At Park City Sailing, an Empty Boat is a Wasted Opportunity
In the Wasatch Mountain Range, the team at Park City Sailing has created a sailing haven, where people from all backgrounds, in all stages of life, have experiences and make memories on the water that stretch beyond the sport.
Park City generally brings to mind winter Olympic games, extreme snow sports, and high-end resorts, but nestled under the slopes of Deer Valley Ski Resort is the Jordanelle Reservoir, 6,200 feet above sea-level where Executive Director Scott VerMerris conducts socially impactful sailing programs from May to October. VerMerris studied human development and family studies and has an extensive background in alternative forms of education and therapy.
The adaptive program accommodates people of all abilities, adapting their fleet to handle sailors with visual impairment, amputation, cognition, autism, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment among others.
Similarly, the therapeutic program is a space for those whose impairments may not be visible to those around them. Park City Sailing is an innovator in the utilization of mindfulness as a component of the sailing experience. Participants include veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, struggling with addiction, children, and families supporting a family member with mental or chronic illness.
The idea began with Ken Block, former Vice President director of Park City Sailing. Block is retired now, but his passion for the programs is still a major part of his life, and he is involved with countless organizations that promote accessibility in sailing.
Block did not enter the sport of sailing in a typical way. He did not come from a family of sailors, but he knew he had an emotional connection to the sport, so he worked his way onto severalSwans competing offshore and eventually he campaigned 3 International Etchells.
Initially, Park City Sailing started as a Tuesday night around-the-cans Laser sailing, but with Block’s passion, it grew into the program it is today. A turning point was when the SEAS program in Sheboygan put out a notice that they were looking to donate their fleet of eight Elliot 6 Meters. Park City Sailing worked very hard to get the boats, calling upon now retired North Sails expert Tom McLaughlin to help them close the deal. McLaughlin was one of the program’s first and best volunteers.
“It’s a very positive experience,” says McLaughlin. “We did a lot of sailing with wounded warriors, special needs people of all ages, people with learning disabilities, and so on. To really see their sort of joy or freedom when they’re on the water was really heartening because a lot of these people were beaten down, or told they can’t do things. We put them behind the tiller and encouraged them, ‘you can do this!'” He continues, “the beauty of being on a big open lake is that you chart your own course. You go where you want to go. You don’t have to stay on a path, there is symbolic freedom in that.”
“Our way of introducing the boats to the community was a partnership with the National Ability Center based in Park City,” says Block. “They brought 24 wounded women warriors, to our program and we took them out sailing. The impact on us was palpable, that while sailing is a lot more than taking two turns off the lower to see if we can get a little more power to go through the lump on the next beat. We actually made a difference in people’s lives.”
Park City Sailing continued to strengthen its relationship with The National Ability Center to create their own programs. Those programs have grown into the current work done at Park City Sailing. The program works with groups and individuals, like Big Brother, Big Sister, to specific requests, like one terminal patient named George, whose final wish was to go sailing one last time.
When sailors ask about the program, Block says, “There’s a reason why you’re still sailing after 30, 40, in my case, 60 years.” And it’s not, ‘Hey, how can I induce a little bit more prebend today?’ No, that’s not what it’s all about. Something happened the first time you got on a sailboat that made you continue to get on a sailboat decade after decade.”
The stories that Scott VerMerris and Ken Block share about the sailors in the program are hopeful, powerful stories about inclusivity and the positive effect that participation in sport and being outside can have on our lives. One participant, Dani, had recently lost her husband to suicide when she went on the water with Park City Sailing. Dani started to open herself up to share her story and talk to others about her experience.
“I always have this limiting thing going on in my head and can’t fully have fun. For the first time, I completely let everything go and I was so happy and laughing and cackling and having the time of my life,” said Sarah of the experience.
Another is Shane, an improvised explosive device specialist in Afghanistan who was suffering from severe anxiety and PTSD, who shared after a day on the water, “Today, I found a place where I feel safe.” Now, Shane continues his recovery and has gone back to school to become a recreational therapist himself.
These benefits have strong enough data behind them that Block and VerMerris have co-authored two scientific papers on their experiences under the guidance of Dr. William Marchand of the Salt Lake VA hospital. on their experiences.They encourage other programs to expand their horizons to work with a more diverse audience.
VerMerris says, “We can all benefit from good mental health, and sailing can contribute to well being. We’ve become fascinated with the effects that combining mindfulness, meditation, being outdoors, learning about sailing, a new skill that involves physics, and nature, and science, and all these different things, as well as comradery, can treat post-traumatic stress disorder.”
“The more you spend time in a cockpit of a J/22 with three or four people in recovery, you’re like, “Wow, these are amazing stories,” says Block.
Tom McLaughlin, who was hired by Lowell North in 1967, and has been involved with countless high-performance programs, attests that his hours spend volunteering with Park City Sailing strengthened his love of the sport. “I will reach out and I’ll help others because it not only is it rewarding, but it regenerates your love for sailing. And I think no matter how good of a sailor you are, even on the professional level, if you don’t really love it, you’re not going to do it as well.
“When you sail, like for an America’s Cup program and you’re working six and a half days a week, and your focus is on incremental improvement. It’s easy to lose sight of the original joy that brought you into it. Volunteerism is something that allows you to work with people that have never been exposed to sailing or are struggling with real-life problems, and to see them leave those problems onshore and have some real joy, that takes the competitor and harkens back to that happy place. That gets you through another week of the grind of going out and sail testing and boat testing.”
Block makes himself a resource for those who want to share their time on the water, and encourages people in the sport to lean-in to adaptive inclusivity, even if they might feel uncomfortable at first.
VerMerris adds, “I think that’s why any member joins. It’s so that they can escape the stresses of whatever lives onshore and get out on the water as we all do. Our program also focuses specifically on how we can use our boats to offer people experiences that have different physical abilities, or different cognitive abilities, or the two combined.”
The team attests that starting a socially-impactful sailing program begins locally, partnering with groups like adaptive sports centers, any therapeutic treatment center, or their local VA.
“Be fearless in reaching out to the community,” says Block.
Sending instructors to US Sailing’s adaptive sailing course adds to their confidence levels. Block raises his hand to speak at as many events as he can, and also offers his personal cell phone number up as a resource (you can email us for it.)
The work done at Park City Sailing is proof that sailing is good for our well-being, giving participants transferable skills that relate when you get home and the stresses of real life. No matter the walk of life, we can all benefit from more time spent under sail.
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.