Well I personally owned and took a Freedom 45 from NY to Bermuda and back just last year, so I suspect I know something about this.
We sold our Freedom and moved on to something else, but it had nothing to do with the rig. Frankly, I miss the rig. I LOVED that rig. And after having sailed it for a number of years, I came to be surprised that more cruising boats don't have them.
So, where to begin. Let me start with the expressed concern about having no shrouds, etc. If you have a freestanding rig, you have one thing that can break and go wrong -- the mast breaking. If you have a standard rig, you have literally hundreds of parts that could break, any one of which could cause the rig to come down (and that includes the mast by the way). Being able to look up at rigging doesn't mean you are any safer or that your rig is any more secure. You are just looking up at hundreds of potential failure points, instead of one. And it's not like you have redundancy with a standard rig -- lose one cotter pin, and the whole thing could come down. So, I simply don't buy into the notion that you are more secure with a fully rigged sail plan than a freestanding rig.
In terms of performance, the freestanding rig is VERY forgiving. In gusts, the mast bends, the top of the mainsail twists off, and you dump wind. This has the effect of automatically spilling wind and pressure on the main, which makes the boat stiffer. We were able to hold full sail, comfortably, with apparent winds forward of the beam to 25 knots. After that we would heel more than optimal, and then would take in a reef.
The Freedoms also are very easy to handle, particularly short handed. Most of the larger boats have self tacking jibs, and the boats are main drive, which means that when it's time to tack, just turn the wheel.
In terms of a negative on performance, you can't adjust the rig. That is, that same mast bend that makes the boat so nice and comfortable to sail means that you get headstay sag when beating, and there's no backstay to adjust to tighten it up. So, she's not as weatherly as some other boats. Don't get me wrong, we made it to weather just fine, and it was very comfortable (the boat is very stiff, and she never EVER pounded), she just isn't the fastest boat to weather.
And one more thing -- no rigging means must more open space on deck. I'm still bumping into the shrouds on our new boat because I'm just not used to them being there, and I'm appreciating more and more the open spaces we had on deck with our Freedom.
As to the point that they are hard to work on or get parts for, that's really not right. There is nothing to "work on." If a problem, develops in terms of a structural crack or something, then you need a new mast. That for sure is a negative (meaning that replacement is much more expensive than a standard mast). I'm sure there must have been rig failures somewhere on these boats, but I am not aware of one.
As to lightening, it is true that carbon fiber is more susceptible to damage, but that's not a guaranty. For instance, our boat actually was hit by lightening (while we were aboard; that's a subject for another thread). Though we had serious damage to the boat, the rig turned out to be fine, according to GMT composites who surveyed the rig for the insurance company. Indeed, it was after this lightening strike that we took the boat to Bermuda and back, experienced some heavy weather, and had no troubles.
Freedoms have sailed all over the place, they are very well built, and that freestanding rig took our boat to Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean. I would have no hesitation in sailing these boats offshore.
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Last edited by danielgoldberg; 02-05-2009 at 08:28 PM.