North Sails LOFT NEWS


A Look At Hugh Beaton’s Career With North Sails

Hugh 8M

Where to begin with a guy like Hugh. He’s a lifer in this industry, beginning his time like most during the summers at a local sail loft in Barrie. He learned the basics while on the service floor and consistently worked on the craft.  Hugh learned to sail in Barrie ON, where he worked with Lasers, 470s, Int 14’s and small keelboats.  

While attending University, Hugh learned to design and build spinnakers. He developed a passion for racing IOR throughout North America. Graduating from the University of Toronto, he soon joined a local sailmaker in Barrie, which sent him boat shows in Montreal and Toronto throughout the 80s. The stories are legendary and reveal the impact the industry can have on individuals even to this day. 

Hugh joined North Sails 1990, and was privileged to work with some great people in the Toronto office including; Hans Fogh, Steve Calder, Bruno Dubois, and Larry MacDonald.

Early in his career he was introduced to the International 8 Metre Class, which quickly became his class of choice. Hugh quickly found himself working with 40 teams from 12 different countries. The boats are beautiful to sail, and highly technical making them an ideal platform for North Sails’ range of design services and 3D manufacturing. Hugh has attended 21 World Championships, winning nine titles along the way. He shares, “It has been very rewarding to work with so many great sailors , and to develop products and tuning guides for the class.”

Hugh 8M

Aside from the 8 metres, Hugh enjoys distance racing on the Great Lakes, and cruising with his family in the North Channel area of Lake Huron. He is also a big outdoor enthusiast who loves the snow, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. When he’s not skiing, you can find him snowshoeing or working on his log cabin. His annual winter beard always signals the change of season for us in the loft. 

His knowledge is vast and one can’t help but learn from him. If he doesn’t know the answer then he’ll do his best to find out for you. More importantly though, he’ll show you how he got the answer to help give you the tools to do it yourself, and thus help sailors/customers in the future. A trait that is hard to come by these days. His philosophy of empowering youth, encouraging them to get involved in the industry and sport as a whole is admirable. He tries his best to create opportunities for youth and females in sailing, empowering them with knowledge and support, and most importantly encouraging them to get out on the water. 

His patience in teaching and mentoring new additions to the team is not only notable but also refreshing. It is something that is not seen a lot these days however it is something that is needed. It goes to show that if you invest in the individual, they will invest in you and the company. Fellow coworker and friend Bill Pearson echo’s this sentiment saying, “While I have known Hugh at some level for over 20 years, it is only in the last 20 months that we have worked closely together, and it has been a pleasure for me. Besides being a great salesman and mentor in Toronto for a good while now, he has also clearly proven himself to be an excellent manager, with a good collaborative style of leading.”


He is committed to helping the sport locally not because he works in the industry but because it’s the right thing to do; paying it forward to the next generation. A big supporter of weeknight racing and grassroots sailing, Hugh is always working behind the scenes to help drive more participants, encouraging more people to leave the dock. 

The bigger picture and North Sails role are always at the forefront of Hugh’s mind. Always finding a way to ensure we’re doing the best we can to support local sailing, not just racing. It is similar to how he approaches a new sail order or service repair. What role does this sail play in the wider inventory of the customer? Is this the best option based on their needs? What is the goal in 5 years? All these questions asked for a customer looking at a new sail or repair, are similarly pondered when deciding how to support sailing locally. A common phrase you’ll hear from Hugh is, “it’s the right thing to do.” A phrase that guides the loft in our actions on a day to day basis. 

Here’s the thing about Hugh. He is a good example of what happens when you take the time to invest in individuals that are new to the company and sport. Taking the time to show them how to measure boats/sails, giving them the tools + knowledge to talk to customers confidently and helping nurture their individuals strengths goes much further than most people realize. These individuals become invested in the industry, the craft and the company they work for; and they grow. The growth and skill development pays dividends, as we’ve seen many times at the Toronto loft. Beyond this, these individuals that Hugh helps mentor and guide are able to transfer those skills to other areas of their lives and businesses. Harmony, past team member at North Sails Toronto, shares her memories of working with Hugh and the impact he had on her. 

I had the pleasure of working with Hugh for roughly 5 years during a very important transitional time in my life. I wasn’t sure which direction I was heading in my professional career, and logically took a breather to sail and work with some great people. Little did I realize at the time, however the experiences and friendships gained at North Sails have stayed near and dear to my heart for the past 10 years. I am extremely grateful that Hugh trusted in me, while giving me the opportunity to learn the intricate details of running a multifaceted business. What I was able to learn under the influence and direction of Hugh, has served me very well in my own expanding business. And much to my current employee’s annoyance, I have carried many of these lessons with me and even a few of the North Sails SOPs! When it was time for me to leave as I had my first baby, Hugh and the North Sails team were like an extended family to me. Hugh made sure I left with a memorable departure package including my little piece of Canadian history, a beautiful Hudson’s Bay blanket. I have remained in touch with Hugh for 10 years. And I know we will remain friends for another 10! Congratulations Hugh! You deserve an exceptional celebration!”

Hugh 8M

Another fellow team member Doug Folsetter shares his own memory of Hugh when he was beginning his career. Doug recalls, “He probably doesn’t remember but I first met Hugh around 1990 or 1991 when he came down to measure sails for a new International 14 build that I was part of.  Although it was a small project, I recall Hugh spending a lot of time to get the details right.  He spoke knowledgeably about Asymmetrical sails which were quite new to us.  It’s likely that he hadn’t sold many by that time but he knew more than we did (or at least told us he did) and the sails were a big leap forward compared to the previous generation.  

Fast forward to a few years ago when I was foisted upon North and Hugh as part of a merger.  Since I joined North Hugh has been nothing but accommodating.  As a natural teacher, he has no hesitation to spend time (especially if you catch him in the car when he’s stuck in traffic on the way home to Barrie) passing down his vast knowledge for the purpose of building a better sail for the customer.  Since getting to know Hugh, both my taste in scotch and knowledge of chainsaws has increased dramatically. North is lucky to have him and I’m lucky to work with him.  Congratulations on 30 years!”

Needless to say, we all have our own “Hugh” story that reflects his patience, knowledge and passion for sailing. From all of us at North Sails, Thank You!

Hugh 8M



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