North Sails NEWS

Story Contributors: Guido Cavalazzi

North Sails designer, Guido Cavalazzi speaks about his involvement in the yacht Marga, recently awarded Restoration of the Year by Classic Boat Magazine, as voted by readers for the Classic Boat Awards 2016.

I love sailing boats like this and in particular, this boat. I have spent a lot of my sailing career working with modern boats including lots of Americas Cup teams – I was involved with different campaigns over 7 America’s Cups finishing with Luna Rossa in 2014 so this is very different, but a great project.

This boat has a very interesting history. When the owners bought it, it needed a lot of attention. The hull had a little house thing built on top of it, which was being lived in. It’s a very sleek boat – it was a metre boat of the first rule when the rigs were gaff riggers in the early 1900’s – and very beautiful. So imagine that hull with a little house thing on top – really horrible! But that was what it was, laying in the boatyard just outside of Rome when the owners bought it and decided to restore it.

They basically ripped everything off and started to make everything as it was originally. They did a lot of research into how it looked back then, the sail plan and everything. And now you just have to look at it to see that they did a very good job.

For lots of reasons, I actually only came on quite late in the project. I knew one of the owners, he was a friend of my son’s from his sailing days in Sardinia and also, I knew Enrico who was in charge of the restoration. He has restored lots of boats in Italy and I know him, as he is very involved in association of sailing yachts in Tuscany. Anyway, I made a presentation to the owners about the sails and what
I thought we could do for them and some time later they asked me to come and start working with the project. I think they liked the work we had done on the NY-40 one design, gaff-rigged boat, Chinook, and on a 15m Int’l, Mariska. I started talking to Enrico about the sail plan and we went on from there.

You have to remember about this boat, that there are no winches – everything has to be done by hand, it is all block and tackle and no mechanics. I actually also did some consultancy with them on the deck plan as I was familiar with what this sort of boat needed. The deck plan is also very closely linked to the sails as it matters a lot what the deck layout is when you are working with just rope and nothing mechanical!

When it came to making the sails it was very different to modern boats. The modern racing boats we design sails for are done using the technique of one molded piece (whether that be 3Di, 3DL etc) so there is no stretch at all. This delivers very good power but would not work for this sort of boat as everything stretches on this boat – the wood (the hull), the shrouds – everything is moving so we have to make the sails the same. It’s nice actually as I use Dacron for these sails – it is a technique and material that I used to use when I first started in sail making, when racing sails were made in Dacron, and I have now gone back to it. Dacron started as the material of choice for sailmaking but then moved on to being used in cruising sails as racing sails changed to Kevlar and then carbon. In this case, the spars bend and then affect the sail shape and we have to take that into account when we design these sails. In fact, we have to treat the stretch in these boats as part of the design rather than a problem. It’s a bit like the fact that when you sail against a strong tide you take that into account when you work out where you put the bow, you adjust your course a bit. It’s the same for this – we have to aim the shape in a substantially different direction to make sure that with all the stretch factors we end up where we want to be.

We delivered the sails in August 2015 and then the owners decided to go to Cannes to race. I went with them and to be honest we didn’t do that well, but that was really because we hadn’t done it before and we were all just learning about how to sail the boat. They are now planning for the 2016 season, which is really like the first racing season for this boat. The boat will go to Antibes for the start of the Panerai series and I am very happy they have asked me to sail with them and do again the mainsail. Like I said at the beginning I really like sailing this boat. Most Classic boats owners have a very nice attitude towards their boat – they don’t really see themselves as owners but instead custodians. Its like the well being of the boat has been assigned to them for a certain period and then it will be passed on to be sailed by someone else and in the meantime it is their duty to make it nice. It is like a 1700 Stradivari violin – its life will go on after you have used it, you would never throw it away. It’s just like that. In modern sailing and modern boats there is not that same feeling so it is very nice to be involved with a project like this.

Guido Cavalazzi has been with North Sails for nearly 40 years, the majority of which he spent designing sails. He designed 11 sails for Classic Yacht Marga including a Gaff Mainsail and a Delivery Main (Bermudian), a Jack Yard Top sail, Working Top Sail, Jib and Jib Top, Staysail, Light Reaching Staysail, Yankee, Medium Asymmetrical runner, and a Heavy Asymmetrical reacher. The upwind sails are all made of North Sails NPC COASTAL dacron product and NPC DOWNWIND were used for the runner and reacher. 

Image credits: © James Robinson Taylor