Quantum Sails – Keep your $100 notes in your pocket (Pt I)
by John Curnow on 11 Nov 2013
Do you really want to stand under the cold shower and tear up $100 notes? ‘No thanks’ would be the unanimous cry in response from every owner across the globe. There has to be a better way.
IBIZA, SPAIN - 5 JUL: Quantum Racing in action during the coastal race on day four of Royal Cup at Marina Ibiza on July 05th 2013 in Ibiza, Spain. Photo by Xaume Olleros / 52 Super Series Xaume Olleros / 52 Super Series
Like most old sailing adages, the ‘cold shower’ gets used a lot, but over time experience comes into play and one gets wary of cash-drainers and steers well clear. Now experience is something that Carl Crafoord can really lay down on the table. In 1976 he began his apprenticeship with a certain Hugh Treharne, however Carl really built a base when he told his equally famous father he was off overseas for six months, but stayed for 11 years. In that time, Carl sailed on icons like Kialoa III, IV and V, Matador and also Windward Passage, ticking off many an ocean classic along the way.
In terms of experience, it was not only Carl’s sailing and sail making efforts that are applicable to Quantum in the Asia/Pacific region since August 2009; there is also his extensive commercial acumen, most specifically the 15 years he spent with Lewmar and Harken. The business models used by these organisations were very similar to that being desired by Quantum, where agents and dealers were reselling the products from a central production/distribution facility. The result of these discussions with Ed Reynolds was an operator’s licence being awarded to Carl for Asia, New Zealand and Australia.
Having secured that, Carl needed to build the team and as of today, there are 11 lofts under his jurisdiction, stretching from Japan to Tasmania. That took around a year to complete and as Carl says, ‘Marketing our product effectively was the next piece of the equation. We have Katie Spithill overseeing the relationship between our patch and the USA. She is a very knowledgeable person, as well as being a tremendous sailor. We all know that the ‘localisation’ of marketing communications is important and Katie understands the different cultures in NZ, Japan, Thailand and Singapore that we have to operate in.’
Centralised manufacturing, construction, finishing, and distribution are cornerstones of the Quantum model. Crafoord explains, ‘Quantum supplies the corporate tools and our business platform, so that affiliates from around the world can see what is being produced, which in turn makes replication very easy. Here in Australia, we can both access and pass on the very things that go into making fast sails. Equally, a customer here benefits from the entire collective of the Quantum knowledge base’, says Crafoord.
Quantum’s strength stems from two major areas, explains Crafoord. ‘The first is the iQ Technology™ process, and the second is customer relationships and service. We may not have the largest percentage of sails out there in the fleet, but we do have a disproportionate number of Quantum owners standing on the podium.’
‘Our TP52 program is the vehicle that drives many of our advances in technology. We develop new designs and test new materials on our boat, not our customers’ vessels. The draft stripes on Quantum Racing are digitised and recorded with a program called VSPARS, allowing us to gather data in real time on sail shapes, along with data from many other inputs from the boat and environment. Verification is the final step in our iQ technology system, where we validate our results, so they are not only measurable, but more importantly for our customers, replicable. This is all part of Quantum Sails’ DNA.’
Crafoord adds, ‘Secondly, customer relationships and service are a real focus for us. An owner may not necessarily know exactly what makes a fast sail, but depends on Quantum to make it so. Being responsive to them and assuring attention to detail are key to this equation. The boat builder constructs the craft, the spar manufacturer supplies the stick, as too with the deck gear, but it is the sail maker who has to get it all together. Mast tune, running rigging systems, sheeting, and repeatable settings are all part of the final mix to get the required performance. Our representatives give personal attention to ensure that all the elements are singing the same tune, and the new sails deliver as promised.’
‘Sails become most important when you have all these similar production boats being imported now, as we do not really make any craft here in Australia. It is certainly not like the old IOR days when every vessel was different and you trialled things a lot more. You have to be better than the others to get the orders. Quantum does well here in Australia with Beneteau First 40s, Farr 40s or MC38s, and this applies around the globe too. Actually, we have recently begun creation of a wardrobe for Ross Hennesy’s MC38, Ghost Rider, which sails out of Royal Prince Alfred YC on Pittwater.’
Quantum has a One Design department featuring team members with expertise in specific fleets like Melges 20, 24, 32, and Farr 40s. ‘We also have specific teams for white sail fleets like Optimists, Dragons, Etchells and a range of multihulls,’ explains Crafoord. Also, certain lofts are synonymous with certain craft, like Dan Kessler from Seattle for Moths and more locally Dave Eickmeyer in Mornington for Etchells. We have certain little pockets and then this is spread through our management system. It is all part of Quantum DNA’, Crafoord pointed out.
Looking at how it all comes about, you see that vertical integration is the cornerstone of the Quantum sail making process. For example, Quantum makes its own laminated ‘cloth’ for all of its Fusion M membrane sails, which starts with designers specifying the actual fibre layout. Quantum then produces and finishes these sails from their own factory in Malaysia.
A second manufacturing facility in Sri Lanka also produces finished laminate, along with Dacron (forward sails) and nylon (spinnaker) cut and sew sails.
In terms of heading out on the water, you would expect Quantum to have a specific approach here, and they do. ‘Yes we certainly can go to an owner’s boat, but we’re also there with people on the ground to measure or provide service no matter where the vessel may have ended up. Think of it in the automotive style, if you will, where we have services stations located around the globe.’
‘There certainly is an expectation for the sail maker to come out with a customer when they have a new wardrobe to attend to things like rig tune and coaching. Sails are made with or without this service, but you do have to compensate people for their time on the water. We have ‘Friends of Quantum’ to go sailing with customers and this is an important part of our support program.’
‘With fewer boats racing nowadays, we have fewer souls out there in their 20s and 30s. A whole generation has sort of just gone. So we not only have less people, but as everyone is now time-poor; they are just not out on the water as much. Yet everyone still wants a result. There are not as many paid gigs around either, so we are lucky to have professional amateurs in this country to get the job done’, said Crafoord.
‘In the end, we can charge for the coaching or have it in the cost of the sails, but we are straight up and transparent about it! Depending on the level of outcome required, the variances in price will be explained during the pre-sales process. Equally, we have a playbook to hand to our new customers, where we have mechanical training, two-boat testing and speed/trim testing all covered. All positions on the boat are numbered from 1 to 20, whether or not you have that number of crew. The idea is to have the crew read it before going sailing on the weekend, so that everyone knows the tasks and knows the number(s) that perform it.’
Having covered all of that ground, it is time to go to the ATM and get a few hundred dollar notes out. That way, you’ll have a few on hand to remind you of the things you need to do to avoid tearing them up in the shower. A sort of aide memoir, if you will… Back soon with Part II of Quantum Sails – Keep your $100 notes in your pocket.
However, if you just cannot wait, then see www.quantumsails.com.au and find the loft nearest to you.