North Sails earns trust from teams to power their engines above the deck
We don’t yet know which of three teams (Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, Ineos Team UK, and Emirates Team New Zealand) are going to win the 36th America’s Cup, but it’s easy to predict the winning sailmaker: North Sails. All three teams left competing have entrusted North to power their engine above the deck since before their first boats were built. And all three have North Sails designers embedded in their teams. As North Sails President Ken Read puts it, “It’s exciting to know that we are intimately involved with the three teams left standing and will be part of the team that ultimately hoists both the Prada Cup and the America’s Cup!”
One major reason for this fleet-wide dominance is the trust North has earned by reliably delivering fast sails—all while keeping each team’s proprietary design information secret. “We know how important security is for the design files,” explains Per Andersson, who runs the 3Di facility in Minden, NV, where all the America’s Cup sails are built. “The files are password-protected, and only two people here are granted access.” Even Per has to ask for special permission, which he only does if there’s a problem that needs his special expertise.
Another way that the North production team has earned trust is by fast, reliable, turnaround times. “We have a schedule for when the Cup teams will need sails,” Per continues. “But if anything goes wrong, we know we’ll have to do a quick turnaround. A few weeks ago, one of the teams called about a sail that was damaged in shipping. Twelve hours after I had the phone call, we had a new sail in production. We can react really quick to any issues.”
Besides password-protected design files and the occasional “panic order,” Per says the process for building 3Di America’s Cup sails is not much different from standard 3Di production. “We don’t have a select group of people who only build America’s Cup sails. Because it doesn’t matter what project it is—Superyacht, TP52, a club racer, or the America’s Cup—we’re sending the same quality product out the door.”
When asked if there’s anyone on his team he wants to call out in particular for such an impressive level of secrecy and quality control, Per shakes his head.
“We have 95 people here in Minden, and literally every single person has some kind of impact in producing these sails. No one specialist stands out. So instead I would give a shout-out to the complete Minden crew. They’re just running these orders through the system, and doing it in an exceptional way with a high-quality product coming out at the end. They also know the urgency to turn a sail around in no time, when that’s needed. But there’s no one person that is responsible for that—it’s the whole team.”