North Sails go big in Europe

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North Sails go big in Europe

North Sails recently opened a new state-of-the-art sail-manufacturing loft in the historic UK south coast maritime hub of Gosport. With the expansion in Gosport, North Sails Group now produce sails in seven countries including the United States, Sri Lanka, Spain, France, Italy and New Zealand.

All of these production sites are wholly owned by North Sails Group. The facilities are centrally managed and scheduled, thereby operating with a single set of processes and procedures. While each site is unique, the work they produce is of a uniform standard. For example, a North TP52 jib made in the UK versus one made in New Zealand or Sri Lanka will be virtually indistinguishable. In addition to sail production, North Sails also own and operate their own cloth-manufacturing facilities in the US and Sri Lanka.

It’s changed a little since the original sails were made for the J/Class back in the 1930s. Laying down carbon fibres on a 3Di sail (below), a rotating machinist pit (above), the tracked machinist side-pits (top) and synchronised sewing (main picture)

The Gosport loft draws many manufacturing departments under the one roof: North Sails 3Di and Superyacht finishing, one-design sail production, European cloth and hardware distribution and North Certified Service. It is the first loft of its kind to specialise in Super - yacht sails. The Superyacht bay alone in the new facility boasts the largest free span, raised finishing floor in the world at 1,950m2. Once again pushing the boundaries of sail technology, innovation and manufacturing, this will be North Sails’ European flagship facility.

While continuing to design, manufacture and service sails for the company’s current customers in the UK, the new space allows for work on special projects and custom finishing – especially on larger projects – for all European markets. As North Sails’ European operations officer, John Welch, explains, ‘North Sails Gosport is a response to the ever-increasing size and demand for Superyacht sails and also delivers a healthy consolidation of many departments.

‘We are excited about the space that we now have and the opportunity to serve our clients with greater speed and efficiency. North Sails’ commitment to design and development is at the forefront, enabling us to keep pushing forward in all areas of sail manufacturing.’ In addition to the Gosport site, North Sails will continue to focus on strengthening their European network through increased sales support and expanded service capabilities.

Spanning two manufacturing bays, and housing UK design and sales staff, along with Europe group administration and accounting functions, the current 82 production and office personnel in Gosport benefit from proximity to global departments and the ability to see the final results of their work. ‘I'm proud of our end product, especially the Superyacht sails. It's nice to be a small part of something so inspiring,’ adds sailmaker Clym Arnold.

The new loft was designed to accommodate the world’s largest Superyacht sails – two J/Class headsails and one J/Class main can be laid out at the same time. The total sail area of Marie, an 180ft ketch, lies flat on the 1,950m2 raised surface with room to spare.

As with many North lofts, Gosport is equipped with the latest in sailmaking plant including a 3.2-ton overhead gantry, five rotating sewing machines and two travelling sewing machine tracks. The rotating machines assist in stitching large and hard-to-reach reinforcements without wrinkling or damaging the sail, whereas the travelling machines move atop a belt the full length of the finishing floor, stitching the luff or leech without moving the sail.

The majority of the machinery at North manufacturing lofts is designed and assembled by the company’s own in-house engineering team in Nevada, USA, to allow production teams to make and finish sails more efficiently than ever. In-house engineered custom equipment includes full-scale three-dimensional moulding tools, robotic deployment of structural materials, patented sailcloth weaving and laminating processes and the advanced stitching equipment described above.

‘Investment in the loft and the development of our processes has a positive effect on our total staff from top to bottom. Our new space encourages quality and attention to detail which are paramount at North Sails,’ said sailmaker Adrienne Fekets, who has been with the company since 2005.

Gosport is expected to produce up to 800 ‘larger’ sails each year on top of its already sizeable output of one-design sails. Combined with the production volume of lofts in the United States, Spain and Sri Lanka, and those with a more specialised focus in France, Italy and New Zealand, North Sails today deliver approximately 15,000 custom sails and 10,000 one-design sails every year…

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