Optimist spar carriers — more than you ever wanted to know

Sailing is a logistics-intensive sport. Optis are no exception. So, I thought I’d pass along a quick note to help you work through one of the tougher challenges of bringing gear to an away regatta. Specifically, how to get a huge sail tube onto an airplane.

Not the easiest thing to lug through an airport

How to find your airline’s rules

Do a google search for “[airline] baggage sports equipment”. For example, a search for KLM’s rules. (I’m using KLM as an example but all airlines I’ve seen have baggage exemptions for sports equipment.)

Check what they say for fishing equipment, because they usually don’t break out sailing equipment and what you carry your spars in is a fishing pole carrier.

For example, KLM states, “From surf board to golf bag, you can take all kinds of special baggage with you! …. A set of fishing equipment of max. 300 cm (118 in) may weigh max. 23 kg (50.5 lbs) in Economy Class….”

This is referring to linear inches / linear centimeters. To find the number of “linear inches”, you want to measure the length plus two times the diameter.

Which case to buy

For traveling domestically in the US, this Plano Jumbo Rod Case just barely fits under United’s baggage size limits and lets you carry all your spars, a couple of sails, and spare parts. For travelling internationally, this Plano Rod Case is smaller and thus easier to fit within carrier limits. No wheels, but if you’re carrying just a boom and two sails, it should be enough to fit all that, and not too heavy to carry to the baggage counter.

Here’s a size comparison: Plano Jumbo Rod Case on the left, Opti sail in the middle, and a small rod case (not Plano) on the right.

Other details

As someone that’s almost missed a flight while taking apart a spar carrier at the airport, here are some tips that can save you some grief:

  1. In case you encounter a skeptical baggage staff, pack a fishing rod, without a hook or reel, into the case in case they look inside. Ensure that you and your sailor know there is at your regatta venue, so you have your backstory down pat.
  2. Bring a tape measure (ideally in US and metric if you’re traveling internationally) and have a printout of your airline’s rules, in case you need to demonstrate that you’re in compliance.
  3. Wrap two sails (race sail and a backup) around a boom, then wrap with saran wrap. That way TSA, ground crew, etc. won’t crush the sail after inspection.
  4. Bring a roll of saran wrap with you for the trip back.
  5. Use a bolt with a nylock nut to lock in the length of your telescoping carrier. TSA/ground crew/etc. might have a knife to cut a zip tie, but they are unlikely to have a screwdriver and pliers, nor want to take the time to deal with a nut they can’t uncrew by hand. This, too, will reduce the chance that someone will collapse down the length of your spar carrier.

Plan C

Last of all, if all else fails, it’s not at all the end of the world if you fold up a sail and then put it in your suitcase. A sail will still be competitive if folded.

If you need a proof point to show your sailor, attached is a folded-up Laser sail from a guy that’s won 12 world championships. This exact sail — folded up — won the 2013 worlds in Oman.

Occasional thoughts on tech, sailing, and San Francisco

Occasional thoughts on tech, sailing, and San Francisco