On Deck: Advancing sail tech in Phuket

PHUKET: It’s often said that technology starts at the top, at the most advanced businesses developing cutting-edge products, and then trickles down to everyday life objects and activities. The same can be said for sailing. In particular, sail technology.

Observing at the recent Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek and the vast variety of sail materials and brands used by the fleet, I thought it was time to take a deeper look into this. Surely, with all the technology at our fingertips and the storied history of sailing as a pastime and a sport, there would, by now, be some consistency in the use of sails by sailors.

Sort of.

Early materials used in sail making were flax (linen), hemp or cotton – mainly natural fibers. Today, however, sails are made from synthetic fibers. In 1851, the yacht America beat the best of the British fleet in a race around the Isle of White and the trophy awarded has become known as the America’s Cup. America raced with cloth sails.

Take a look at the America’s Cup 156 years ago. Things have changed considerably. It is high-profile events like the America’s Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race and others that lead the technological charge and change in the sport. Today, technological advancements from the pinnacle events in the sport have trickled down to day sailors, cruisers and racers the world over.

Competitive sailing, in my opinion, appears to be very much about having and using the best technology, the latest materials and design. Whatever edge you can get – or think you can get – you take. Phuket can be proud that most global sail companies have a presence on the island.

The latest technology from Quantum Sails, North Sails as well as from homegrown Rolly Tasker is available here through local representation. It is impressive that such global brands have invested so much in this small island. It also underscores sailing and the marine industry’s importance to the island’s economy.

Duncan Worthington is a long time Phuket resident and, through Infinity Communications (www.infinity-comms.com), consults leading consumer brands, hospitality and marine clients in Thailand. In his ‘spare time’ he runs the marine portal www.MarineScene.asia. #OnDeckPhuket

— Duncan Worthington

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