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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is a quality control/customer service story concerning my new sails.

Last summer, my wife bought me an anniversary present of a day on the water with Joe Cooper, a former America's Cup sailor for Australia. Those of you in southern New England who read "Windcheck" may know him from his Coop's Corner monthly column.

Anyway, we had a great day with Coop giving me all sorts of valuable rigging, sail trim and seamanship tips and tricks. A great gift. The sails on my Catalina 28 were the originals that came with the boat, and while servicable, were clearly at the end of their useful life. At the end of our session, I mentioned to Coop that I was thinking of buying new sails, and I then learned that Coop works at Quantum sails and he offered to work up a quote for me.

The only other time I had ever bought new sails was from a local sailmaker; I decided then that the higher price I paid for having the loft an hour away was well worth it. I couldn't go back to that loft as they had gone out of business, and it seemed that there were no more local sail lofts. I was wary of Quantum (and all the other big lofts) because I know they make their sails (way) offshore, and I really wanted dependable, local customer service.

Coop assured me that even though the sails would be made in Sri Lanka, they would be designed in Newport, and that he himself would be on the case. Turns out, he was more right than he knew.

I ordered the sails in August, and they arrived in December. I could hardly wait to get them on the boat. The day comes to finally bend them on, and the first slide on the main (at the headstock) won't fit into the mast slot. It's a beautiful piece of bronze casting, but it's clearly too wide. I immediately send Coop an email, and he came down from Newport a day or two later (about a two hour drive), picked up the sail from the boat, and took it back to Newport to fix.

It just so happened that the Admiral and I were booked to go to Newport for a little anniversary jaunt that same week. Coop got the loft to allow my repair job to jump the line, and got the sail ready while we were still there. He bought us a drink at the Ida Lewis Yacht Club (sweet), and gave us the sail to take home. Now that's some rare customer service.

Unfortunately, when I tried to put the sail on a day or so later, the bronze slide, while now clearly narrow enough, was too fat as well. It seems that Quantum is having these kinds of problems rather often with stuff made in China these days.

I called Coop, who came down from Newport the next day, meeting me at the boat at 8 am. He brought a whole bunch of tools with him, and was able to grind down the offending slide to finally fit. After that, he helped me set up the reefing lines, as well as hoisting the new genny (not an inconsiderable task itself). All told, he spent about three hours with me, giving me more tips and tricks.

While I was frustrated with the quality of the slide Quantum used, I couldn't think of anything more Coop could have done to make it right. Bottom line: if you want the kind of customer service you would get from a local loft, you won't do much better than Quantum in Newport. But make sure they test the bronze slide first.
 

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I agree, you are not going to get that kind of service ordering sails online. These things can happen to any loft, it is how they handle the mistakes that makes the difference!

I can't say I have ever seen bronze slugs on a new sail! They are usually nylon or plastic.

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I have known Joe for decades.... I bought a bunch of sails from him when he was with the Hood sail loft. The customer support you describe mirrors my experience. I used a local close by UK loft for cleaning and repair and have bought one sail from them. If I were to buy new sails it would be from Joe. He is a great guy for many reasons.
 

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Hi,

Over my sailing career I have bought a bunch new sails (6) . All were bought from local lofts (UK Halsey on City Island, NY and from Doyle in Huntington NY). In each case the sailmaker came to my boat, measured my rig, and had the sails built to the specs of my boat. For each sail the sailmaker delivered the sail and installed the sail. In one case there was a problem with the sail slug size. In another there was some strange wear pattern in the new sail (like it had been sitting in the bag in the delivery van too long). In each case the sailmaker took the sail back to the loft, corrected the problem, and then came back and installed the sail.

I did pay more than a mail order place, but I really want local support and service. At the end of the season I take the sails back to the loft for inspection, cleaning, and service.

Barry
 

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We went with North for a new main and jib for Arcadia. Though the sails were made in Singapore, their office moved to the town next door, so all the details got spelled out ahead of time and everything got measured at least twice before the order was submitted. In our initial race of the season last week we finished 13 seconds behind the first place Swan 46. We'll get a better start next time and see if that makes a difference...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I can't say I have ever seen bronze slugs on a new sail! They are usually nylon or plastic.
It is only the topmost slide that is bronze; all the rest are nylon. The current schedule is for us to go sailing this Sunday for Father's Day; inaugural run for the new sails! The boat's been in the water for about a month, but I haven't had a chance to go out yet. It hasn't just been the hullaballou with the sails that's keeping me off the water; we're also getting ready to put our house on the market. We've lived here for almost thirty years, and the amount of crap we've accumulated is astounding. We've spent the past few weeks cleaning out closets, disposing of furniture, painting, fixing, etc. I keep telling my self it will all be worth it when we move into our new house that is a half a mile from the beach and about a mile and a half from the marina.
 

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I have no great experience but there seems a huge price difference, even among off shore lofts. One big loft (North?) makes all sails in Barbados, expensive. I just priced a staysail in St Martin, nearly twice another quote.

I bought my main from Rolly Tasker/National, not the cheapest but much cheaper than mosr and good service from Dirk. I ordered a staysail from him last night.
 

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A sail for cruising will last a long time.... consider any cost differences over the lifetime of the sail... it's not all that much. You want to deal with a local sailmaker who will measure, deliver and hoist the sails. If they go for a sail that would be a huge plus. I bought several sails from Coop who is living/working in RI. He came down to the boat in New Rochelle several times. <<< THAT is what I call service. Frankly I don't care where the sails are sewn as long as they are done to spec with the right materials, thread, hardware, details and so on. But I would want a local sailmaker who is responsible and accountable.
 

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This post makes me curious…

Are any sails made in the US, or do all “lofts” offshore construction of new sails?
Z Sails in Stamford CT makes their own afaik. For a long while it was cheaper to ship the materials to the Far East, have the work done there with less expensive labor, and ship them back. Quality control issues (as we see from the OP) could be tricky because of the distance, languages, many steps and many people involved. Higher shipping costs and delays may be changing that equation.
 

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It isn't reasonable to expect all sails to be made locally. Many of the higher tech sails require limited facilities for their production because of the technology used such as robotics, adjustable molds, tape and fiber laying machines, autoclaves, etc. These facilities are sited where labor and space make the most sense. For example, North only makes 3di sails in Nevada and Sri Lanka, with Nevada mostly being high end racing and super yacht sails. Quantum has a facility in South Africa where they make their molded and load-path sails. Other manufacturers like Doyle, Elvstrom, etc do similarly.

You actually don't want a local sailmaker doing this type of work. They just aren't qualified or have the facilities for it. These types of sails are becoming more common on typical cruiser boats and smaller local racing boats. Being built offshore doesn't mean much because there is still a local loft that measures, often times designs the sail, and is available for after sales service. The only part that isn't done locally is the raw manufacturing of the sail, which is inconsequential since the local loft is responsible for it either way.

Mark
 

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Hi,

What does it mean for the sails to be made in the USA?

There are many local sail lofts that will make a sale for you. They have yards and yards of dacron, cut it to the right shape and sew it together. They didn't make the sail material but they definitely made the sail.

For high tech sails it's more complicated.

If a local loft sends someone to measure the boat, and then they design the sail in the loft, but the sail is manufactured somewhere and sent to the loft, but the loft does the fine details like batten pockets, reef points and blocks, etc, where was the sail made?

Barry


This post makes me curious…

Are any sails made in the US, or do all “lofts” offshore construction of new sails?
 

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This post makes me curious…

Are any sails made in the US, or do all “lofts” offshore construction of new sails?
A friend of mine used to make sails in-house. He bought all the equipment from a long time local sailmaker and carried on the tradition. He had early sail design software, a cutting table and a plotter cutter to cut the panels. They built the entire sail in their loft. That was 20 years ago, and I still see his sails on local boats. The problem is, the cloth costs them more because they aren't buying in volume, floor space is limited because real estate is expensive, labor costs are high because he payed 1st world wages, and with the advent of online sail lofts people came to him expecting him to match the prices quoted by online lofts based in 3rd world countries.

He then aligned himself with a major sail loft, which gave him access to their much more advanced design software and better pricing on cloth and materials. For a while he uploaded designs and the cloth would be cut at another loft and shipped to his loft for assembly and finishing, then it transitioned to the sails being shipped with the panels sewn together and they did the finishing work. Eventually they were building the sails elsewhere and shipping the completed sails and the in-house work was purely repair and maintenance.

Eventually he decided that there just wasn't enough money in it, and shut down the operation.

I'm sure his story is similar to the fate of many independent sail lofts in 1st world countries.

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I know I have a contrarian opinion and very limited experience but in that experience I have been very disappointed with the sailmakers I have talked to over the past few years.

I have talked to a few and gotten a very wide range of opinions and advice. Some of it just plain wrong and perhaps slanted to relieve me from a few thousand spare dollars.

The PO bought a very nice main and Yankee. Not cheap stuff. The main was fine but thr Yankee was totally inappropriate for the boat. I went back to the loft and tried to chat about their thinking, why they did what they did, and they were VERY defensive "This is what we always do for the Caribbean." OK, but did you look at the boat? Apparently not, they completely ignored the original sail plan, that was a mistake.

The main had its own issues, a shrunken luff rope. I had the sail in at least 4 lofts for evaluation, only the last pointed out the problem and showed me how to identify it. But they said the luff could not be restored because of the way it was stitched and wanted to sell me a new very expensive main. I did order a new main, at half the cost, which works just fine. And the old main? Bored while awaiting a new main I decided to have a go at it myself, you can't break broke. Sure enough a liberal application of elbow grease and the luff relaxed 8". And it now sets a whole lot better.

I could go on with various stories. If you have a loft you like and trust then fine. Given my experience I will approach them cautiously and with skepticism.
 

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I know I have a contrarian opinion and very limited experience but in that experience I have been very disappointed with the sailmakers I have talked to over the past few years.

I have talked to a few and gotten a very wide range of opinions and advice. Some of it just plain wrong and perhaps slanted to relieve me from a few thousand spare dollars.

The PO bought a very nice main and Yankee. Not cheap stuff. The main was fine but thr Yankee was totally inappropriate for the boat. I went back to the loft and tried to chat about their thinking, why they did what they did, and they were VERY defensive "This is what we always do for the Caribbean." OK, but did you look at the boat? Apparently not, they completely ignored the original sail plan, that was a mistake.

The main had its own issues, a shrunken luff rope. I had the sail in at least 4 lofts for evaluation, only the last pointed out the problem and showed me how to identify it. But they said the luff could not be restored because of the way it was stitched and wanted to sell me a new very expensive main. I did order a new main, at half the cost, which works just fine. And the old main? Bored while awaiting a new main I decided to have a go at it myself, you can't break broke. Sure enough a liberal application of elbow grease and the luff relaxed 8". And it now sets a whole lot better.

I could go on with various stories. If you have a loft you like and trust then fine. Given my experience I will approach them cautiously and with skepticism.
I am sure many people can come up with stories like yours. Not all sailmakers are created equal. There are definitely sail makers I like, and sailmakers I won't deal with. What it comes down to is the level of service you get.

I choose to deal with North, because the head of their service department is a local racer that I have known for many years, and I always get great service from them at reasonable prices. I just bought my first new sail from them and I am very happy with it. It was expensive, but worth it.

My friend bought a racing headsail from one of the other big lofts in the area and was not happy with it. He was not happy with the shape. They took it back and recut it, but they were not able to fix it to his satisfaction. They ultimately said "it is what it is" and walked away from it. I happened to have just placed an order for a new spinnaker from that loft when that went down, so I canceled my order. When it came time to order a new headsail I got a quote from them, and it was a bit cheaper, but my friend's experience colored my opinion of them. The lower price wasn't worth the risk.

Contrast that to my friend's next purchase, a carbon genoa from North. It was a paneled sail and there was some flaws in how it was put together. To my eye it was a pretty nice sail, but my friend is far more particular than I. The North rep came down to the boat, went for a sail and listened to his complaints. Ultimately they agreed to take the sail back, give him a full refund, and then sold him a carbon 3Di sail at a deep discount.

THAT is customer service. And that is why I chose North for my next sail.

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Yes, and it was North thar supplied the misfit Yankee.

I strongly suspect it comes to the individual not the brand. Good rep, good product.
 

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Yes, and it was North thar supplied the misfit Yankee.

I strongly suspect it comes to the individual not the brand. Good rep, good product.
That is true. Who knows what the conversation was with the previous owner. Your boat is a bit more unusual too.

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Completely agree. Can't apply the same rule to all boats. I never met the PO, my sense is he was in way over his head, as I was.

I swear you could just see where she said "Me or this damn boat." The varish literally stopped mid stroke.
 

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About seven years ago I bought a new triradial genoa from the Dolye loft in Marblehead. They gave me two quotes, for a locally made sail and 40% less for the same sail made overseas. I bought the local sail, received it in a month and never regretted the cost.

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