DISCOVERING SRI LANKA
A Fresh Perspective
It’s not every day you get to see where your sails are made and we had heard a lot of good things about the loft so we’re quite excited to see it all. During our visit many things stood out giving us a fresh perspective on the manufacturing loft in Sri Lanka.
North Sails seek to manage everything in-house meaning the sheer scale of the operation immediately impressed us. But more than that, what really stood out was the combination of technology, skilled craftsmanship and quality control. Everything from sails for dinghies to large offshore racing yachts were being made with the same meticulous level of detail. Machines using bobbins of thread that took a week to set up weaved away, plotter machines precision-cut sail panels, yet more machines laminated cloth and carbon using hi-tech adhesive. At the top end, machines followed by a person suspended in the air laid out carbon on huge automated platforms modeled to replicate the exact shape of a sail.
Alongside the technology, each and every sail was being made with some element of human craft and skill. Spinnaker panels were laid together by ladies with an eye for precision, looking up and down the panel to determine where it needed to be laid before gently but confidently pressing it down. People sat in pits in the midst of huge platforms with sewing machines carefully stitching sails or sewing parts into them. Even top of the range carbon sails were hand finished by a professional with a pair of scissors and an eye for detail.
It was all carried out in a calm focused manner, people going about their jobs, knowing what they needed to do. Stopping to ask any Sri Lankan supervisor a question soon made you realise these people took pride in their job – quite often they would lose us as they leapt into intricate detail!
And then there was the quality control. Each sail is accompanied by a ‘ticket’, essentially a number of pages explaining the make-up of that individual sail, what needed to be done, what parts would accompany it and a list of checks to make sure it was delivered as it was designed. The name of the yacht was given and the sail’s destination – literally sails being made for the world!
As an owner of a set of North Sails sails, it really did give us the assurance that our sail had been made to a very high standard by a factory well equipped, by talented people and that it had all been quality checked. We now look at our sails with a different eye. On our sail is a little label that has the North Sail logo and states ‘Made in Sri Lanka’. It should read ‘Made with Pride in Sri Lanka’.
A loom sits loaded in Building 2 at North Sails in Sri Lanka. North Cloth takes up one of nine buildings at the North Sails complex in Sri Lanka. Dilki Kumari lays nylon spinnaker panels on a small-boat downwind sail in building eight.