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Sail Selection – Part 1 Sailmaker

Alright so I have finally embraced the fact that Spindrift needs a new headsail. There are 3 standard, or more common, sizes of headsail including: genoa (150%), jib (115%) and a storm jib (40% or less). The percentages refer to the triangular area between the forestay and the mast, so a genoa would come 50% aft of the mast.

I currently have a genoa that is 180% and a jib that is 115% and I believe I have an extra jib, but I’m not sure. The boat came with a lot of odds and ends from my grandfather that I am still sorting through!

At this point in time I am looking to replace my 115% jib as it is really baggy. Spindrift does not like sailing with baggy skirts! The 180% genoa is way too large and it really overpowers the helm so I am hoping to cut it down to a smaller 150%. I’ll look into that at a later date — after I’ve digested the bill from my new jib!

Selecting a Sailmaker

The first order of business is researching the various sailmakers out there and determining which one meets your needs. You want to provide yourself with a pool of candidates. I researched several of the more common sailmakers to see what services they offer and checked on their reviews. I also looked into smaller lofts as sometimes they provide more quality. As I am looking for a cruising sail, as opposed to a racing sail, I am a bit more focused on budget than performance at this point and I have more options for getting quotes. Here’s who I looked into…

North Sails, Vancouver BC

North Sails is one of the more well-known sailmaker names in the industry. They have been around since 1957 and the company was founded by Lowell North (who actually passed away June 2, 2019).

Their website is full of information including how to pick your material, sail type and requesting a quote. They have lofts around the world making them easy to access and leaders in the industry. Worth a look into if you are looking for racing or cruising sails.

Evolution Sails, Vancouver BC

Evolution Sails is a group of sailmakers from around the world with several lofts in Canada — Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Their website does not contain as much background information as North Sails, for example, about sail selection, but once you get to the loft website you are looking for (in this case I chose Vancouver), they are more than happy to chat with you about what you are looking for. Jason was more than happy to discuss options with me and seems eager to work with you to help make sure you get the right sail.

Precision Sails, Victoria BC

Precision Sails out of Victoria have a very comprehensive website. There is a lot of information about materials, cuts, ad-ons and everything in between. Precision Sails also has a large library of videos on YouTube explaining their sails, materials and cuts, which was very informative. Their website is very easy to navigate and requesting a quote was a cinch.

Bay Sails, Hamilton ON

Bay Sails used to be our go-to for sails when I was teaching at Harbour West Sailing Adventures in Hamilton. They are a small loft out of a house and they always provided us with great feedback and assistance when we had a sail to fix. If you are looking for a Canadian mom and pop shop, I would suggest Bay Sails. Your best bet for a quote and further information would be to check out their Facebook page or just call them directly to chat about your options.

Leitch and McBride Sailmakers, Sidney BC

Leitch and McBride is a Canadian sailmaking company established in 1976 by two partners (Rick McBride and Phil Leitch). Leitch & McBride were the most technologically advanced sailmakers in Canada for some time as they introduced state of the art tools to their loft to maximize their sail designs.

Their website is user-friendly and it is easy to request a quote online. The company has since been sold, but is still run by a Canadian who still uses the Leitch & McBride sail designs.

UK Sailmakers, Sidney BC

UK Sails are an extremely popular sail brand in the industry and they were originally founded in the US in 1946. They have many lofts around the world and have a lot of information available on their website for background and research. Requesting a quote online was next to impossible. Most sites have an online form that you fill in, however this website did not seem to have one.

There were a couple areas of the website that I really enjoyed namely Education and Encyclopedia (under Resources). The Education section has videos and articles about sail trim, safety at sea and others. The Encyclopedia is literally a treasure trove of information about sails.

Conclusion

Once you have looked through the websites and started to figure out what you are looking for, you can start requesting quotes and establish a relationship with the companies.

I decided to request 3 quotes in the end. One from Evolution Sails, Precision Sails and North Sails. At this point I had determined that I needed a jib (115%) for my Aloha 8.2, but I was still waffling between a laminate sail and a Dacron sail. I will talk about those options in Sail Selection Part 2.

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