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.

Another Source for Sails

I was contacted today by Judy from Hyde Sails Direct. She had seen my earlier post on my mainsail purchase for the O’Day 22. I had missed her business when I was looking at new sails which is a shame, the website is a great place to start.

She said she would send me samples of the fabric they use in their sails to compare with what I got from Peak Sails North America. Hopefully I’ll be posting a comparison early next month between the fabrics. Of course, already having a mainsail, I won’t be getting a second one, so I won’t be able to compare the construction.

It was great to hear from another sail loft, The prices are a little more than at Peak Sails, but not by too much, and you may get what you pay for. The customer service promises to be good at least – taking the time to contact a purchaser of a competitor’s product.

I’ve asked Judy a few questions, and will hopefully learn a little bit more about the process on purchasing a new sail online – so far I only have one data point from one business. When I was searching for a new sail, I found that there wasn’t a lot of information out there that was really relevant to buying smaller sails.

Pictures from Turkey

The view of Istanbul from the roof of my hotel
The view of Istanbul from the roof of my hotel

After my week down by Gölcük, I had a day and a half to wander around Istanbul. It is a huge city, so I couldn’t visit all the places on the “must-see” list. However I hit a couple:

I walked through the Ayasofia (Hagia Sofia), a large cathedral built-in the 6th century that was converted to a mosque in the 15th century and a museum last century. It was the largest cathedral in the world for a thousand years. It was a pretty impressive structure.

I also visited the Basilica Cistern, which also dates from the 6th century. I did quick walks through the spice market and the grand bazaar.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

A view of my hotel, Art City Hotel, located in Old Town Istanbul
A view of my hotel, Art City Hotel, located in Old Town Istanbul
The Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern
A view of the Blue Mosque from the Ayasofia
A view of the Blue Mosque in the distance from the Ayasofia

Turkey Part 1 (Izmit and Gölcük)

Last Saturday afternoon I flew from Boston to Istanbul, Turkey, with a stop in Frankfurt. I arrived in Turkey Sunday afternoon and had to wait. And wait. And wait. I am travelling with a coworker who flew out of Providence and had a 6 hour delay on a flight from Dulles to Munich, and had to catch a later flight down to Istanbul.

I had luggage and no grasp on the Turkish language. So I was stuck in the airport waiting for him. Seven hours later he emerged from the arrivals section without his luggage. Apparently his luggage hadn’t made it across the pond and went back to Providence from DC. It would show up several days later and require that we make the 7 hour round trip (with traffic and long delay dealing with Turkish Airlines luggage) back to the airport to pick it up. We departed that night for Izmit, on the eastern side of the Marmara Sea – a 90+ minute drive out of Istanbul. It is also on the Asian side, so this weekend I spanned three continents (the Istanbul Airport is in Europe).

A view of the area around Istanbul. We stayed at a hotel on the eastern side of the Sea of Marmara
A view of the area around Istanbul. We stayed at a hotel on the eastern side of the Sea of Marmara

This was a work trip, so we were stuck staying near Izmit, which is nice, but not the most exciting of places to viist. We stayed at the Emex Hotel in Izmit and drove the 15 minutes to Gölcük where the Turkish Navy has its main base. The evenings weren’t too exciting. Dinner most nights in the hotel, and to bed early. Except Wednesday night. We had to do a drive back to Istanbul to pick up missing luggage – we departed shortly after work, and got back to the hotel after midnight. But heck, it was better than wasting an evening playing on the spotty Internet in the hotel and watching whatever wedding/dance/event was going on at the hotel that night.

The Emex Hotel in Izmit. It rained all week so we didn't get to use the pool.
The Emex Hotel in Izmit. It rained all week so we didn’t get to use the pool.

Lunches were much more exciting. Our hosts took us out to lunch each day. Monday we ate on the base at the officer’s club, but the rest of the week was off the base in town. Out of all the places I have been, I think the food here is the best. Tuesday’s lunch saw us on the coast west of the base in a part of Turkey that had been destroyed in a large earthquake in 1999. Wendesday we went back towards Izmit, and Thursday a group went with us to a small village south of the base to a hole-in-the-wall resteraunt. The place was crowded, but the food was outstanding.

Thursday afternoon's lunch was in the buildings on the left of the picture. The center of the village had construction going on, building a car park and playground.
Thursday afternoon’s lunch was in the buildings on the left of the picture. The center of the village had construction going on, building a car park and playground.

We finished up work early enough that we could head to Istanbul earlier than planned today. I’m staying in old town Istanbul, and am taking a day of vacation to tour the city (tomorrow). All I can say is Istanbul is huge. And crowded. It makes New York City seem small and open. I’ll post about my trip to Istanbul when I return.