North Sails NEWS
FLAVIA TOMISELLI: SAIL DESIGN
Key Roles Played By Women Within The Leading Sailmaking Brand
Flavia Tomiselli is looking to make a big splash this coming season in the design world. Not only is she in the business of grand prix, she’s looking to break into the superyacht segment at our largest manufacturing facility in the world, as an up-and-coming sail designer.
As a teenager in Italy, Flavia got a taste of racing through a local summer camp. At the University in La Spezia, she studied ocean engineering surrounded by sailors. At 50 kilograms, her size makes her perfect for small one designs (420s, 29ers) and keelboats (Melges 24s, Este 24s, Melges 32s). Her weight helped earn her some pro racing opportunities early on, and now she combines a design-trained eye with sailing talent.
This year, Flavia will join Alegre for the TP52 Super Series. “I love racing. I learn more every time I get to sail. There is always a discussion about what could be better. It’s good for me to see what we do and how things work, both on and off the water. I try to be involved as much as possible in the performance debriefs, which helps me apply it to my every day at work.”
When North Sails expanded in Palma, Flavia was a superyacht project manager. After the expansion, Flavia joined the design team. For 2019, she’s excited to gain more experience with superyachts and grateful for the chance to be a part of such an excellent team.
Flavia works closely with Heine Sørensen, a Dane who’s designed North Sails for 18 years. “Heine comes to Palma once a month, and we are always making sure we are on top of the current projects. He has taught me a little bit of everything about sail design. I enjoy learning from him because he is calm and precise, and a great teacher. It’s nice to learn from someone who is so articulate because everything makes sense and has order. He’s got a ton of experience, working on superyachts for many years. He is my mentor; we’re having fun.”
“Flavia is very dedicated and easy to work with,” Heine says. “She is eager to learn and working with Future Fibres and Southern Spars has given her a wide range of technical knowledge within our industry. She is a keen sailor in the RC44 and TP52 too. She doesn’t say no to a good Italian lunch either, which we all are benefitting from!”
“I’ve always looked for a job that could allow me to keep sailing and that wasn’t going to work with engineering,” Flavia responds. “I like my job with North Sails because it allows me to do what I love, but still all ties together. One day we are fitting new sails, then measuring the boat, then we go out and see how the sails look.
“Designing sails isn’t just what you see on a computer screen. You see how the whole boat revolves around sail power which for me is the big picture. The two come hand in hand.”
This season, Flavia will be sailing on team Alegre with mainsail trimmer and North Expert Noel Drennan, and lead Sail Designer Kevin George.
“I learn from what I see on the boat,” she explains. “Being on the water helps me relate to North Design Suite back at the office. Applying all the little things discussed on the boat gives me a much better understanding of how to be better designing sails.
“Winning is always a great feeling,” she continues, “whether it’s a little regatta or world championship. When each team member is doing their job and doing it well, it helps create a positive atmosphere. In this level of sailing, a big part of our job is making sure the owner is happy, and that’s also the feeling of winning. Last year we placed third at the 52 Worlds and it was a great achievement.”
When asked about being one of only a few women in sail design, she replied; “I’ve never had any doubt that I could do the same work that a man could do, whether sailing competitively or designing sails. I knew that it was what I wanted to do and I managed to make it happen. I still work hard every day to get better.”
As a female sailor, Flavia has had unique sailing opportunities that have helped further her career.
“To excel you have to be confident,” she says. “For girls, it may be hard because we are not always the strongest physically, which could exclude women from many jobs onboard; that doesn’t mean there are not jobs that a woman would be perfect for.”
When Flavia isn’t learning about sail design or on the water racing, she focuses on building and maintaining the strength she first found as a gymnast. This year she’s added running to her workouts, including training for a marathon later this year. She also loves hiking, cycling, and rollerblading. “That’s one of the reasons why I moved here [to Palma],” she says. “During the winter it’s quiet and I can focus on various things to keep me in shape. Palma has excellent terrain for outdoor activity, so I easily keep myself busy year-round.”
Flavia starts training for the TP52 Super Series season later this month and is excited to get back on the water. “We worked hard last season and got better each time. I hope that we’ll be able to start from where we left off at the Worlds. This year I’ll be more prepared from a design standpoint, and can learn more about what I am looking at onboard.”
Flavia knows she’s in the right place. “The good thing about North is that you are surrounded by so much knowledge. Their technology is very advanced. There are many people within the company that specialize in all sorts of things. From small boats to superyachts, there is an expert that knows it well. Having advanced knowledge of sailing is what makes me proud to work for a company like North Sails.”
Her advice to girls trying to break in?
“Don’t ever give up,” she says. “Do what you like and keep doing it, stick to the plan, keep learning, and you’ll get where you want.”