A few questions with Judy B at Hyde Sails Direct (or Purchasing Sails for the Beginner)

I mentioned in my last post that I had been contacted by Judy Blumhorst from Hyde Sails Direct. She had read my post about my sail purchase this spring from a competitor. I asked her a few questions about her business, and her thoughts on purchasing sails for the novice. She took the time to write a lengthy response to my questions, and I figured I would share her responses.

I did tell her that I wasn’t in the market for a new sail at this time, but she still took the time to respond and discuss her business.

I spent a lot of time searching the internet for information on buying sails online, however, I found no good guidelines or discussions about purchasing sails on the internet. Most of the material out there are long discussion threads on sailing message boards.

Judy has promised a primer on sailcloth in a few days and is sending me some samples of the sailcloth used by Hyde Sails – so expect more posts on online sail buying in the near future.

And for future reference, I’ll take a close look at Hyde Sails Direct the next time I’m in the market for sails. To be honest, I am happy with the sail I ordered, and I loved the payment plan offered for the sails from Peak Sails NA. Ordering from Hyde Sails Direct would have cost a little more (but not a huge difference). However, I am very impressed with the dialog I have had with Judy.

If any other online sail retailers have comments or more suggestions, I’d be happy to consolidate comments and try to put together a consolidated recommendation post for purchasing smaller sails online.

Though the words below are from Judy from her perspective as an online retailer of sails, the answers fit with what I had read online (which is always true) and with my experience purchasing a sail. My vast experience of purchasing one sail. One time.

Are you part of Hyde Sails, or do you an independent business that sells Hyde Sails?

Hyde Sails Direct partners with Hyde Sails International, but we operate as a separate entity. Our mission is to deliver Hyde’s renowned quality at internet prices. Like other internet sail lofts, we don’t have staff that travel out to your boat to measure it for you. Our customer measure their own boat; that’s the first way they save. We don’t have a design staff, office staff, or a shipping department. All of that is provided by Hyde Sails International, at huge savings compared to local lofts. Instead of a paid repair staff, we have a network of affiliated, full service U.S lofts. We don’t pay rent for loft space on the waterfront, a huge savings. We advertise only via the Internet—no expensive booths at boat shows, no big ads in the glossy sailing magazines. Our unique situation allows us to be a sail loft within a sail loft, and the money saved is passed directly on to you. Our customers get world-famous Hyde quality at affordable, competitive prices.

What happens to the sails when they arrive in the USA? I’m assuming that they are sent to a shipping partner and then mailed out from the shipping partner.

Hyde owns the production loft in Cebu Philippines and controls the manufacturing and shipping from the day the cloth arrives at the factory to the day it is delivered to the customer. Quality control starts with testing each roll of sailcloth that is delivered to the factory. At each step of the process, the sail is checked by our quality assurance team. Each sail is checked carefully before being packed for shipping. Our shipping department packs each sail at the loft for delivery to the customer. Once a week, Hyde sends a “consolidated air” via UPS directly to our US customers. When the sails arrive in the USA, UPS takes the shipment through customs clearance as a single lot, which saves hundreds of dollars in administrative customs fees. After the shipment clears customs, UPS sends each sail to the buyer via UPS Air. Time in transit from the loft to the customer’s doorstep is usually 3-5 business days.

How long is the lead time for sails? I’m guessing that some times of the year are better than others for ordering sails.

Lead times vary according to the time of year. The longest lead times are generally for orders from February through April. Hyde operates 6 production lines which can have slightly different lead times depending on the time of year. so the answer can vary depending on the size sail. Our loft is almost the size of a football field, and the production lines are separated to specialize by the size of the machines needed to sew the sails, as well as the floor space needed.

The shortest lead time that’s practical at any time of the year is 3 weeks including shipping, but can stretch to 6-8 weeks in March and April.

One word about “winter sales”. The biggest and highest quality Production Lofts don’t offer sales in February, March and April — all the top large production lofts are fully booked in starting in January.

Any other suggestions you would give to someone owning a smaller boat and looking for a new sail?

1) The biggest factor in the cost of the sail is the sailcloth. In general, the less stretchy the cloth is, the more you will have to pay for it. There are two important properties of the stretch: initial stretch resistance, and retention of stretch resistance over the service life of the cloth. Over the whole service life of the sail, lower stretch means the sail holds a better and more stable shape that is closer to the original designed shape.. A sail that holds the designed shape better translates into a boat that heels less, points higher, and handles gusts better. The boat will be able to handle higher winds before needing to reef, and have better manners in challenging conditions.The sails will make an old boat sail like a new boat, and hold their like new performance much longer than entry-level sails.

2) There is a lot more to cloth than weight . There are many different styles of weaves that are engineered to make specific compromises between low stretch (performance) and durability and price. Hyde Sails Direct offers sails at several different price points, chosen to give the best performance and shape life at each price level.

3) As for the construction details, all Hyde sails are all built to hold their shape when used for coastal passage making. We build every sail to be a competent passage making sail with a long service life. Regardless of the cloth selected, we build each and every sail to top standards, to meet the work the owner will expect it to do. Our sails hold their shape longer than lesser built sails when made of the same cloth.

The construction details vary by the size of the boat and displacement of the boat. Sails for bigger boats are built to beefier standards because they are subjected to higher loads. All the sail are fully featured and include every high-end feature we think is appropriate for a sail capable of serving you well for many years. We don’t sell “entry-level” sails. Even our pocket cruiser sails are built to last as long and perform as well as sails built for 40 footers.

Hyde’s market niche is emphasis in on providing the highest quality of design, construction and materials at a price that represents the best value for a cruiser. We are not at the “bleeding edge” of sail design, but we do stay at the “leading edge.” Our market niche is to provide the very best of established sail technology at the most competitive price possible.

We are not the lowest priced loft, but we believe our sails are the highest quality at a keen price. There are other online lofts who compete with each other to sell the lowest priced sails, which are not the leaders in industry quality. That is not a market we want to sell to.

Hyde Sailmakers are one of the worlds largest production sail lofts, building over 40,000 panelled sails per year. We buy sailcloth by the container load, at the lowest cost. The economies of scale permits us to build sails at the lowest cost. We have 50 years of experience building cruising sails, and we know what goes into a sail that performs like new for a long time. The smaller lofts cannot acheive the same economies of scale that Hyde can.

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