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Jean-Philippe, could you describe what you do at north sails and why you enjoy it?
At the base level I work as a Salesman to improve the experiences of our local customer on and off the water, and to support various local events. I also work to discover new prospects and I enjoy collaborating with them to optimize their boat and onboard performance.
As a Technical Consultant I contribute to racing teams with sail plan optimization, sail charts, rating and often assist as a sail trimmer or tactician. I would love to design the sails but I’m not good enough with the software (laughs…), so I leave this to the real designers and try to give precise, useful feedback on behalf of me, the owner and crew.
I like my job first of all because it is a passion and without passion you cannot do a good job, especially when striving to push the limits, be as precise as possible and go beyond the status quo as we do at North. It is very exciting to work in a company where the goal is to give to the customer the best product with the best service. North Sails is considered a luxury brand in the yachting field, often compared to Formula 1 for the high level of products we deliver.
I’m also lucky to have met very interesting people. It helps me to grow and continually improve. Now 16 years have passed since I entered the company and I have the same motivation because each project is unique. I started from the bottom of the ladder and I intend to continue to growing within the company.
Most recently you have completed a re-configuration for the Volvo Open 70 SFS. Can you tell us about this process and the end results you are experiencing?
The objective for SFS was to move from the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) box rule to a true IRC plan, where we know the rating is a big part of the equation. It was not an easy job. On SFS we have been running a Pro-Am system with six different guests on board during racing. We wanted to adjust the sail inventory in order to be quicker in maneuvers, reduce effort for the crew and increase performance inshore and offshore.
In March 2015, a new spinnaker staysail, A2, and a North Sails 3Di RAWTM IRC Code 0 were added. The Code 0 replaced the original Masthead Code 0 with equal area and 48kg weight savings. More recently, we switched from overlapping genoas to small jibs and added some padeyes to play more with the in-hauler and up & down system.
The new configuration gives us more ability to manage the sails. Other notable sailplan modifications included a larger and lighter #4 Jib; increased apparent wind angle in the new #2 Jib. The #1 Jib (largest Jib) was switched from a standard overlapping genoa on hanks to a furling masthead genoa with equal area (191m²). The inshore mainsail was built with three full battens instead of 6-7 in the previous main, plus one reef.
This new configuration give us more flexibility managing the sails.
In total we saved more than 200kg in comparison to the Volvo inventory and experienced even, or faster, speeds and a higher angle. Today the boat handles more like a TP52. Overall we have experienced even or faster speeds and a higher angle. We have two certificates for IRC: one with and one without the spinnaker.
On the Offshore Side, we still use the original Masthead Genoa and we had a new furling Cuben Fibre A3 for IRC racing.
What advice do you have for a young person with big aspirations in sailing?
This question makes me smile because it means I am passing to the other side of the barrier, even if I am still 18 years old in spirit (smiles).
To someone with aspirations in sailing, I will advise them to tell the truth and not be afraid to say “I don’t know, but I can find out” instead of saying something wrong, as I hear too often in this business. Stay humble. Because we are fortunate to sail on such prestigious boats does not permit us to forget where we come from (by instance, I still sail on 7m boats with friends / customers. Sometimes it is good to trim a sail you can bring in with two fingers).
In the end don’t hesitate to share and smile. I am convinced the more you give, the more you will receive. But this is more a way of spirit and a philosophy than a piece of advice, so you may take it or leave it!
Images © Gilles Martin Raget