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RS and Seldén working together: Interview with Alex Newton-Southon and Steve Norbury

by Mark Jardine 23 Nov 2017 04:00 PST 23 November 2017
RS Aero spars at Selden © Mark Jardine /

We spoke to Steve Norbury of Seldén Mast, and Alex Newton-Southon of RS Sailing, about how they work together on the design and manufacture of a variety of components for the RS range of dinghies.

Mark Jardine: Seldén have made a considerable investment in manufacturing technology to help with the automation of processes. What is the biggest machine you've brought into the factory?

Steve Norbury: The biggest single investment so far is a CNC machine which is incredibly efficient at drilling, routering and shaping aluminium profiles. A lot of what we're doing with RS is creating complete kits of parts and a lot of the rotomolded boats depend on aluminium extrusions and beams, so getting that process to be efficient and accurate means we can deliver a better product and stay on time with our deliveries.

Mark: RS Sailing are a creator of one-design boats, where you need every single boat to be identical. What it does it mean to you when a partner invests in this kind of technology, ensuring they are producing the same piece of kit time and time again?

Alex Newton-Southon: It's incredibly important to make sure that RS are dealing with the right partners and Seldén Mast have been a fantastic partner for the entire 25-year history of the company. Having this investment with CNC machines and other items is hugely important as making sure that purchased products are replicated accurately time and time again is paramount. Seldén now provides us with a one-stop shop; we can get the masts, the hardware, other components and the foils all in one place. All of that is reliably delivered to our production facility so working with Seldén is fantastic.

Mark: Alex, you mentioned foils there, and I think that's an area that many people won't be aware of; Seldén are producing many rudders and daggerboards. Steve, when did foil production start at Seldén?

Steve: We started around eight years ago. It's an aluminium extruded product, which very much suits our skill-set, together with the injection-moulded rudder blade. The whole concept was to give RS a very consistent product, one which is easy to produce and transport, and was also modular. We started off fitting it to the RS Tera, then we rolled that out through the Feva, Quba and now the new boats. By giving them this modular system, it means they can fit it to their new boats as they become available. It reduces the number of spares and inventory they need, allowing more on-time deliveries.

Alex: By working with Seldén we have access to the fantastic ability of their technical and design department. At RS we have very strong ideas of how we want to create boats, and with their support it's not just the foil blades, but the stocks are highly indicative of how they work. The whole package is highly engineered, and the system is used across the Tera, the Neo, the Quba, the Feva, the Cat 16; with stocks purely designed for those boats to maximise their usage.

Mark: When it comes to designing new RS boats, are Seldén an integral part of your design process?

Alex: Absolutely. It's incredibly important to be working with the right partners to create our boats. From our point of view, we have a vision of what we want and Seldén help us to create that.

Mark: I remember coming to the opening of the Seldén factory in December 2004 and seeing the huge shop-floor, and there being a lot of space to build into, but this is now filled with activity. Growing with a partner like RS must be superb for your continued expansion.

Steve: It's fantastic working with a customer like RS as, like Alex said, they are really driven and really focused on delivering innovative new products. They have so many ideas on how to encourage people into sailing. Our part is to turn those ideas into products which we can supply them, driving the sales of that boat forwards. It's vitally important for us to be involved at that level so that we can create those products.

Alex: I feel we challenge Seldén during the design process, and there are times when I think they benefit from how we are challenging them from a production point-of-view, so it's not a one-way street here. We challenge each other, and I think we both gain out of it.

Mark: It's good to see two really great brands working together to bring the sport of sailing, the design process and production technology, along further. Thank you for your time.

Steve and Alex: Thanks very much.

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