Sailmaker's log

Olympic sailing is hard work – but worth it

Posted by Mikko Brummer on Mon, Nov 05, 2012@ 09:07 AM

Here at WB-Sails, we live and breathe racing. In fact, the loft was founded after we realized that we need better sails for our own campaigns. Since 1975 a lot has been learned and many things have changed, but the principle of hard work – blood, sweat and tears – remains.

Sailing is a sport that relies heavily on equipment. Sure, it's the athletes that do the work on the race course. But if their gear is inferior compared to their competitors' stuff, it is next to impossible to succeed on the Olympic level. If you don't have the go, if there is no oomph in your sails, you're bound to see your competitors sterns only. No matter how great your boat handling is, how fit you are or how brilliant your strategic and tactical moves are. In fact, with so few boats on the starting line, the Olympics is more of a speed game than the normal World Cup events.

Star boat loof salminen

The Olympic star dust has settled. How was the success made?

Now, a couple of months after all the Olympic glory and star dust in Weymouth, it's time to reflect how the gold medal in Star and a bronze in Finns were achieved from a sailmaker's perspective.

First you need to understand that WB-Sails is a tiny loft by comparison to other Olympic players such as North, Doyle and Quantum. What we lack in terms of corporate muscle, we make up with enthusiasm and experience. With the willingness to go the extra mile.

The core team of our Olympic bid comprised of:

  • Mikko Brummer, head of R&D
  • Otso Brummer, chief designer
  • Martin Gahmberg, Star sail designer and coach
  • Joakim Wilenius, Finn sail designer and coach
  • Pelle Kindberg, production manager

 Amongst the sailors in the WB-Sails development team were:

  • Fredrik Lööf and Max Salminen in Star
  • Tapio Nirkko in Finn
  • Jonathan Lobert in Finn
  • Daniel Birgmark in Finn
  • Thomas Breton in Finn

So altogether there were 10 dedicated people aiming at the same goal. With this crew we used hundreds of hours analysis the sail shapes, studying and simulating aerodynamics, making material choices based on stress and strain data plus doing some espionage on the competitors!

To get a grasp of the effort, consider this: we cut 121 sails for Freddy and Max during the 4 years Olympic cycle – 50 mainsails and 71 jibs. For the mainsails, we made 24 variations – some smaller details and other larger variations in mold shape or luff curve or panel layout.

15 sails were identical, of the "workhorse" model, but the final main was one of the last variations. For the jibs, Max wanted a 15 mm adjustment only 6 weeks before the Olympic regatta and it was one of those jibs he picked for the races.

If you are currently planning your Olympic campaign towards Rio, think carefully whether you want to be just another Olympic aspirant in a big loft's team or a VIP in a smaller loft such as ours. I'd imagine that Freddy's, Max's and Jon's choice is clear...

Topics: Finn, Olympic sailing, Star