explanations and information. We always try to be depositaries of our experiences and give notations collected from our projects, standard or custom.’
UBI Maior’s special alchemy – balancing strong customer attention, innovation and quality with consistency and reliability at a good value – stems from the fact that, though a relatively new brand, their workshop and the people who run it have been working for over 50 years for other leading companies in mechanics, biomedical engineering, as well as fashion and other fields.
‘Our company is organised in floors,’ explains De Simoni. ‘We have a commercial division on the first floor where all staff have technical backgrounds. Then we have a technical office on the second floor, which is able to work in numerous digital formats, from pdf documents to the 2D and 3D CAD files we use in production. This office provides information and technical materials and filters design information as well as working with the designs themselves.
‘The third floor is where pure design takes place and where all UBI products and future company projects are conceived. This is where our engineers create designs using SolidWorks and a whole series of applications like Ansys, SolidWorks Motion, OpenFOAM or Fluent. We also have two test benches, one internal and one at an external certification agency, to independently confirm the results.
‘The fourth floor is production, where we have three and five-axis CNC machines plus turning machines and super-specialised machinists to operate them.’
Experts in assembly and testing have their own small independent workshop for adjustment and finishing – this department also deals with repairs and analysis of any problems with parts and pieces.
‘In a world governed by Amazon, we know the importance of fast delivery times,’ says De Simoni. So the final floor is the warehouse with all the lines of standard products organised on independent shelves for efficient distribution.
UBI Maior Italia’s success has led to so many project enquiries that they have had to learn to say ‘no’ when timelines or other constraints cannot meet their standards. But they are quickly adapting, having created a new infrastructure to meet the challenge of handling more business without compromising their strong bonds with customers. ‘We want to be able to remain smart,’ says De Simoni, ‘as in the early days, and as only a small company can. We want to be able to offer this type of service.’
Among the interesting projects currently underway is one with Hervé Penfornis of Dimension Yacht Engineering and Laura Cappelletti, at Italian shipyard Vismara Marine, for the construction of the new Nacira 69 designed by Seahorse contributors Axel De Beaufort and Guillaume Verdier.
Above: discrete titanium ‘tulip’ sheaves with very high-strength X-bearings carry the gennaker sheets on Tango. The line speed on these performance superyachts, combined with the loads, are enough to burn out anything that is remotely under engineered.
Below: aluminium this time, pig noses for the bowsprit on new TP52 Luna Rossa.
Bottom: custom fittings for the 3:1 reduction on the J2 and J3 headstays on the Imoca 60 No Way Back, again all in titanium
‘Our yard is very focused on aesthetic detail,’ says Cappelletti. ‘UBI Maior Italia provided this for us in our last two projects when we asked the guys to machine mooring cleats, hinges and closures of the hatches in black anodised aluminium like all the rest of the equipment, pulpits and extensions.
‘This boat has a thousand custom solutions for everything, from the pig nose to the different furling line inlets and jib sheet inlets, and every type of fairlead, furler, sheave box and crossovers to the last titanium block of the runners will be made by us,’ says De Simoni. ‘All the custom parts have been envisioned and designed by Hervé and Laura then submitted to us for our analysis on making them more efficient or sometimes simply cheaper to machine.’
This is not the first collaboration UBI Maior have had with Vismara – a similar project with this yard was the build of the Mills-designed Super Nikka 62.
Mylius is another shipyard that now collaborates on all of their models with UBI Maior. Currently they are committed to building their latest 76ft racer-cruiser for the yard’s owner, who will race the boat on next year’s Maxi circuit. ‘The high technical level combined with the maximum guaranteed quality make UBI Maior Italia an important partner for us,’ says Valentina Gandini of Mylius. ‘For almost every boat we have to find new solutions and these guys are a great help.’
On top of these complex projects there is the steady flow of business from industry professionals, such as riggers and sailmakers. ‘These marine professionals seek not only clever design, but maximum reliability,’ says De Simoni. ‘They want a contact person who is always present when managing orders. And if there is a problem they need a solution quickly that will please the customer.’
Grand prix projects always mean long hours and crazy numbers just to save a few grammes. ‘But these are among the most interesting challenges, finding new solutions to optimise manoeuvres and make them more efficient,’ says De Simoni. ‘Retriever systems for gennakers are an example. Lately we’ve tried to hide every bit of equipment under the deck so as not to hinder the movements of the crew and the displacement of sails. If you look at the deck of a modern racer you cannot see anything – on TP52s even the staysail furlers have disappeared below deck.’
For Antoine Mermod, who is project managing a new Imoca 60 for the next Vendée Globe, UBI Maior were perfect, enabling the team to push all the limits… while remaining reliable. ‘UBI helped us design and machine virtually every detail onboard – titanium blocks, the pig nose of the bowsprit, all the fittings for furler management, every fairlead and soft padeye… always working like maniacs to save every gramme!’
We invite you to read on and find out for yourself why Seahorse is the most highly-rated source in the world for anyone who is serious about their racing.
To read on simply SIGN up NOW
Take advantage of our very best subscription offer or order a single copy of this issue of Seahorse.
Or via email:
Or for iPad simply download the Seahorse App at the iTunes store