Chris Owen Sail Designer Profile
I have been sail making for 35 years and did my apprenticeship in North Shields with Storrar and Bax sailmakers, where learnt all the basics of old styled sailmaking, from laying out sails on the floor, to templating world championship wining sails.
Then came move to a South Wales sailmakers, Iliffe Sails, where I spent a year as loft manager designing and building dinghy and keelboat sails. I enjoyed my time in Wales, but when the opportunity to work for one of the best sailmakers and sailors that this country has ever produced in Michael Mcnamara, I grabbed it with both hands and I spent 4 great years learning from the master in not only sailmaking but also coaching; his talks were - and still are - legendary. Just towards my last year in Exmouth we were shown what was a very basic computer program by a supplier; this turned my head and I was instantly hooked - this was definitely the future!!
I was sorry to leave Exmouth where I also had the pleasure of sailing with legendary Merlin Rocket sailor Spud Rowsell, also making the sails for his Phil Morrison designed trimaran "Exmouth Challenge", which finished 3rd in The Round Britain Race. They certainly were a challenge, the biggest sails I had made to date, and all done with a ruler and pencil! The computer idea stuck with me and when a chance move to Scotland to set up Owen Sails in Oban came. I knew I had to get up to speed with computer aided design, and this came in the form of SMSW (SailMaking SoftWare) written by an American by the name of John Palmer. I can still remember getting the floppy disc in the post from the states; it was ground-breaking, and I was up and running. The new versions arrived and so the development continued, and we made bigger and better sails.
Totally committed to SMSW, sail after sail came out of the loft; a plotter and then a cutter were purchased to speed up the sailmakng process. Graphics were very integral to the process and as these got better and better, so the sails would be winning world championships in GP 14's, and class wins at both Scottish Series and West Highland Week.
A lot of my time is spent giving talks on sail trimming and sailing with customers, and not just racing sailors. By far the most enjoyable side of what I do is to help cruising sailors get the very best from their sails, tuning the rig and demystifying the art of sail trim.
Into my new business that has evolved as SailTrimCoach.com, where I am available to sail with customers and show them what rig tuning and sail trimming is all about and to get the very best out of their boat.
Undoubtedly the very best experience any sail designer can have is to see their sails win a gold medal, at the pinnacle of sailing - The Olympic games - in Beijing 2008. My spinnaker, after 2 years of development, crossed the line in the medal race in the Yngling class to win the gold medal with the Yngling girls, Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson and not forgetting coach Paul Brotherton - a truly fantastic feeling!!!
In 2010 I invested heavily in new software called Azure Project with not only sail design software but also analysis software, that exposes the design to both Aero and Structural analysis. The software is also a great teaching tool and is updated regularly. In June 2011 I coached Paul Brotherton at the Olympic trials in Weymouth ahead of the 2012 Olympic games. I have also been appointed Chairman of the Azure Project User Group which allows me to be at the very cutting edge of sail design software.