Today I had the pleasure of meeting Ivan Bole the owner of Arun sails in Boshum, West Sussex. Ivan has developed the business over the past 22 years into one of the leading sail makers in the UK, often making sails for small one man band sail makers to finish off under their own name or even “white labelling” sails so that other big brands can re-label them as their own.
Ivan was very welcoming and very knowledgeable being an experienced sailor himself. It was interesting to see all sorts of sails being made in the large sail loft – from gaffsails to lugsail to topsails made under the Rockall brand to cruising and racing sails under the Arun brand – an Aladdin’s cave of sail technology.
Ivan walked me through the whole manufacturing process from computer design to numerically controlled cutters to hand stitching to patching and finishing
I wanted to see my cruising chute being made and also to get my anxious questions answered about what I see as the “challenge” of flying a 1200 sq ft cruising chute. But Ivan went one better and lead me over to a bench where he had laid out a similar, but completed chute on a very large work bench. He then proceeded to demonstrate how to launch and recover the cruising chute and patiently pointed out a number of tips and tricks for making sure that you don’t get your halyards mixed up with your sheets, or worse lose the whole lot over the side!
I was also worried (I do a lot of worrying…) about the weight of the whole sail and whether I could lift the sail out through the forward hatch and get it all hitched up on a heaving deck on my own. I am assuming my wife would busy trying to hold us on a steady course downwind and stop us from accidently gybing 🙂 Again I was astonished to find how light the whole sail is – another fear allayed….
I must say it was a pleasure to see a British company successfully manufacturing a custom and labour intensive product; holding off the threat of cheaper foreign imports; and by so doing employing and preserving the knowledge of its work force.
Now all that remains is to take delivery and get out on the water and give it a go… I have told SMR, who are masterminding the re-fit of all the running the rigging and the installation of the Selden bowsprit, that a condition of the whole order is that they come out with me on the water and oversee the maiden launch of the cruising chute – foolishly they agreed.
…watch this space 🙂