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by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 9 Jun 2019 15:00 PDT
Just stays, no spreaders in the rig for the AWS Semi Rigid Wing, double luff mainsail. © Advanced Wing Systems

We first saw Advanced Wing System's double luff mainsail and rig (Semi Rigid Wing) in It's all about wings (again...). In the intervening time, Greg and Patrick Johnston have been working with American Magic on their converted MC38, 'The Mule'. The NYYC team are having a small hiatus on the water now, as their focus is all about making their AC75 get splashed for the first time.

Never fear though, for the brothers hitched up their revolutionary 8m vessel and trial horse in Perth, and towed it all the way across Australia to the magical locale of Port Stephens, where The Anchorage kindly afforded them a home for a while. The reason? They were doing a lot of testing, and renowned cat designer, Jeff Schionning, wanted to see how it might all work for him. This was especially the case with a craft in-build right now, named Gunfighter, and it is not too long a bow to work out exactly and precisely at whom that vessel is taking aim...

Greg commented, "Jeff wants to have AWS as standard fitment on his boats moving forward, and we also have a design ready for a builder in South Africa. The benefits are the very much simplified rig configuration, and then it also offers additional durability and safety of the sail itself, for it does not flog at all when head to wind or otherwise."

"Everyone who comes out for a test is blown away by how high we can point, which is handy in any craft, but especially a cat! Also, and really important for short-handed work, such as couples cruising the world, the Trysail is already aloft inside the double luff, all set to go. Internal reefing lines and lazy jacks to give smooth outer skin, which enhances performance, and there is single line reefing for speed and ease of use. Best of all, the system just flakes itself on the way down."

They are some really interesting developments, and we look forward to a sail very soon. It was The Smiths who gave us the line, 'How soon is now?' Precisely. Precisely...

Sad news early in the week at the passing of Lowell North. What an institution, what a legacy! You also do not have to go too far to learn of some amazing stories about this very gifted and enigmatic man. I wanted to learn more about the latter, about the character, the determination, and the achievements. First port of call was North Sails Australia supremo, Michael Coxon, who regaled a tale from his own parents.

"Having divested himself of the business that bears his name, Lowell took off to sail the world. He sailed into Mooloolaba and my Mum and Dad went down to greet him, unbeknownst that their son was in charge of North Sails Australia. He also met Bea there, and she would later become his wife."

"It was instilled in me for years by Lowell, and especially by his great friend and fellow Olympic Gold Medallist, our David Forbes: keep investing in the next generation. Find the young tigers. Today we have someone from each decade, 60 to 20 years of age, and even less. There's me, Noel Drennan, Alby Pratt, Billy Sykes, Aaron Cole, Vaughan Prentice, and Nathan McNamara."

One of the guys that Coxon sourced out himself, and shows that Lowell's system works well, is Mark Bradford. Of course, all of that means someone tapped Coxon on the shoulder back in the day, and that person would be Rob Antill, who knew Lowell really well, and is the man directly responsible for getting North Sails to Australia, and employing Coxon circa 1978.

Antill said, "Lowell was very influential in my life. My father was also a sailmaker (H.C. Antill Sailmakers), and did his apprenticeship at Garden Island in Sydney. Harry was a very active Star sailor, and aware of Lowell's success as both a Star sailor, and sailmaker himself. H.C. Antill sailmakers helped their Star clients to obtain North Sails when they went overseas to compete in various regattas.

Dad was the Secretary of the Pittwater Fleet, and Lowell was Secretary at San Diego fleet at the same time. So when I finished my apprenticeship at 21 years of age in '68, and with my friend, Jim Gannon, who had completed his shipwright apprenticeship with Ken Beashel, we decided to go to Sacramento, California, where Jim had relations. I wrote to Lowell and advised we were coming over, and would be looking for work."

"At the time, the US pre-Olympic sailing trials were just starting for the 1968 Acapulco Olympics, and Lowell was campaigning a new 5.5m. Lowell called and said, 'I have got a job for you at the loft, and Jim could work on the 5.5m.' Lowell missed out on being selected in the 5.5m.

Jim and I were sent back from Newport Beach to San Diego. Lowell called and just said, 'Dust off the Star. We are going to Mexico'. So we prepared 'North Star' for the impending Star selection trials off San Diego. Lowell and Pete Barrett won the Star selection trials, and then started training and testing for Acapulco. Paul Elvestrom was the big competitor at the time. Lowell and Pete won the Gold Medal, and the rest is history."

"Barrett was also a Finn champion. He was managing the North Sails loft at Seal Beach, and had the contract to supply sails and masts for the Finns at Acapulco, which included setting up a service loft on site at the sailing village. They asked if Jim and I would go and help out in the service loft, and run their support vessel. So we went to Acapulco as part of the USA Olympic team."

"Dave Forbes was part of Australia's Star crew at Acapulco, and was fully aware and supportive of my father's plans for H.C. Antill sailmakers to eventually become a North loft. Dave, myself, and Lowell all had discussions on how best to make this happen whilst in Acapulco. I also met Audrey Ledger, another Australian, who was working as a seamstresses for Lowell in San Diego, and she agreed to came back to Australia to train up the team here. That would have been 1970."

"Lowell was anti-insurance, saying, 'if you can afford to loose it, don't insure it.' This did not always go down well. His first wife, Kay, was not impressed when she realised Lowell had not insured their new home at Point Loma, for instance. Anyway, there was one time when his Boston Whaler chase boat was stolen from San Diego, and he thought it was probably in Mexico, so we went there looking for it... unsuccessfully."

"After retiring and sailing around the globe, Lowell bought a powerboat and went to Alaska for some time. We did the 2000 Etchells Worlds with his son Danny in San Diego, and Lowell returned, looking for a pacemaker, as he had no health insurance. Thankfully, he was successful this time."

"One of his daughters Holly currently lives in Australia, and Lowell was no stranger to visiting, coming here also for things like the Soling Worlds in 1971. Lowell was very supportive in many ways, often sailing with our clients in major regattas. He was totally charismatic, and full of beans, as well as being very one-minded as far as sail making and testing goes. His sailing expertise came from working so hard on making the boat go fast, all the way through to the sails, and equipment. He figured if you could set up to go fast, you'd win. And he did!"

"To my mind he led the sail-making revolution, with design patterns, specialist and custom machinery, which included sewing machines and computer controlled plotters and cutters. He did pioneering work on matching the keel, rig and sails together."

"I do remember when he found Mylar. Someone handed him a packet of tobacco. He was a non-smoker, but he played with the cellophane, and was so impressed with the lack of stretch. Subsequently, he started laminating materials as a way to reduce stretch in the woven sailcloth. Then came the Kevlar, and other woven materials. The development in sailcloth, and design can be attributed directly to Lowell, who went on to set up the North Cloth department."

"He had found that with the stability of the sail cloth, the design became even more crucial, leading to the development of moulded sails. And so it went on from there. He was the father of sail tech, that's for sure."

"Lowell was always on the go, and I remember how his Stars had a lot of holes in them from where he had moved things, whilst trying new ideas. He was the first to use a compass on board, and I remember how people said it would not work accurately. He said he did not care, he just cared if it moved at all, as he analysed everything, and from this he worked out his lifts, knocks, tides and so forth. He was constantly charting it all. What a guy."

Big tack now, and six RS21s are on their way to Australia to be part of next season's National Sailing League. They are due to arrive in October. I have not had the pleasure of sailing one, but our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine, and US Editor, David Schmidt, both have and rave about it. Mark, who is a bit of an expert on small keelboats, talks about how nothing else at that size can sail four-up, and that you can get six in a container easily.

There is but one in Australia right now, and Tom Grimes' crew have been using it extensively as part of their preparation. "Racing Sailboats was generous enough to loan their RS21 to us for a period of time, so that we could train on it in preparation for the Summer Universiade (Uni Worlds) in Naples Italy from 1-15 July."

"My team for this event consists of myself as skipper, Nicholas Rozenaurs as Main Trim, Jess Grimes (my twin) as Trim, and Annelise Scholten as Bow, with Mitchell Evans as the Coach, and we are all going to Italy for the regatta."

"During this time, we had the boat the on the hardstand at the CYCA, and were training about two times a week on Sydney Harbour, finding out a lot about the boat, and how we can sail it more effectively as a team of four. We then decided to retreat to Lake Macquarie, which is where Jess and I grew up, to have an intensive three days of training. We had three sessions each day on the water, and on one evening we even had a night sail. We found out a good deal about the boat, which has been awesome in preparation for the event in July."

"You look at it out of the water, and think it will be a handful, but it is actually nothing like that. She is a fully balanced package with sail plan, stiff rig, stability and rudder, all working harmoniously. The cockpit is tight, and the control lines do congregate a bit in the one location, so one of us is always tidying up. The kite bag is a bit shallow, and the jib halyard needs to come fully down to get the heady on the deck, especially in the light stuff. Hiking straps would also be handy."

"The inbuilt electric engine does compact the crew space a bit, especially as a four-up crew, but it is really convenient however. She is quick, not a bus, steers nicely, and very natural. Compared with other sportsboats I have sailed, it is really nice", said Grimes.

Right oh - here today there are some gems for you to review, like superyachts in Sardinia, ORC Worlds, World Cup for the Olympic Classes, Dragons, heaps of stuff on World Oceans Day, the Yacht Racing Forum, Fastnet, Five-Ohs, power on board with Nanni, THE coaches boat from SEAir, Alaska, Farr40 Worlds back in Sydney, gear from Zhik, and certainly there is much, much more.

Remember, if your class or association is generating material, make sure we help you spread your word, and you can do that by emailing us. Should you have been forwarded this email by a friend, and want to get your very own copy in your inbox moving forward, then simply follow the instructions on our newsletter page, where you can also register for different editions.

Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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