Our informal online sailmaker poll generated 336 complete responses, not large enough to be statistically significant, but still useful, in our opinion. In total, readers recommended more than 100 different lofts. The responses are subjective to each respondent’s experience, making it impossible to fairly rank sailmakers based on the poll, so readers should consider this report an overview and use it accordingly in any sailmaker search. The responses can offer some insight into what can be expected of a specific sailmaker and what should be considered in the selection process.
Sixty percent of the respondents said they used their boat for cruising, while 31 percent used their boat for racing as well as cruising. Just over 6 percent identified themselves purely as racers. Most (63 percent) identified their sail material as premium Dacron.
The good news was that 70 percent of our readers rated their sailmaker’s service Excellent, and 22 percent rated the sailmaker’s service as Good. Close to 90 percent of the respondents had purchased sails in the previous five years.
Below are general findings regarding the most frequently recommended sailmakers in the poll. More detailed survey results and a complete listing of all the sailmakers are available in the “Survey Details” box to the right. We will also be publishing select comments from the survey on the Inside Practical Sailor blog.
North Sails (www.northsails.com) – Of the major “franchise” sailmakers, North Sails was the most popular brand, with 42 respondents saying their sails were built by North affiliates. The lofts were from all over the country. The highest number of respondents (six), said they bought their sails in Annapolis, Md. Nearly one-quarter (10) reported a problem. In the ratings for overall service, the votes were as follows: Excellent, 19; Good, 14; Fair, 3; Poor, 6. Of the major national franchise sailmakers in our survey, North had the lowest percentage of customers satisfied with overall service. The chief complaint was generally the lack of personalized attention and poor after-sale service.
Doyle (www.doylesails.com) – Twenty-four respondents said they had their sails made at Doyle affiliates, almost all of them at East Coast lofts. Only one respondent reported a significant problem with his sail, which he said was quickly rectified with a personalized visit from the sailmaker. In the ratings for overall service, the votes were as follows: Excellent, 20; Good, 4. Respondents generally praised the lofts’ after-sales service.
Quantum (www.quantumsails.com) – Twenty-three respondents said they had their sails made at Quantum lofts. The locations were primarily on the East Coast, with lofts in Rhode Island (four), Annapolis (four), and Seabrook, Texas (three), making up the greatest number of respondents. In the ratings for overall service, the votes were as follows: Excellent, 13; Good, 7; Fair, 2; Poor, 1. Most respondents praised the level of service, although three respondents (two from Texas) stated they were not happy with details such as corner reinforcement in the clew area.
UK Halsey (www.ukhalsey.com) – Fourteen respondents said they used lofts affiliated with UK Halsey, the highest number (four) were served by the loft in City Island, N.Y. In the ratings for overall service, the votes were as follows: Excellent, 6; Good, 5; Fair, 2; Poor, 1. Criticism centered on after-sales service, which was praised by the majority of the respondents.
Ullman (www.ullmansails.com) – Fifteen respondents said thy used lofts affiliated with Ullman Sails, with the vast majority (11) coming from Deltaville, Va. Four of the respondents owned Flying Scots. The Deltaville loft was unanimously praised, other lofts rated excellent to fair for overall service. In the ratings for overall service, the votes were as follows: Excellent, 12; Good, 2; Fair, 1.
Island Planet Sails (www.islandplanetsails.com) – Eighteen respondents, most from the West Coast, recommended Island Planet, an Internet-phone based operations that claims to cut costs by reducing overhead. The company website stresses the importance of the owners’ knowledge and involvement in the measuring process. In the ratings for overall service, the votes were as follows: Excellent, 11; Good, 7. Two respondents praised the sailmaker’s ability to deliver sails to cruising boats in out-of-the-way places.
Mack Sails (www.macksails.com) – Sixteen respondents, all of them in Florida, bought sails from family-owned and operated Mack Sails. Boats ranged from a custom, 48-foot aluminum cutter to a Schock 23 racing boat. In the ratings for overall service, the votes were as follows: Excellent, 13; Good, 1; Fair, 2. Respondents generally praised Mack’s products and service. One owner complained that his mainsail was too small.
Dorsal Sailmakers (www.doorsail.com) – Seventeen respondents bought their sails from this Wisconsin-based sailmaker. In the ratings for overall service, the votes were as follows: Excellent, 15; Good, 2. Clients unanimously praised the sailmaker’s personalized service.
Other sailmakers – Three other sailmakers in our survey were recommended by at least five respondents:
• Hood Sailmakers (www.hood-sails.com) – 11 respondents: Excellent, 8; Good, 2; Poor, 1. Sails were generally praised for the durability.
• Port Townsend Sails (www.porttownsendsails.com) – Six respondents: Excellent, 6. The sails were generally praised for their durability and long working life.
• Kappa Sails (www.kappasails.com) – 5 respondents: Excellent, 5; Good, 1. Two respondents praised the sailmaker for standing behind its work.