North Sails NEWS
Story Contributors: Andrew Dove
BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE CARIBBEAN 600
Q + A With Andrew Dove, Manager Of North Sails Activities In Antigua
In anticipation of the 13th Edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 Race, we sat down with Andrew Dove, the manager of North Sails activities in Antigua to get a closer look at the preparation for this event from the loft manager’s perspective. Situated close to the docks, the loft is a gathering spot for crews from all over the world, and is the center of the excitement during the weeks leading up to the event.
What makes the “600” different? What is the “je ne sais quoi” of the race?
The 600 is a showcase of our beautiful islands. As the boats progress through the 600 mile-course, there are numerous challenges to keep it interesting: wind holes under islands and the currents running between them. In this race the navigator and tactician are especially vital to a team’s success as one wrong decision can be extremely costly.
For the Caribbean 600, both professional and amateur crews prepare in almost perfect conditions on the docks of English and Falmouth Harbour. There is a real buzz of energy about the village before the start. Then as the boats return, the whole community shares the stories that the crews have written during the regatta. It never gets old; even after 13 years, the buzz is still going strong.
Why is the 600 important to North Sails, and how is North Sails important to the race?
The North Sails loft [in Antigua] is an unofficial regatta HQ from morning to night every day and has been for years. The loft comes alive with this event, and crews gather here often late into the night. So many North colleagues from around the world are on-island with us, and we all fly the North Sails logo proudly and with enthusiasm. With such a diverse fleet on the water, racing in varied conditions, our many North Sails experts are ready to assist the teams in every way we can.
As customers have booked in, our team has managed to stay ahead with a seven-days-a-week schedule, basically since the New Year. And now, as the boats are in their final practice sessions, we are confident we will meet the expectations that our customers bring, and our sails will meet the demanding conditions. I have developed a strong team over many years, and we approach our work seriously, but always with an Antiguan smile.
In your opinion, what will be the essential sails during this race?
There is a reasonable amount of reaching in the course, and it becomes a real test of a sail’s durability. Our Helix Structured Luff Code and A Sails can make a huge difference here. Also, 3Di is invaluable because of its unique performance and durability. Many of the beats are challenging, with steep, choppy seas, so the powerful and stable 3Di headsails give any boat a cutting edge. The Caribbean 600 provides ideal conditions for us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and highlight the breadth and range of the North Sails products.
In a race like the TJV, many teams worked with the North Sails France team to design and build sails; the sailors then provide feedback to the designers once they returned to France. The Caribbean 600 is different, though, but equally important– do teams (ex Skorpios) give feedback to you upon their return to Antigua? How does the feedback loop work with you?
The Antiguan loft sees sails used in extreme conditions. The seas and wind are much more demanding than one would believe. So after each event and especially the 600, we can give feedback to the North designers regarding what we see coming through the loft and suggestions for improvements based on the conditions experienced. There is a wealth of knowledgeable feedback with so many experts on the water.
Previous 600s have helped to prove that 3Di is exceptionally durable, as I mentioned, and overall a vastly superior product. We do very few repairs on them, and when we do, the materials available ensure the sails remain structurally sound and visually neutral. We are looking forward to seeing the Helix sails in the race this year. However, we don’t expect to see too many in the loft for repair. In terms of performance and practicality, Helix sails are incredibly durable and versatile across a wide range, reducing the number of sails required. This race should prove a great testing ground to further the Helix Structured Luff design philosophy.
Why is it important for the top teams to have the most technologically advanced sails on the market?
In these regattas, the teams have a lot to manage. Not having to worry about sail structure or wondering if the sail will perform, plus having top notch service removes a lot of pressure on the teams. In addition, the boats equipped with North Sails have more time to focus on non-sail-related race preparation.