Sailmaker's log

A peak inside the loft: How are your sails made?

Posted by Nora Tunkelo on Thu, Dec 07, 2017@ 12:42 PM

Our way of making sails is primarily based in the philosophy that we have had since the beginning: Quality starts with design. This captures the long term investment into the research and development that WB has made from the beginning. This philosophy guarantees long lasting quality sails for both a competitive and a leisure sailor. 

 

In the manufacturing process of sail making we honor Finnish craftsmanship: all of the stages in making a sail happen in Lauttasaari, Helsinki. This is a choice, which ensures that every sail we sell is top quality. Having the sail designer and the sailmaker under the same roof also provides a possibility for constant discussion for finding new solutions.

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Creating a new sail begins when an order is placed. Every sail is custom made for the boat and the sailor. Next step is collecting data about the boat. Taking measurements at the boat is a crucial step. If needed, we can dig information from our own database, which holds measurements of over 8000 boats. If the boat is already out of the water and the mast has been taken down, it is possible to still take measurements, but it is much more convenient and accurate if the job is done when the boat is still in the water, with mast in place. At this point it is extremely important to know whether there are any changes made to the boat, as these have an impact on the design process. 

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When all the relevant information is gathered, our designer starts to design the new sail. Mikko and Otso Brummer are the head designers of the loft, and they both have more than 35 years experience on designing and making sails. As mentioned before, design is one of the core strengths of WB Sails, and know-how in this area is vast: also sail makers in the loft have experience from designing different sails. 

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Design always begins by asking: who is the sail for? In practice this means that different kinds of sails can be designed for the same boat, depending on who is the sailor, and what kind of attributes are most important. Key factors that influence the design of the sail are:

- Where does one sail? Sailing circumstances influence the sail design a lot. 

- What does one wish to emphasize: performance, durability or ease of use? Does one aim at leisure sailing in good weather, or good performance in any weather? Or maybe both leisure sailing and competing? 

- It is important to find out how the boat’s properties affect the sail design.

 

During the design phase of making a new sail, the mast bend, roach, depth of sail, external measures, sail components and the strength of the sail are defined, to support the chosen use. After designing, the sail is made into panels on the computer, and the laser then cuts the sail fabric according to these measurements into panels, which are then sewed together by the sailmaker. 

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The sail fabric comes in packs from our chosen fabric manufacturers. We have developed long relationships with Dutch Contender and German Dimension, who both share the same perception of quality as we do. In addition, Contender for example delivers durability measures with each pack that it delivers, to guarantee the quality. 

 

When the panels go to the sailmakers for sewing, the experience of the sailmaker plays an important role. An experienced sailmaker knows how to handle the sail fabric so that the sail fits the boat perfectly. One could say that an experienced sailmaker is a lot like a tailor, whose suits fit like a glove the person they are made for. 

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Making a sail from order to a ready made sail is a process, which takes time from a few weeks to a couple of months - depending on the sail. The making of membrane sails differs from the process described here, but we’ll open that another time. When you are thinking about ordering new sails, make sure to place the order well before the sailing season starts, so that you can enjoy the new sails from the beginning!

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Topics: Olympic sailing, Sailmaking, Sail design