You are a well known sail designer and the director of the Sailworks company. Please tell us about your passion for sailing and the design/development of high performance windsurfing sails.
I've been windsurfing for 26 years since my sophomore year (15 years old) in high school and been a sailmaker for 23 years. I grew up in Victoria, Canada and got hooked on high wind windsurfing very early. That was in the early 80's when windsurfing equipment was going through almost monthly design evolutions. It became apparent to me very early on that if I wanted the freedom to chase the wind I had to be employed in the sport. I started out selling and repairing windsurfing equipment, and that quickly lead to sailmaking. I've always had a passion for the technical aspects of the equipment. How it works, how it's made, and of course, how to make it better. There's a lot of satisfaction from taking the raw materials sailcloth, battens, a mast and making a three dimensional wing that you can go blasting across the water with. I also enjoy helping other windsurfers understand their gear better. My windsurfing background is rooted in highwind sailing. I've always been a speed merchant and a racer at heart. I raced on the pro windsurfing tour for a few years in the late 80's and early 90's. I still compete in our regional and national events.
In what way are your sails different compared to sails of other brands, regarding the sail design and characteristics?
I like power and lots of it from a sail. If you have excess power you can always tune it out. If the sail is not cut for high lift, then there's little the user can do to increase the power without reducing the rig tension, which causes huge stability problems. I've always been more interested in streamlining the drag effects of a very powerful sail, as opposed the making a low lift sail have ultra low drag. For the most part, windsurfing is about acceleration, so give me the power. I'm also a big fan of adjustability, or variable geometry, within a sail. An adjustable outhaul is an extremely valuable tuning aid. I've completely changed the way I design sails based upon the ability to change the shape and tension of the sail, while sailing, with the outhaul. Windsurfing sails are all about shape and tension. It's the quantity and quality of these two attributes that dictate performance. The rest is just fashion and marketing noise.
|:: sailworks loft in hood river :: (c) river-rippers.net|
The Sailworks R&D loft, your workplace is based in the high wind area of the Columbia River Gorge. What is so great about the location and why did you decide to move there?
I came here in 1983 for the wind, and stayed because of it. All the Gorge launches have side shore winds. Its easy windsurfing, but it can be extremely intense when it gets very windy. The prevailing summer winds (westerly) blow against the current so there's lots of reaching and it's easy to get up wind. Many launches have grassy rigging areas, and it fresh water too. Summer temperatures are 80-100 F (26-38C). It's a power sailors dream. In my early years here I travel in the winter months so I could sail all year round. Now I stay closer to home, but you can still sail most of the year here. In the past year, December was the only month I didn't get to sail in. Hood River is a vibrant small town. The area has many other outdoor activities to offer. It's cheap to live here compared to the cities. The schools are good. It's a great place to live.
What rigging and tuning secrets can you share?
Use a mast your sailmaker recommends. Take the time to understand the effects of outhaul and downhaul on the performance of the sail. Slowly pull and release the downhaul on your sail a dozen times and carefully watch the effect the downhaul tension has on the sail. If it doesn't feel right make a small change to correct the rig balance. Sail with better more experienced sailors and watch what they do. Use an adjustable outhaul system. Use a good fin.
What is your sail of choice and why?
Currently, my favorite setup is a Hucker 4.8 sail on a thin little Roberts 265 slalom board with a 30 cm Tectonics fin. This combo in the Gorge on a 25-35 knot day is wicked fast and supports amazing hang time for jumping. We get lots of days like that in the Gorge in the summer time. It's a whole different way to sail that what most Gorge windsurfers are into like speeding through a parking lot on some days.
|::bruce / flying high with the hucker :: (c) sailworks.com|
When, what and why was your best windsurfing day ever?
I had a couple of days last summer on the 4.8 Hucker that were unbelievable. Blasting around on a stretch of river between launch sites with no one around. Every jibe was a 10-G turn, hanging the longest floaty jumps I can remember, pedal to the floor the whole time and not falling for hours. Complete awareness and total control. Soul sailing at its best.
|:: Hucker 10/G turn :: (c) sailworks.com|
Your favorite playgrounds are??
The Gorge is a fantastic outdoor playground. You can windsurf, ski, kayak, fish, climb, mountain bike all right here. Its small town rural living, quite removed from urban life, yet still very economical. It's a great place to raise a family too. I've been to some other places that are fantastic windsurfing playgrounds. I spent three winters in Western Australia and sailing non-stop in a great variety of conditions.
|:: gorge at its best :: (c) sailworks.com|
About your life and your future?
I have lovely wife and two beautiful daughters to share my life with. My girls are learning to windsurf now, but I only help them with their own interest, not because I want them to be a windsurfing star. They like to help in the loft too and are learning to sew. I'm deeply involved in all aspects of my business. I like the financial side of business, not just my own, and have a keen interest in macro-economics. We live in interesting times given the debt level, fiscal leverage and global financial imbalances. Heavy stuff, but very fascinating.
|:: rigging :: (c) sailworks.com|