Home Town: Pasadena, California
Current Residence: Honolulu, Hawaii
How did you get into the sailing industry?
I did a fair amount of sailing growing up in California, cruising off the coast of Santa Barbara and to Catalina Island and so on with my family. I ended up in Hawaii through the TransPac regatta. One race I went over and simply didn’t go back. At one time I was offered to do a delivery of a boat back to the west coast but turned it down, that was a defining moment for me in deciding to stay here.
When I got to Hawaii I was looking for work and there weren’t a whole lot of options for me if I wanted to stay with sailing. At one point it was either go to Law School or work on boats and do rigging. I just kept working on boats! In Hawaii though the sailing population just isn’t big enough to support someone working only on making sails and doing rigging though so we end up doing a lot of other neat projects involving cable and canvas. One interesting project we’re working on now is building sun umbrellas for elephants. They are going to be 36ft in diameter held up 30ft in the air!
What is your favorite part of being involved in sailing?
I enjoy building something, whether it’s a sail, rigging or something else. I just want to make things, I like working with my hands. Working with cabling is physical, it outweighs me by hundreds of pounds. I enjoy the splicing as well, I find it relaxing. There is also the element of the technology developing. Just as the cloth is getting better and better so is the rope and line. I currently have a piece of 2 inch diameter Dyneema line in the loft with a breaking point of 330,000lbs, it is incredible.
The problem solving element is very attractive. Making things work and finding a better, or lighter way to hold something up. Even for something like Cal 20 rigging. I see the rigging and spars as the chasse for the sails. They all work together and support the sail. A great rig setup will help the boat’s engine, the sails, perform even better. I think I get to work with our lead sailmaker Marc Bara in a really unique way because of that.
How did you meet/hear about David Ullman and decide to join the Ullman Sails group?
The first time I met Dave I sailed with him on a Nelson Marek 67’ for a local series event. Dave had built the sails for the boat and I was only there because I knew a guy who knew a guy who needed crew – quite simply put “the Hawaiian way” of finding crew.
I was absolutely blown away by Dave’s ability to manage everyone on board. Even though we didn’t all know each other (let alone Dave) he got us working together as a great team on day one.
In terms of joining the group, the Ullman Sails model fits us perfectly. The group gives us the flexibility to work outside of purely sailmaking (doing rigging and other canvas work) while offering us a lot of support and expertise for designing and building really high quality sails. I really like how we support each other too. One time we had a Japanese sailor who was going around the world and was about to head off to Australia. Before he went we ordered him a new jib and had it delivered to our loft in Brisbane, Australia, it was ready for him when he arrived. Talk about a satisfied customer. We’ve done that a couple of other times as well, once for a customer going to Turkey.
What are the highlights of your sailing career?
The 1975 Tornado Worlds in Sydney Australia were a real highlight. We finished 10th overall which was good, but we were more excited about actually sailing in Sydney harbor. The first day there we had just put the boat in the water and were cruising around the harbor, “Oh wow! There’s the opera house, There’s the bridge! There’s an 18 Footer!” Until all of a sudden we seemed awfully low in the water. I looked to my crew, “did you put in the plugs?” “Nope…”. We got a little carried away in the spirit of it all!
There have also been a couple of Transpacs and Mexican races that have been fun and that we’ve done well in. I sailed one event from Los Angeles, California to Tahiti aboard a Lapworth 50 named ‘Westward’. It took us just 21 days – I remember we pulled in Saturday very early morning, just before the bars closed, thank goodness.
What is one of the biggest events near your loft? What can you tell us about it?
It used to be the Clipper Cup or the Kenwood Cup, but those no longer exist. Now the biggest event is the TransPacific Yacht Race. In the 1970s I raced a TransPac in a 39ft wooden multihull. Within 2 hours of the start we were 30 miles past Catalina Island and the mast rotated and went straight through the deck, fortunately no one was hurt. Somehow the mast stayed up, anchored into the hull and we just sailed back!
Name one of the best places in the world to sail.
Hawaii. The Kona Coast on the big island is one of the best places, but is only one of a couple that are good for calm day sailing. In Hawaii you’re really just out in the ocean. A part of living in Honolulu is that you don’t need to go anywhere, if you stay long enough the whole world comes to you. What more could you ask for?
What is one of your favorite places to cruise?
I really like Hawaii, but it’s rough. You’re really just out in the ocean. I also love cruising off the southern California, but it’s pretty hard to beat the warm tropical air of Hawaii. Another great place is northern Australia – it’s a really cool cruising ground in a young country.
I’ve watched my ability to handle cold dissipate over the years. One time I was sailing in a 1 Ton Series out of San Francisco, we were sailing to the Farallon Islands and someone pointed out where a nude beach was. My skipper just dropped his tiller and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me”. I shared his sentiment.