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Lightning strike protection kits.

Ever been out on one of those unreal days when the cloud closes in and you're skimming across an oily sea in a strange but beautifully silent world of your own? No? Well never mind, because the next thing you hear is often the roll of thunder, preceded by a flash of light and followed by a flash of realisation that your mast is the highest object around, like a raised hand saying "Pick me! Me!".

Many people apparently believe that a lightning conductor is safe in such situations, but in fact that is only true if the conductor is by far the best electrical conductor to earth because in this situation it attracts the lightning strike and creates a cone of safety (about 45') about the rod. In the case of a windsurfer the sailor, clutching the aluminium or carbon fibre boom and wearing a saline saturated wetsuit may offer the most attractive route for the electrical current to earth (the sea).

Shock Wave Inc. presents the Radial Insulation Protection system featuring Open Field Flotation technology. The principle behind this innovative system is to increase the ability of the mast to handle the millions of amperes of current while isolating and protecting the sailor from the current as well as the flash and heat generated.

The special mast comes in two options, an Aluminium mast with a solid copper core for the recreational sailor, and the Titanium Pro version with the liquid sodium core for the serious competitor. The universal is a mechanical unit enclosed in a sealed sleeve filled with mercury, and coupled to the 3 metre centre board (same construction as the mast) which makes the final electrical connection to the sea.

To protect the sailor the standard boom is replaced by a solid glass (uni-fibre) isolation/insulation boom, while the sailor wears a double skinned silicone sandwich suit, heavy duty rubber gloves and boots, and a specially modified welders mask.

Obviously there is a weight penalty with all this, in fact for wave sailing the minimum board recommended is a Fanatic Giga Cat. Note that if the liquid sodium Pro mast is being used then a small barge must also be towed to hold the necessary power source (nuclear) and heat exchanger to keep the liquid sodium hot, however with a little clever engineering this system can also provide the cryogenic cooling for the dry suit, useful not only during strikes but also on hot days. In addition the sailor must carry a full environmental protection kit (floating booms and other containment systems) to cope with possible leakage from the mast, universal or reactor.

Contact your local windsurf shop for further details.



(first written in the early 90's in response to discussions on a newsgroup on windsurfing in thunderstorms - I got a surprising number of responses, including a few that criticised some of the technical claims - can't understand why?)

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