By Managing Editor
Paul Jeffery Heyse
Sailmaker Doug Christie
Of Halsey-Lidgard Seattle, Wa
The Gaff Rig; Doug can you tell our readers
a little about yourself and the reasons you became a Sailmaker
and designer of sails.
Doug Christie; I have
been sailing since I was eight years old and through my teens
spent a lot of time coastal cruising. I started racing keelboats
seriously again in my early twenties and felt spending time in
a sail loft would be beneficial to learning more about sails
and trim. In 1974 I went along to Lidgard Sails for a job and
was hooked. Being able to follow a passion and make a living
seemed to make sense.
I found I was more interested in the
challenge of design than the day to day construction so I moved
into mostly designing. At the same time I pursued a very active
sailing career (still do) including ocean races such as Sydney-Hobart
and the like. Racing taught me a lot about shapes, and racing
offshore I learned what it takes to put a sail together that
will survive being pushed to it's limits. With delivery trips
and the odd jaunt around New Zealand and places like Baja, I
accumulated a lot of knowledge about all aspects of sailing and
how to apply it to Sailmaking and Design.
The Gaff Rig; Most
of our readers are home builders of gaff rigged sailboats. Would
you give us some of your thoughts on the merits of such a sail
Doug Christie; The
first thing that comes to mind is traditional beauty. Unfortunately
detractors of the Gaff rig make comparisons in efficiency with
modern rigs and I really do not look at things that way. It is
about aesthetics. It is about shiny wood spars and traditional
boats that are a part of our sailing heritage. There are of course
some practicalities to the rig as well that came from the technology
of the day. The gaff is a clever way of increasing controlable
sail area very simply. Reaching and running I doubt if any rig
is more efficient. If you look at some of the modern full batten
rigs are they not after all just hi-tech gaff rigs. We built
sails for a 55', high speed, water ballasted, carbon fibre, cruiser
here in Seattle. The head of the sail is supported by an Aluminum
Spar (read Gaff).
The Gaff Rig; Now something
about Sailmaking. How do you go about designing a new sail or
suit of sails for a new customer. Say one of our members Weekender
Doug Christie; The
first thing to consider is what the customer will be doing. Fair
weather day sailing, extended adventures in inclement weather?
are the durability considerations? Answering these questions
allows me to consider different fabric types and construction.
From there I take extensive measurements on board preferably
with the client there, to ensure correct fit
and again determine what custom features they may need. Clew
heights for visibility and head room are examples of this. I
already have a large library of computer designs to pick from
so I run the
dimensions through some molds in my 3D system to see what is
suitable. After the appropriate "tweaking" I settle
on a modified mold that I am happy with. Another module of the
program is then opened to Panel the sail in the configuration
best suited to reducing cloth stretch. These panels, including
all corner reinforcing, are then nested in another program before
being exported to the computer that runs our Plotter Cutter.
The Gaff Rig: Well
computer designing a sail seems to be the best way togo. What
feel is it's best advantage.
Doug Christie; Firstly
the computer design system allows for accurate reproduction of
shapes without losing the artistic side of the design process.
This means a better shaped sail for each customer. The other
advantage which works for both the customer and the Sailmaker
is the efficiency which helps control costs with an improvement
The Gaff Rig;
Now that the designing is done what happens next.
Doug Christie; The
panels are cut on the plotter cutter, assembled first with high
tack adhesive tape so fairness can be checked, and then sewn
in a fairly traditional manner. Zig Zag stitching has been replaced
by the newer three step machines which adds some strength. The
rest of the work is standard sailmaking. Tapes/tabling and reinforcing
are added then the final handwork is done to tidy up.
The Gaff Rig; There
are many different materials now available for Sailmaking. Can
our readers some idea of the differences between these materials
and what sails they are used to make.
Doug Christie; Yes
fabrics have come a long way over the years. There is now a huge
from which to choose from from several manufacturers and
they are all good. I use different manufacturers for different
applications and have really fine tuned the selection process.
Dacron tm is still the cloth of choice where performance is not
the priority. It is incredibly durable and is available in many
styles of weave and weight. 17 oz is the heaviest available.
This is used in traditional large sailing vessels such as tall
ships. There are still some coloured fabrics available such as
Tan and Cream to add a touch of the traditional look. They are
an added expense but really look sharp in some applications.
The larger and more performance oriented
Cruising Yachts are also using laminated fabrics that use Spectra
tm fiber as the primary load bearing yarns. Spectra has excellent
low stretch properties along with high fatigue strength. The
racing boats these days use a Myriad of Laminates with as many
different fiber arrays as there are boats it seems. Because of
this our Mystic Conn. loft has led the way in cloth testing technology.
We have our own Instron tester and a very advanced form of analysis
to test cloth to tolerances that even some cloth manufacturers
cannot match. The correct
fabric selection can produce dramatic results in the performance
of a given sail.
With sailboats getting more and more
extreme there is a need for even more advanced forms of cloth
manufacturing. Cuben Fibre is an example of this. Both our New
Zealand and Mystic lofts worked closely with the Cuben Fibre
Corporation in the development of sails for the Mega Cats competing
in "The Race". It is a custom fabric originally developed
for America3 the America's
The Gaff Rig; Wow that's
a lot of different sails and materials. Which do you feel is
the best all round choice for small sail boats.
Doug Christie; You
cannot go too far past Dacron unless winning races is the primary
The Gaff Rig; Well
computers and plotters sure have made a difference in sail making
today. What do you think is going to be the next break through
in sailmaking as a business.
Doug Christie; While
most Sailmakers are focusing on trying to align threadlines with
my knowledge of Stress Analysis tells me that it is only part
of the story. There is only so much that can be achieved with
thread alignment. Sails are just too dynamic
for a single "one size fits all" solution. Breakthroughs
in Sailmaking have generally followed on the heels of the discovery
Fibres or Films not how they are constructed into cloth. Cuben
Fiber may be the only true example of a breakthrough in recent
years and I believe it is over ten years old in concept.
I believe what we really need is a totally
new material. Call it Unobtanium, this magic material will have
ultimate tensile strength and yet not be brittle. It will be
soft as Dacron to the hand and will resist UV and other forms
of deterioration. Perhaps it will be available in a liquid that
truly be molded into shape. It will change its structural makeup
as different loads are applied to resist stretch in all directions
Ultimately I would like to see the Cruising
sail and the Racing Sail finally be one. We are close, but not
there yet, no matter what Madison Avenue tells you. Until this
day arrives we are working hard with cloth manufacturers, software
engineers and production experts to improve wherever we can.
The Gaff Rig; Being
a long time racing sailor are there any tips you can give our
readers to help them sail their boats better.
Doug Christie; That
is a big subject. Look after your boat. Be proud of it , keep
Maintenance, TLC whatever you like, sets the stage for the better
sailing experience. Once you and your boat are on the same page
it will sail better for you. I am serious . New sails, hardware
and clean smooth bottoms suddenly make a boat come alive. On
the water, concentrate, even make notes on wind conditions sails
settings, angle of heel, fore and aft trim. Last but not least
sail as often as you can.
The Gaff Rig; Well
we would like to thank you for being so gracious for doing this
interview, but before we let you go can you give us your thoughts
on the America's Cup and who you feel are the front runners to
be in the finals.
Doug Christie; I appreciate
the opportunity. Hmmm the America's Cup. Bit of a tough one.
have good mates in a couple of very good contenders and the defenders
so I have to be a bit careful. Lets say the Kiwi's are the favorites
then Oracle and One World duking it out to Challenge. And the
Halsey Lidgard Sailmakers
3507 Evanston Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98103.
PH (206) 632-2609
FX (206) 632-2613
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