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North Sails NEWS
THEIS PALM TAMES THE DRAGON
Introducing Our New Class Leader
North Sails expert Theis Palm, has been appointed class leader for the Dragon. Theis has sailed on a lot of different boats in his 42 years as a sailmaker—including the Crown Prince of Denmark’s Farr 40 and his Dragon. He’s won eight world championships (Soling, Yngling, H-boat, Dragon, and 1/4 Ton), 3 Gold Cups (Dragon and Nordic Folkboat), two Europeans (Dragon and X-79), and 28 Danish Nationals in a whopping nine different classes. He feels lucky to sail almost exclusively in One designs.
“On a one design sailing day you sail one hundred percent of you time spend, but on a big boat you only sail forty percent and the rest of the time is organizing.”
He’s based out of the loft in Herlev, Denmark, less than half an hour northwest of Copenhagen, though he spends a lot of time traveling to regattas.
Palm began sailing in the Optimist in 1968, and moved on to other dinghies like Europe, Flipper and OK, before an opportunity to sail with double gold medalist Poul Richard Hoj Jensen led him to sail small keelboats. He was part of a medal-winning Danish Olympic training squad, and his team finished 3rd at the Pre-Olympics in 1995. He has been working as a sailmaker since 1977, and spend five years as Head coach for Danish Olympic Sailing Team up to the 2004 Olympics in Athen. He went to his first Dragon regatta in 1998.
“I like the Dragon because it’s a true three person boat. It was designed back in the 1920s, and it’s a very sensitive boat which makes it fun to sail. Many very good sailors sail the boat up to a high age, and that is great.”
He also enjoys the high level of competition. The annual Gold Cup has “between 10-15 boats that could win. There’s not many classes where you have so many boats that can win an event. There are many good sailors and a lot of professional sailors from Russia, England, Germany and United States.
“I had been helping some Russians teams and then they actually switched over to our brand. I am a little bit happy about that because they are pretty strong in the class at the moment, and most of them are using our sails. So that has been a good effort there.”
Palm enjoys sharing his expertise with other Dragon teams and also helping North’s design team fine-tune the sails. “I’ve been sailing a lot in my life, so I have a good feeling for how sails should look to be fast… and I started sailmaking when we made them 2D on the floor. Understanding that can help to transfer good designs into 3D is a Big advantage.”
Dragon class rules currently limit sail materials to woven cloth, which he says limits the design options to improve already fast sails.
“We have very nice shaped Dragon sails, so it’s hard to find another two to three percent in the sails. Maybe you find it in a very, very narrow wind range, but we build huge crossovers sails so you don’t take the wrong sail. We’ve been very conservative with designs, because we are hard to beat.”
His customers also appreciate design stability. “They know our product. I have sailors who order a new sail and say, ‘No changes please? Good, I can use same mark on my mainsheet. Don’t change anything because we are fast!’ We have a very good product line.”
Because development happens very slowly, Palm focuses “more on the service, or the tuning, or the setting on the boats, where you can move clients to be better. I like helping them to better understand what happens with the sails when you tune the rig. That’s why it’s so important to meet clients in the field.”
And Palm says North Sails will be ready to evolve when the class is ready.
“The company is really looking into the future all the time. 3Di on smaller keelboats is an outstanding product. I hope in the next five years we can convince many One Design class to change their class rules.”
Until then, Palm will keep learning new tricks and passing them along to other Dragon sailors. “There are so many things to trim on the boat and the rig, it really makes a difference even if you make very small changes.”
Interested in sails for your Dragon? Contact your local expert today.