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North Sails LOFT NEWS
Story Contributors: Nigel Young
A SAIL MAKING FAIRYTALE!
New Sails for Darragh McCormack Help Him Win the Mermaid Nationals
On the 19th June 2018 an email landed into my inbox from Darragh McCormack making an enquiry about Mermaid sails. I have been corresponding with Darragh since 2014 but in most cases, we talked about the J/24 rather than the Mermaid. This time things were going to change.
North Sails have been involved in the Mermaid for a number of years now and have enjoyed Nationals winning success with Paddy Dillon and several other teams have done well with our sails but we never really took much market share even after those Nationals win.
When Darragh got it touch, my initial feeling was he would just be checking out prices and getting a feel for what we might be doing in the class. Not for one moment did I think he wanted to order and do a total re-design on the Mainsail and Jib and take delivery in advance of the Nationals that were only 5-6 weeks away! After a chat on the phone I quickly got the impression that Darragh was keen to try North Sails, so I jumped in the van the very next evening and drove to Foynes YC to go for a sail.
Darragh had some very strong feelings about the changes he wanted to make to the standard North Sails and of course specifically to fit his mast set up. On arriving in FYC that night, we looked at several sails on Darragh’s mast on shore and then took to the water. We flew more sails, took pictures of the sails in flight and I got a feel for the boat and the sail shapes. It has always been an eye-opener to sail with a new team and in the sport of sailing there are many ways to make a boat go fast! Armed with about 50 pictures, notes, measurements and my own thoughts about the
project, I headed home with an order for twelve sails… yes, twelve and they were all wanted for the Nationals!
July is one of the busiest months in the sail making world and we had to re-design the sails, make sure everything was perfect and then have the sails built in our Sri Lanka facility and shipped to Ireland! Quite a tall order but the enthusiasm from Darragh was infectious so I decided to give it our best shot. Fortunately, I was able work with Ruairidh Scott our One Design design expert in the UK, and very quickly and he worked his magic on the designs and we got everything boxed off in record time. The delivery dates were set and in theory with no shipping hold ups Darragh’s new sails would arrive just in time for the warm-up regatta the weekend before in Skerries and the rest of the order would arrive on a just in time basis for the main event, fingers crossed!
Like all the best-laid plans they do not always pan out perfectly! A slight shipping delay meant the sails for Darragh arrived a day late and he missed his chance to use the sails in Skerries. I was away at the time racing in the Dragon Gold Cup which was only adding to the stress of the sails being late! As it turned out, that was a windy regatta so I am not sure the sails would have been used anyway.
I landed home on the Monday and drove half-way to Foynes to meet Darragh and hand over the sails. I was off again the following day to Lake Garda for the Melges 24 Europeans so I could not even check out the sails with Darragh. Thank goodness for his confidence in us! He took the sails and spent the next two evenings ahead of the Nationals making sure everything was OK, sorting out the new Jib lead locations and wire heights.
I was phoning from Lake Garda every second minute like an expectant Father waiting to hear about the new-born Mermaid sails! Like all good Fairy tales this one also has a very happy ending! The sails fitted well and more importantly proved to be very quick on their first outing. Oh, I almost forgot to say…. The other nine sails arrived the day of the practice race as well. Too tight for comfort especially as I was not about to help fit them all, which is something we always try to do here at North with a brand-new design. Fortunately, all was well and everyone got their new sails on time but only just. From conception to water in only thirty-three working days after taking the order! I think I might have lost a bit more hair during those days! Darragh went on to sail an amazing series at his home yacht club and took the overall Nationals to win in fine style, including winning the very first race the new sails were used in. I have to say, a wave of relief came over me when I heard the news after day one of the Nationals, the sails are FAST, that was all I wanted to hear!
Congratulations to Darragh and his crew of Mark McCormack and Johnny Dillon, a helm is only ever as good as his crew on this occasion the teamwork was exceptional to lift the Nationals trophy for the first time. North Sails Ireland were delighted to play a small part in this success and we wish Darragh and his crew and all the other North clients in the Mermaid class all the best for 2019.
For more information about the sails please do not hesitate to contact us.