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The World Leader in Sailmaking

Where is the leading company for sailmaking in the world, especially when it comes to racing? Milford, Connecticut that’s where. I had you on that didn’t I? There is so much in Connecticut, discovering it all is great fun. The company is called North Sails and it’s just one division of a hugely diversified company called North Technology Group.

The president and CEO of the parent company is Tom Whidden. Whidden knows a thing or two about sailing. He is a member of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame after having served as tactician for seven of the America’s Cup excursions captained by the famed Dennis Conner. Whidden learned to sail as a kid in Westport, Connecticut and he grew up to combine his love of sailing with his day job. How many of us can say that? He now makes his home in Essex, Connecticut, another great sailing town on Long Island Sound. North Sails makes most of the sails for the America’s Cup boats so they understand the need for speed and strength. Being a complete novice, I used the word “canvas” in a sentence when I started talking to Whidden about sails. I was quickly corrected and then schooled about yarns and threads and carbon and filaments and the whole science behind sailing making in modern times. My head is still spinning from all of the science and technology that goes into this.

The operations at the facility in Milford is astounding to see in terms of the size of the plant, the huge sails being made and also the folks sewing away on them. In some cases the sails are upwards of 200-thousand dollars. Speaking of sewing, which I do, North Sails has engineered that too. The men and women are put at a real advantage in their work in that the floor is built above them so the sails can easily glide across the surface through the machine. I’d kill for such a set up in my house especially when it comes to drape making.

My time spent with Whidden was delightful learning about the business and talking about all his adventures on the sea. Google his name, you’ll find out all about those America’s Cup wins.

I learned the company gives back too when it can by talking to schools and getting involved in local sailing clubs. After all the company was built on sailing, most who love the sport started out in a little racer. Every time I see a sailboat from now on, I’ll think of this company and the folks who are behind the craftsmanship, which Whidden credits for the company’s success over the years.

NOTE: This company moved it’s headquarters to Newport, Rhode Island in 2013.