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An interview with John Franta about Colligo Marine and their involvement with the Tally Ho project

by David Schmidt 23 Apr 08:00 PDT April 23, 2024
Ryan Finn sails into San Francisco Bay aboard his Proa, Jzerro, by way of Cape Horn. Jzerro carries Colligo-built standing rigging © Colligo Marine

Just admit it: You've got a quiet little corner of the internet that you like to frequent when you just want to let your mind relax. While I love racing sailboats, I also love things that are hand-hewn from wood, and I have long loved sailing aboard wooden yachts. So, sometime in 2018, when I stumbled on an early YouTube video from the Samson Boat Co., I knew I was in for a long-term ride.

You see, Leo Samson Goolden, "a boatbuilder and a sailor" bought "a very old and quite famous wooden sailing yacht for the price of $1."

(If you're familiar with the videos, my use of quotation marks will make sense; if not, you can find them here: https://www.youtube.com/@SampsonBoatCo/videos?view=0&sort=dd&shelf_id=0).

In addition to great boatbuilding skills, Goolden, it turns out, is also talented at producing YouTube-ready videos, and he has spent the last six years documenting every step of his team's painstaking efforts at resurrecting a once-pedigreed sailing yacht that was reduced to rotting hulk on an Oregon beach into what can only be described as a first-class rebuild involving a lot of generosity from the sailing community and the marine industry.

In a recent episode (and yes, I've watched them all), Goolden mentioned that he using synthetic standing rigging from Colligo Marine to support Tally Ho's otherwise traditional wooden spars.

This was interesting on a lot of levels, so—given that I first crossed tacks with John Franta, Colligo's founder, co-owner, and lead engineer, back in 2008—I thought this was a perfect opportunity to combine two worlds...not to mention justifying a lot of YouTube time.

So, I reached out to Franta to learn more about the company's latest happenings, and to find out more about their involvement with Tally Ho.

Colligo Marine has been helping sailors to reduce weight aloft and lower centers of gravity for almost 20 years. How have attitudes towards synthetic rigging changed since you and your team have been in the game?

Well, I've always said it has been an upwind slog trying to sell new technology. But the wind is coming around on the beam now so it's a little easier!

One metric I use is from the [boat] shows we do.

In the beginning, we literally had to tackle people in the aisles to get them to come into our booth. Almost no one knew who we were.

Now, people come to the show, and we are on the top of their list of companies to see.

The wind is still not aft of the beam but a lot nicer than a headwind!

Does Colligo Marine have a target customer or customers? (E.g., multihull sailors or offshore monohull sailors, et al?) If so, can you give us a 35,000 foot description of the kind of boat (or boats) they may have, and the kind of sailing that they do?

We started out with multihulls as they seem to be early adopters in our industry, [however] the perceived limitation of having to use a lashing for [rig] tensioning made our product seem to work only on multihulls.

Once we started marketing that we had the ability to use traditional turnbuckles for tensioning, then this became more attractive to even monohulls.

Today monohulls are about 60 percent of our standing-rigging products. Mostly cruisers but some race boats.

And we are getting more and more interest from racers as they overcome the paradigm that Dyneema is too stretchy or that it creeps too much for racing.

The racing community has been slower to come on board as many of them tried Dyneema years ago and did not do it correctly, so it did not work. Word got out fast that you couldn't use it.

This has been slow to overcome, but we're leading by example.

We've also rigged many charter boats now, and the Coast Guard inspectors have called it the safest standing rigging you can get (because its fully inspectable), so that kind of testimony helps a lot.

Can you please tell us a bit about Colligo Marine's involvement with the Tally Ho project? Also, what kinds of rigging and/or equipment is Colligo supplying?

Our support of the Tally Ho project was in conjunction with Ian at Brion Toss's shop [in Port Townsend, Washington, near Goolden's project]. We provided the line, and they did the rest.

We've been working with Brion's shop now for over 15 years. Brion was one of the very first riggers to grab onto this new technology for standing rigging. Speaking with Ian Weedman at Brion's shop, not too long ago, he stated that Brion told him that he had been waiting all his life for this new technology for standing rigging.

That's profound from a rigging legend like Brion Toss.

Our rigging is really aesthetically pleasing on traditional boats like Tally Ho.

Years ago we had a Westsail 32 in the Annapolis show nicknamed the "Wireless Westsail" and it got a lot of attention at that show.

The main reason we wanted to get on this project was the remarkable success they have had with their Youtube channel, no bikinis, no drama, just really good information that people really appreciate.

We like to associate Colligo with top-notch people in our industry and Leo is certainly one of them. In truth, Leo has done a great job, and we would also like to learn from him.

Have you run any calculations as to (ballpark) how much weight this will save Tally Ho's rig, compared with traditional rigging?

We have not but I sent an email to Ian to see if he has the information.

Generally, we see our rigging [weighing] about [a quarter] to [a fifth of] the weight of a wire system.

Given that Tally Ho isn't exactly a lightweight build, what do you see as the primary benefits of spec'ing synthetic rigging on a heavy displacement boat?

This rigging offers a lot more than just weight savings. When sized correctly for elastic stretch, it is two-to-five times stronger and offers a much larger factor of safety.

Quarter-inch 1 x 19 wire has a breaking strength of around 8,000 pounds and is typically replaced by 9 mm Dux that breaks at 26,000 lbs.

The factor of safety goes from 2:1 to 6.5:1. And replacement and/or emergency shrouds or stays are easily made using the same hardware already on the boat.

On Tally Ho, Brion's shop covered the line, which means its UV life will probably be longer than even a stainless wire replacement interval. Some of the legacy boats are rigged with galvanized wire that ultimately drips rust when its sacrificial anode goes away.

What about field repairs? Does the nature of Colligo Dux rigging provide options for jury-rig solutions, say while Tally Ho is cruising the high latitudes?

Yes, [Goolden] and his crew just need to carry some extra line and they can easily splice-up new shrouds or stays without leaving the boat. The same hardware can be reused and spliced into the new line.

Let's jump to the other end of sailing's performance spectrum. Has Colligo been involved with any go-fast rigs recently? If so, can you divulge any details of particularly cool solutions or general great execution?

We have had several boats now do Transpacs and Pac Cups now. Three with Charlie Devanneaux and Naos Yachts. The latest of his was a Beneteaux Figaro semi-foiler. Jerry Fiat's F32SRXC trimaran that campaigns in Socal has all of our rigging on it, and now has our new Para-D parallel stranded Dyneema on it. In addition, some boats in the Caribbean races.

We've also done a few B&R rigs without backstays, which are probably the biggest challenge because of their high pretension.

Barry Kennedy's 50-foot Garcia Passoa was rigged in Boston with our rigging and sailed to Antarctica and back, which demonstrated how Dyneema can be used in changing climates if it is engineered correctly.

What's Colligo Dux/Dyneema's bigger foe—sunlight or friction/chafe? Also, what role, if any, do amassed salt crystals play in wear and tear issues? Finally, any tips for prolonging the life of Colligo Dux/Dyneema rigging?

UV is the biggest culprit for synthetics, but our data shows [that owners can] easily [get] five to eight years [of life] in the tropics, and boats in Puget Sound and the Northeast [are getting] 8-12 years in the sun.

There is a good amount of data at syntheticstandingrigging.com on this.

I have been very happy with the UV life of this product. Most often the lines get fuzzy when it's time to change it out so there is a telltale, you just have to pay attention.

Chafe is one of those paradigms that just has not played out. We literally have had only a few boats that have had chafe issues.

On one boat, the newer sailors had to replace their lower forward shrouds because of flogging but the sail had to be replaced also, expensive lesson for them. We tell customers to put the rig on and watch for chafe as that line becomes fuzzy, then protect it locally, knowing that the huge factor of safety with the line allows them some time to fix the chafe issue. [I suggest] good rigging tape and a product called Spiroll that we have used a few times.

Keep in mind that butcher's protective gloves are made with Dyneema. It's not steel but it's pretty tough stuff!

Is there anything else about Colligo or the company's involvement with Tally Ho's rig that you'd like to tell us about or add, for the record?

One thing I like about our rigging is that it's really good on all boats, from the traditional to the latest in multis or monos. The performance, aesthetics, safety, and user friendliness are a complete package.

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