Steve Calder Brings Years of Sail Design Experience and a Passion for Kiting to a New Project
It wasn’t flashy imagery or action sports videos that got Steve Calder, North Sails designer, interested in kiting. His love for the sport began when his son decided he wasn’t interested in sailing optis while the family was in Valencia, Spain working on America’s Cup. A couple of months later back in Delray Beach, Florida, Kai Calder, Steve’s son, called his dad down to the beach where he and some friends had a trainer kite set up.
That Christmas, Kai was fully outfitted with all the gear needed to start his kiting career. He said, “come on Dad. It’s just water, it’s wind. It’s all the stuff you do. But it’s something that I like doing and it’s kind of an expressive sport.” As a result, Calder was hooked on the sport too. Kai is now a professional foil racer on the Pro World Tour, taking after his dad developing and innovating new gear for the sport he loves.
Steve Calder is one of the most lauded designers at North Sails, starting as a great sailor, winning a Bronze medal for Canada in the Soling class at the 84’ Olympics, and upwards from there. He has designed for programs like BMW Oracle Racing, Artemis, Ericsson, Puma Ocean Racing, and Rambler; and was instrumental in the development and the continued development of the Helix Structured Luff system. Calder has seen North Sails through many iterations of America’s Cup sails, as the rule has evolved. Calder is the pinnacle of sail design at North Sails, designing, engineering, and putting forth revolutionary products applied to the boats that are the highest caliber in the sport.
He’s one of the lead designers that the North Sails Design team turns to for guidance in solving design challenges. The company looks to Calder to help guide them in aerodynamic and structural solutions for Grand Prix products and Grand Prix customers.
“The goal of a sailmaker is to provide the best aerodynamics solution for a set of objectives,” says JB Braun, Director of Design and Engineering at North Sails. “Steve’s love of creating faster sail designs has driven him to the top of the sport of sailing. He gets intimately involved with the structure of the sails. He’s exploring new ways of working with materials, like 3Di to refine sail structure. You give him a challenge and he’s right in it, making sure that the design satisfies the customer’s goals.”
Calder uses the North Design Suite for designing top end, leading-edge solutions for race boats. The sophisticated, proprietary software, allows North designers to push the boundaries of sail design and be confident in the results. Calder is combining the North Sails foundation of data-driven design with his own intuition, as a kiteboarder, and applying it to the kites to help innovate and create the next generation.
Taking on a kite design project was an exciting and very different challenge for the designer, what he brings to the table here is his ability to innovate and apply his aero expertise that can be prototyped and applied to kite designs.
Calder began working with sailmaker Dave Little and the North Kiteboarding chief designer, Pat Goodman, who is an industry authority on kite design and innovation. Goodman’s ability to understand and translate rider requirements into high-performance kite designs puts him among the world’s most awarded, respected, and successful kite designers.
The team, combining their respective skills and knowledge, have found it fascinating to brainstorm and push the envelope with kite design and its applicability across a wider audience. Starting from scratch and having the opportunity to work with Pat Goodman is a dream in some ways for Calder. Goodman is known for being the guru of kite design, in the same way that Calder is with sails, he is able to fly a kite and sense what can be streamlined to make the product better.
“It just kind of kept moving on from there.” Says Calder, “North Kiteboarding hired Dave to do further explore the development for the kites. And we became a team, I wanted to be involved. We built several prototypes and put them to the test. Some of the impetus for the 2021 launch of the new North kites was a result of our collective work. Dave and I gave some input to that process.”
Pat Goodman says, “it’s so nice to have that opportunity to bring together the North Sails design and material development expertise into the mix. A modern day dream team working towards the goal of crafting a perfect kite.”
“The core aerodynamic principles are the same,” says Calder, “it’s all, lift and drag. Having an idea and appreciation for how a kite or wind wing behaves and what the requirements are to build a good wing are the first principles of aerodynamics. In a way, it’s similar to designing sails but in other ways, it’s brand new. You can make a kite that’s too stiff, right. And oftentimes with sails, you can’t make a sail stiff enough. With kiting there are all sorts of design acumen that you would have that doesn’t relate really to sails at all because the kites behave in an entirely different way.”
Calder says that for most kiters, choosing a kite is all about the feel, whether they understand the physics or not, a concept that translates easily for sailors who are interested in getting into the sport. If you can find the groove in a sailboat, you can likely tell the difference between a well-designed kite and a lemon.
There is an opportunity to set a higher design benchmark in the kite industry and Pat Goodman is at the peak. “Goodman has basically spent a lifetime designing kites. As much as I’ve spent my life devoted to sailboats and performance sailing,” says Calder, “I can get on any boat and I can look up and tell what will improve the performance of that boat, whether it’s the boat, the sails, or the rig. Goodman can do that with a kite.”
Most sailors will find that kiting augments their sailing experience, as the basic principles are very similar. Pulling down on the bar is similar to pulling in the mainsheet. Making adjustments to the center lines on a kite is similar to tuning the check stays on a sailboat.
In Calder’s words, “that’s changing the entry angle of the kite. As you pull down, you power the kite, you pull the entry angle down, so you basically release the trailing edge. By doing so, the more you open it up, you’ll notice that the kite’s going to luff, and you’re de-powering the kite. Like when you ease your check stay on a sailboat, the sail gets flatter, and therefore you can sheet it harder.”
In a way, when kiting, your body takes the place of the boat. If you are sailing upwind, and the boat gets a puff, everyone feels it and hikes a little harder. The helmsman makes an adjustment. Kiting makes you more attuned to the wind and allows you to take immediate advantage of that puff, instantaneously, you can edge up and gain speed. There is nothing between you and the power of the kite.
“The feel is amazing.” Says Calder, “if a teammate is sitting on the rail sailing with us and leans over and asks, ‘Hey, what about kiting? You’re really into that. What do you think about it?’ I tell them, the first time I jumped on a laser as a kid, all I wanted to do was pull the centerboard up and just go planing around because it was really fun. The boat was fast, the water was flying everywhere. Anytime the conditions are conducive to kite, it’s the starting point for kiting. And it only gets better from there…”
World’s Leading Sailmaker continues its support of the Fast Growing, Owner Driver One Design Class
North Sails is proud to have worked closely with the Cape 31 Class since launching the first boat in 2017, developing the optimal sail wardrobe for One Design and IRC racing. The Cape 31 is a high-performance grand prix design, asymmetric boat designed by internationally renowned yacht designer Mark Mills. The boat has proven itself as an exhilarating one design boat that planes downwind in over 13 knots and rates well under multiple rating systems, making it attractive to many sailors.
The Cape 31 Class began racing beneath Table Mountain in Cape Town, SA but has taken the global sailing scene by storm in the last two years. With over 30 boats racing in the UK and several heading to the US, the Mediterranean, and Hong Kong, there are now worldwide class calendars forming for 2023 and beyond.
David Lenz, North Sails designer, notes;
“It’s awesome to have been involved with the Cape 31 class in the UK since the start. Picking up from the excellent work done in Cape Town, we had a great starting point for the sail designs. Since then, as with any new class, there has been tremendous progress as we work to understand what makes these boats go fast and how to use our technology, experience, and passion to produce the fastest sails in the fleet.”
David Lenz is not only a Cape 31 designer but has also been very successful racing in the class, including winning the 2022 Race Circuit overall on Russel Paters’ Squirt. Additionally, the class is filled with North Sails designers and experts, which results in theories being tested firsthand with developments and advancements being made weekly.
Commenting on the partnership, Tor Tomlinson Cheney, of Cape 31 Class, shares;
“North Sails has worked closely with the class since its inception and has been a major factor in the success of the class in the UK. Their support is invaluable, and we are pleased to extend our partnership with North Sails to an International level.”
The North Sails Cape 31 inventory is fully optimised for handicap and one design class racing and consists of one all-purpose 3Di Raw Carbon Square Top Mainsail and three 3Di Raw Helix Jibs. All 3Di sails have carbon leech battens and come ready to race. Downwind there are four spinnakers which all use a string drop system: an A1, A2, and A4 for running, plus an A3 for reaching.
As the class expands globally, North Sails is working to ensure that the best sail package can be provided to teams worldwide. Get in touch with North Sails expert Ben Saxton, Cape 31 class leader at North Sails, to learn more about the class and available sail options.
RUARIDH WRIGHT WINS INAUGURAL RICHMOND AWARD
North Sails introduced this award in memory of Sam Richmond, who passed away in 2022 after a tragic yachting accident
Ruaridh Wright, based at our Gosport, UK loft, is the recipient of the inaugural Richmond Award. North Sails introduced this award in memory of our friend and colleague Sam Richmond, who passed away in 2022 after a tragic yachting accident. The Richmond Award is peer-nominated and given in Sam’s honor to a North Sails employee under 35 who exudes many of the same traits as Sam.
Wright was selected for this year’s award from 42 candidates.
The selection committee included North Sails CEO Richard Lott, President Ken Read, COO John Welch, Grand Prix Leader Paul Westlake, and Sam’s wife, Colette Richmond.
North Sails COO John Welch commented:
“For those lucky to work alongside him, Sam was the best of North Sails and an example of confidence and leadership in the loft and his community. He spotted Ruaridh early in his career and brought him into our sales team.
Ruaridh always goes beyond expectations to help out customers and colleagues alike, whether it’s working through the night to repair a sail or driving across the country to a yacht club. He’s been a fantastic addition to the NSUK team. and it seemed fitting that the first recipient of the award had close ties to Sam.”
Colette Richmond on the meaning of this award and Sam’s legacy:
“Sam was immensely proud to work for North Sails, and whilst he had earned his achievements through hard work, he was grateful to the role models and mentors who had supported him throughout his career. Sam found it highly fulfilling to do the same for others and motivate those around him. He thrived off other people’s energy in all areas of his life. It was these supportive and aspirational characteristics that were reflected in Ruaridh’s nominations that made him stand out to me.
I hope the Richmond Award continues to inspire the younger employees of the business as Sam would have done and maintains his legacy of championing others. I found all the nominees extremely impressive and think Ruaridh is a worthy winner. ”
Ruaridh Wright’s passion for sailing began at age seven when he first raced with his dad on a Swan 44 in Largs, Scotland. He has since gained valuable experience from Sydney Harbour and San Francisco Bay to his current home on the Solent. Wright joined North Sails in 2018 after graduating with a degree in Naval Architecture. He started as a Laser Plotter Operator and later moved onto the loft floor as a sailmaker, working in both Production and Service. In 2019, after a summer of professional sailing on TP52s, Fast 40s, and a Z86, Wright moved to Sydney, Australia to work as a Service Sailmaker at the busy North Sails loft in Mona Vale. Whilst out there, he also raced some noteworthy events onboard the JV62 Chinese Whisper, including a fifth overall in the Sydney to Hobart and Port Lincoln Race Week.
In 2021 Wright returned to North Sails Gosport as a sailmaker and by September he was asked by Sam Richmond to join the sales team. Wright is now focused on the club race segment and is very active in the Solent sailing community. Wright now manages the Performance 40 class and races in the Grand Prix 0 and Cape 31 classes. He also competes offshore in the RORC series as well as the Volvo 65 class.
Ruaridh Wright on the honor of being named winner of the 2023 Richmond Award:
“I am shocked and deeply grateful to receive the Richmond Award. Sam was someone who looked after me wherever I went. Whether I was working for North Sails in Gosport or Sydney or traveling around the world sailing on various boats, he always kept an eye on me. He encouraged me to throw myself at whatever challenge lay ahead. He brought me back into the Gosport loft as a sailmaker after the pandemic and eventually brought me into the sales team. I now find myself in a job that I love at the heart of a great company. In repayment, I hope that I have gone some way to emulate those good qualities Sam embodied.
I hope this award might encourage those eligible to win it and everyone within North Sails to continue to work with each other as a team. To compete with each other in the most positive way, and to push each other to be better than we were yesterday. Thank you to my colleagues for this nomination and the selection panel, especially Sam’s wife, Colette. This really is an honour.”
About The Richmond Award:
North Sails is proud to introduce the annual Richmond Award in memory of our friend and colleague Sam Richmond, who passed away after a tragic yachting accident. The award will be given annually to an under-thirty-five-year-old employee within any division of North Sails companies who showcases passion and expertise and has exceeded expectations. The Richmond Award highlights our brightest young stars who exude confidence, dedication, hard work, and leadership on or off the water- all of the attributes Sam carried with him.
North Superyacht Expert Quinny Houry reflects on a recent trip to Minden, Nevada, and reinforces why 3Di is light years ahead of the competition.
It’s a long way from Minden, Nevada to the Spanish island of Palma de Mallorca. “It’s a 26-hour flight,” Quinny Houry told me, when we talked about the trip from Palma to the western edge of North America’s Great Basin. They may be geographically far apart, but the two places are inextricably linked; Minden is home to North Sails’ 3Di manufacturing hub. And Palma is often cited as the center of the Superyacht world, a world being turned upside down by the landscape-altering sailmaking technology coming out of the Minden facility.
It’s something that Quinny Houry knows all about both as Director of North Sails Palma, and one of a small group that coordinates the North Sails Superyacht products. “I always knew that 3Di sails were good and I knew that molded technology was better, but I questioned how much better it was… And then the last four years have completely converted me to North Sails, by way of understanding the engineering, and the North Design Suite software that’s used by our sail designers. I already understood how far ahead it is compared to what other sailmakers can offer, but it wasn’t until I went to Minden and saw the molds and saw the process firsthand, that I understood that North Sails is lightyears ahead of the other guys. Our competitors have got a long way to go to get there.”
📸 Atilia Madrona / North Sails
Quinny started out rather more humbly, doing his apprenticeship in Portsmouth, on Britain’s south coast. He quickly rose through the ranks, working as a designer and head of production at lofts in Palma and then New Zealand. He returned to Palma to start his own business, eventually joining North Sails in 2018 when he merged his loft into the North Sails group.
The 3Di construction process starts when pre-preg 3Di tapes are taken from an industrial fridge. And at that moment the countdown begins, as the thermoset resin begins to cure. “I’ve watched it go from raw fiber to filaments to a molded composite, ready to go onto the curing floor, all in one day. The speed that the sail structure moves through the factory is the most surprising thing about building a 3Di sail,” commented Quinny.
The tapes are loaded into the tape heads, which track back and forth, printing the sail’s designed structure. The process blends the materials in a precise configuration that’s been engineered by the sail designer to match the loads in the sail.
“The utopia is to have every filament being load-bearing, with no weight that’s excess to what’s required – so no extra weight to hinder performance, and no unnecessary materials such as Mylar film that’s added solely to hold the structure together. When you go to the 3Di factory and you see the filaments being spread into the thin ply 3Di tape, you realize that each filament is being laid specifically to do a job and that there’s nothing else.”
After the sail’s structure has been created by the tape machines, the sail is inspected and then rolled up, for transport to the 3D mold. On the mold, infrared heat is applied to kick the chemical reaction to consolidate the composite structure and set the sail shape. The completed sail then sits for seven to ten days until it’s cured before moving over to the finishing floor.
“When it goes over the mold it gets vacuum bagged and cooked into the shape of the sail, and you realize that there’s no guesswork as there is with 2D sails… The shape we design is the shape that comes off the mold. The fiber is mapped to the modulus that you require, and the elasticity or the movement that you require, and the stability that you want to build up. And that’s where the software is incredible, it’s so refined about exactly what modulus is required in every part of the sail, and to calculate the angle of the tapes and the stiffness of the tapes, the resistance, elasticity,” explained Quinny.
The potential for the Minden facility to build every 3Di sail precisely to the needs of an individual sailor and their yacht has led to the introduction of a bespoke new Superyacht product. There are no longer categories for Superyacht 3Di sails that define cruising or racing sails, there is just North Sails 3DiSY. A custom sail that’s engineered to be exactly what the client and their yacht needs.
Quinny explained, “In this segment of the industry there isn’t a single part of a yacht that’s off-the-shelf. The sails should be the same, and so the 3DiSY product precisely matches the client’s requirements. A matrix of performance versus durability is created using the fiber blend and layout, the sail’s shape and the surface finish to match the client’s expectations. This is done with the client in a conversation that is unique in the sailmaking industry.
“The conversation starts with, ‘How do you want to sail your boat?’” explained Quinny. “Where do you want to sail it? What’s fun for you? What’s the most enjoyable part of the whole program of owning a Superyacht? Once we know that, we will make a sail to suit. We will make the best possible sails, defined by our team in discussion with the client’s team – their captain, their manager and all their decision-makers – and then we’ll make the sails that perfectly suit their needs.
“If you’re going to go cruising in Antarctica or the Arctic, then we’re going to have heavy duty surfaces that are highly durable, that weigh a lot more. We’re going to be putting a low modulus material in there to allow the sails a lot of elasticity, so it’s not transferring loads instantly to your boat and potentially pulling blocks off the deck.
“Or if you’re doing regattas, we’re going to use high modulus 3Di tapes. We’re going to create flat-backed sails. We’re going to create light surfaces. We’re going to do everything to transfer the load to your boat as fast as possible so that you accelerate as fast as possible. And that’s essentially what North Sails 3DiSY is – a conversation between the client and ourselves to determine and then produce the best possible sails for the yacht.” And all enabled by the unique 3Di manufacturing process tucked away in the Nevada desert. It’s a long way from the marinas and sail lofts of Palma and the Mediterranean, but going there and seeing it was, for Quinny Houry, believing.