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North Sails 60 Years

In 1957, decorated American sailor Lowell North started a small sailmaking company in a room at San Diego’s B Street Pier.

“It was a little dusty and dirty,” he recalled, “but big enough to build a Star boat mainsail.”

Sixty years later, North Sails has grown into the world’s leading sailmaker, with seven wholly owned manufacturing sites in six different countries, 1,500 employees worldwide, and tens of thousands of sails hoisted on harbors and oceans around the globe each year. Founded in a decidedly scientific approach to sailmaking, North Sails remains rooted in the core values that led Lowell North to success: in-house analysis and development of materials, performance-led design, quality craftsmanship and customer service. Dive into 60 Years of Sailmaking with a series celebrating North’s instinct to push the limits of nature, sails, and self. Stories that bring back memories and inspire the next generation of innovators to Go Beyond.


1945

1945

1945 – THE FIRST OF FIVE

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1957

1957

1957 – THE PURSUIT OF BETTER SAILS

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1968

1968

1968 – Olympic Sailing Success

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1977

1977

1977 – North Sails Introduces Digital Sail Design

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1983

1983

1983 – A ‘Wing’ for the Books

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1986

1986

1986 – 12 Metre Worlds

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1987

1987

1987 – North Sails Design Suite expands with Flow™ and Membrain™

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1988

1988

1988 – North Sails and the America’s Cup

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Winning the Star Class World Championship is the holy grail of one-design keelboat racing. The classic 23-foot one-design class was launched in 1911, and has since attracted generations of highly… Read More

That’s what Lowell North asked his friend John Shoemaker, one afternoon in 1957, while seated at the bar of San Diego Yacht Club. John replied, “Yes, I would,” which surprised… Read More

In the original North Sails loft in San Diego, Lowell North initiated in-house testing of sail cloth and design shape. With a focus on the Star class, it was in… Read More

Lowell North diverged from the traditional, artistic approach to sailmaking by closing his eyes. Lowell listened to the numbers. Historically, sailmaking depended on the eye of the craftsman, who drew… Read More

One of the most dramatic events in modern sailing occurred in 1983. Australia II, with its famous winged keel, defeated US defender Liberty and took the America’s Cup abroad for… Read More

In early 1986, a series of races were held off of Fremantle as a precursor to the 1987 America’s Cup. Dubbed the 12 Metre World Championship, a dozen syndicates competed… Read More

Among the tools most commonly used by North Sails designers are the Membrain and Flow modules, which apply wind pressure to a sail’s surface and calculate the load forces created…. Read More

North Sails has a long history with the America’s Cup, supplying every America’s Cup Defender and Challenger since 1988. Our shared story is one of innovation, often resulting in breakthrough… Read More

In 1997, North Sails designers and software engineers were given a mandate: to create a package that could model the forces of sailing, specifically those above the deck. What ensued… Read More

“As a management team, we had to decide if we wanted to invest in the technology or not. The bet was about a 20 million dollar bet,” said North Sails… Read More

The North Atlantic has never been a cake-walk for ocean racers, who historically encounter everything from 40-knot winds and high seas to the occasional floating container in the Bay of… Read More