Stuart Gaunt

GXSA Day Trip to North Sails, Fareham

By Stuart Gaunt

Timeline: 10th March 2017



Another pleasant day drip for the GXSA membership, ably organized by our Chairman, Bernie Smallman.

In this article I’m going to cover the Day Trip, and provide some interesting educational articles about Sail Trimming that we can all use to improve our technique, and make our sails last longer.

North Sails

3Di Sails:
Areas of the sail have between 6-80 layers of tape,
depending on load

North Sails are one of the world’s leading sail makers, with many significant racing crews and events amongst their customers.  North make the sails for America’s Cup, Volvo Round the World Race, and many One-Design Dinghy classes, together with fitting out many of the individual yachts entered into global yacht races, such as Antigua Week, Sydney-Hobart, and Cowes Week races.  Also, 80% of their business is making, repairing, and renovating sails for cruising boats, like you and I sail every weekend.  North are very proud of their sails, and their website contains lots of educational tips about how to get the most out of your sails, by tuning each of the strings that you probably hardly ever touch!

Several GXSA members are regular, and occasional North Sails customers, which led us to persuade David Swete of North Sails to host a trip around their new sail loft facility in Fareham, followed by a detour to Portsmouth and up the Spinnaker Tower to see the view over Portsmouth, Gosport, and the Isle of Wight.

Old Sails

If you currently have sails, that are getting a bit old and baggy, North reckon that there is a good chance that they can renovate them by re-cutting.  They suggest that you send photos of your sails, “at‑work” to their experts who will be able advise the optimal way forward.  Just contact North Sails in Fareham to get the ball rolling (023 9252 5588).

New Sails

There are several general groups of sails in use today, made from a very limited number of materials, with varying properties – the choice is yours, and depends on the depth of your pockets!:


Sail Groups

Materials (Brand-names in brackets)


  • Panel
  • Radial
  • 3Di


  • Polyester (Dacron)
  • Nylon
  • Polyethylene( Dynema, Spectra)
  • Aramid (Kevlar, Twaron, Technora)
  • Carbon fibre
  • Stretch
  • Brittleness
  • Ultra-Violet resistance
  • Cost
  • Weight
  • Mildew resistance
  • Shape-holding


All sails are a compromise of these features and materials.

North Sails guide to fibres & fabrics


There have been a variety of materials used in sailmaking over the years.  The chart shows some of the properties:

North have been building 3D laminate sails for 25 years, and they claim that their new(ish) 3Di technology is 25 years ahead of any competitor’s product.  They reckon that 3Di is a market-beater, so watch this space (spoiler alert: I bought some – currently awaiting delivery; March 2018).


Lifetime Cost

Chart showing the operational lifetime and relative cost


Sail Types

Panel Sails (Woven, Laminate)

Radial Sails (Woven, Laminate)

Molded Sails (3D)



Here some links to North Sails training resources that you might find useful:

There are lots more guides on the North Education website.

Tour of the Sail Loft

North Sails small sail table

The day started with a 9am (early for some) departure from Gerrards Cross on a very comfortable Heyfordian coach.  At 10:30 we arrived at an un-presupposing industrial unit on Fareham Industial Estate, for refreshments in the staff canteen, and use of the facilities, before the tour began.

Our first stop was their huge sail-making table – North believe that there are only 2 like this in Europe.

Imagine that you have a sail from a 15m mast (which isn’t that big, really).  That equates to a huge piece of fabric.  Traditionally, this has meant manually dragging the sail across the floor and through the sewing machine, with lots of room for error when the sewing machine stitches the fabric.

On the North system, the fabric stays still, and the person/sewing machine move on a conveyor belt that is geared to the feed-rate of the fabric through the machine, so each stitch is exactly the right size and tension for the fabric being sewn.

For curved seams (eg. Around tack, clew, or head) they have a moving sewing machine that moves on an arc, again geared to the speed of the machine, making perfect stitches.


North Sails large sail table

Then we moved to the main sail-making table.  This looked to be the size of a football field, and filled the warehouse.  I’m not sure what is the biggest sail they could cope with, but there were TWO sails from 100ft yachts on the table at the same time, and LOTS of room to spare.

Frankly, this is where the Sail Sales bit took over, as we got to touch/examine/caress/fondle an example of the North 3Di Nordac cruising sails.  These are custom built from polyester (dacron) on a mold to a perfect aerofoil shape, with the fabric-thickness depending on the stress/load for each specific area of the sail (North believe that these are the cruising sails of the future).  Here’s a YouTube video about how 3Di sails are made.  The effect on the GXSA tourists was quite bewildering, as we all felt the fabric, jaws open, and tongues hanging out.

The effect was mesmerizing, but we needed lunch.


After some sandwiches and cake, David Swete gave us a presentation (and a nice red baseball cap).  As well as a North Sails Salesman, David is an international yachtsman from New Zealand.  His role is usually sail-trimmer, so he really knows about sails, with a pretty impressive CV:

  • 2 x Volvo Round the World races
  • 2009 World Match Racing Champion
  • Held the ISAF World Number 1 position for over a year
  • Won 5 World Tour Events
  • Has taken part in 3 Sydney to Hobart races

Dave has some interesting YouTube videos to watch about his sailboat racing career; other websites are the Volvo Ocean Race in particular, in Team Alvimedica.

Dave gave us an insight into what it’s like to be a long-distance racing sailor.  With each race-leg being typically 25 days away from home, it’s not necessarily something for a person with a young family…or for somebody who likes their bed!!  4 hours on-watch, 4 hours off-watch (if you're lucky), hot bunking, cramped conditions.

It was a very interesting talk….and we got a hat !!!

Looking UP the tower

Spinnaker Tower

After a short coach trip to the other side of the harbour we arrived at Gunwharf Quays Shopping Centre in Portsmouth (now, that’s a day trip in itself for shopaholics), where the Spinnaker Tower is located.

Haslar Marina & Haslar Creek

The tower was opened in 2005 to celebrate the millennium in 2000 (yes, I know…there were lots of financial issues to overcome).  It’s 170m tall, and gives a fantastic view over the harbour and surrounding area.  The internal lift takes 30 seconds to go 100m to the first observation deck, and there are another 60 steps to the top-level observation deck.  Surprisingly, there’s not much sense of vertigo, unless you choose to stand on the glass plate where you can see all the way to the ground, beneath your feet – it’s just like flying (but not necessarily my thing…so no picture!)

On a good day, you can see over 35 miles, but today we could only just make out Ryde on the Isle of Wight, but the view was still pretty impressive, as you can see from the collection of pictures, below.


View to the North
Rat Island, fareham Creek, Port Solent,
HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Warrior
View over Portsmouth towards Langstone Harbour



Everyone had a great day out.  The coach trip provides an excellent opportunity to chat with friends, and GXSA day trips are a fantastic opportunity to renew and make new friends.

Come along on the next day trip.  You'll have a great time!!


Thanks Bernie, Dave, and North Sails.  We had a great day out.



Saturday Special - 10th March 2018

Visit to North Sails and Gunwharf Quay

The coach will depart from Gerrards Cross Memorial Centre at  09:00 to travel  to North Sails (Gosport),  where we will have a tour of the sail loft. Everything from dinghy sails to sails for superyachts is made here. There will then be a light lunch (included) and a talk by North Sails about Volvo racing and the design of your sails.

Following this we will go to Gunwharf Quay, where we can go up 100m in the air to see amazing views of Portsmouth harbour from the Spinnaker Tower (weather permitting), sit in a pub or go shopping in the Outlet stores.

The cost is £20.00 per person. The cost of going up the Spinnaker Tower will be extra, since it is dependent on weather.
Minimum number for the trip is 20, for North Sails. Please book early to avoid disappointment (closing date is 28th February)

If we have more than 15 definites for the Spinnaker Tower, regardless of the weather, a group booking at reduced prices will be possible at £7.45 for seniors, £8.35 for adults.

Alternatively you can pay for the Spinnaker Tower independently - it costs £11.00 on the day or (if you book online the day before) £9.00 for seniors, £9.90 for adults.

Book by signing up on the noticeboard at a Wednesday meeting or by emailing GXSA on  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Payment in advance to confirm your booking, please, to GXSA by cheque or bank transfer to the usual GXSA account (details available to members by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Please reference your name on the transfer. Include Spinnaker Tower money if definite to go up regardless of the weather.

Closing date for bookings and payment is 28th February.






14th– 23rd SEPTEMBER 2018



to obtain the code, GXSA members should email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Buy between 1 and 5 tickets at £13.00 each – and get a FREE ticket with each purchased ticket



• Tickets are Standard Entry tickets and valid for ANY one day of the Show.

• Tickets can be ordered up to 23:59 on Saturday 22nd September.

• A SINGLE transaction fee of £1.99 applies whether ordering one or more tickets.

• Youngsters 15 years or under go free (up to 2 per accompanying adult) if their tickets are requested when ordering adult tickets.

• Tickets are only available as ‘Print at Home’ via Southampton Boat Show website.


• Click on BUY TICKETS at top of homepage.

• Enter and submit Promotional Code. This will bring up the ticket ordering sequence which is straightforward to follow.

• You may be asked to select the day you expect to visit. This is merely to help predict visitor numbers.



See Southampton Boat Show website


Hello GXSA Sailors,

Our next rally is approaching at Bucklers Hard on the Beaulieu river on Saturday 22 June. This is a new location for GXSA and will be the first time we have been up to Bucklers Hard as a rally. 

Alongside moorings are reserved and evening dinner will be ‘pub style’ in the Lower Yachtsmen’s bar, reserved for us. It is an interesting and lovely location and hopefully a really great spot for a rally!

I hope you will be able to come along and look forward to seeing you.

Best wishes and kind regards, Nick


GXSA Rally ‘Bucklers Hard’  Saturday 22nd June

The Harbour Master knows we are coming. Moorings are on the LHS as you approach the fuel pontoon.

A booking fee has been paid that gives our boats a 10% discount - Boat names / length requested in advance please.

There are some great walks & plenty of things to wander around and look at!


PLAN: Arrive Saturday afternoon at Bucklers Hard.

Pontoon Party starting @6.00 on Saturday.

7.30pm walk to the Lower Yachtsman’s bar for 3 course evening pub dinner.

Sunday morning – Local walk / look at local attractions / museum etc. followed by coffee back at the boats or whatever takes our fancy.

Sunday departure – Afternoon.  

NEXT ACTION: Names of boats plus number of crew?

Make your menu selection & please send back to:    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Costs each – Please send £32 BACS payment to the usual GXSA account (give your name in the reference so we know who it is, thank you).




S1. Fried Chicken Wings (GFA). Lightly spiced BBQ Sauce

S2. Welsh Rarebit. Roast Tomato and Onion Chutney

S3. Fried Calamari in Sea Salt and Spices (GFA). Homemade Tartare sauce

S4. Homemade Soup of the Day (V/GFA). Fresh Baked Bread


M1. Charcuterie of Dorset Meats: Sloe Gin and Garlic Cured Venison, Coppa Loin & Fennel Salami Bread, Olives, Tomatoes, Gherkins, Artichoke Hearts, Mustard

M2. Angus Beef Burger in a Brioche Bun, Chips and Coleslaw (can add Cheese or Bacon )

M3. Veggie Burger in a Brioche Bun (V), Chips & Coleslaw – (can add Cheese)

M4. Fresh daily Battered Fish (GFA), Homemade Tartare Sauce, Minted Pea Puree and Chunky Chips

M5. Chicken, Leek & Bacon Pie with Assorted Green Vegetables, Mash and Gravy

M6. Fragrant Vegetable Curry (GF/VGN) with Coconut Milk and Coriander, Basmati Rice


D1. Red Wine Marinated New Forest Strawberries (GF) With New Forest Ice Cream

D2. Chocolate Brownie (GF) With New Forest Ice Cream

D3. Rhubarb and Lemon Compote Topped with Chilled Cinnamon Custard, Shortbread Biscuit


V – Vegetarian

VGN – Vegan Adaptable

GF – Gluten Free

GFA – Gluten Free Adaptable

Please specify menu options in advance. Notify in advance if you have any food allergies and speak to a member of the team.

Annual Dinner and Awards Presentations


Beaconsfield Golf Club Dining Room

Each year in April after the AGM and close of the Spring Talks programme, GXSA holds an annual dinner which has approximately a hundred attendees. There is a prestigious speaker from the world of sailing who also awards three silver trophies which have been donated to the association by past members who have been most appreciative of the companionship they have enjoyed during their membership. 


Events in 2020

GXSA Events that happened in 2016

Events that have happened (or will happen) in 2014

Rallies, and other events in 2013

Events and Socials that happened in 2012