in 1946 as Ulmer Sails., UK Sailmakers Sailmakers is one of the oldest
groups of lofts in the world. Over 60 years later, the UK Sailmakers
group has over 50 lofts and service centers around the world. UK Sailmakers
has been on the leading edge of sail development ever since the late
’40s when Ulmer Sails dominated the Star class, 5.5 Meter, Snipe,
Lightning and Comet one-design classes.
In the spring of 2005,
UK Sailmakers was joined by the Halsey-Lidgard group of sailmakers. The two merger of the brands formed one of the most
comprehensive sailmaking organizations in the world. Although this
ranks UK Sailmakers as one of the largest sailmaking operations in the
world, the goal of this merger was to customers around the world to provide sails
of the highest quality using the most advanced design technologies and
materials. This requires excellent people with both expertise and a
positive attitude toward serving customers.
UK Sailmakers united two
very successful sailmakers, each known for quality and performance in
different segments and territories within the sailing community. UK
Sailmakers, based in City Island, New York, is known as a leader in load
path laminate construction, having pioneered Tape-Drive sails. UK
dominates PHRF and club racing among production and semi-custom
racer-cruisers in North America and through the grand-prix levels in
Halsey-Lidgard brought to UK Sailmakers an engineering expertise which has
produced sails for such yachts as the 125-foot catamaran PLAYSTATION
(nee CHEYENNE), record-holder under Steve Fossett for sailing around the
world, and REBECCA, one among dozens of vessels over 100 feet flying
In fact, immediately
following the merger, the group came together to be the exclusive
sailmaker to the China Team’s America’s Cup challenge in 2006-2007.
Five-time French America’s Cup campaigner Sylvain Barrielle of UK Sailmakers
San Francisco was the sail coordinator and the group’s lofts in Hong
Kong and Mystic manufactured the sails. UK Sailmakers Spain helped out with
service-work. The group’s many strengths came together quickly and well.
Ulmer Sails founder Charles “Buster” Ulmer started his sailmaking career
in 1916 as an apprentice at the Ratsey & Lapthorn loft on City
Island in New York. Since 1970, his son, Charles "Butch" Ulmer, has run
the loft on City Island and the company has grown considerably. In the
early '70s, UK became known as the only place to buy spinnakers, since
UK was the first loft to perfect the radial-head construction technique.
Not being able to produce spinnakers fast enough, UK branched out with
independently owned franchises. The computer programs UK developed for
sail design and construction ensured that sailors across the country
could buy the same fast sails from any UK loft. UK Sailmakers still
puts a premium on leading edge software. In fact we have a proprietary
3D CAD/CAM design program that we constantly update: it’s called AccuCut
and it’s exclusively available to UK Sailmakers lofts.
In the '80s,
UK saw the tremendous advantages offered by "load path" construction
and became one of the very first to build "string" sails. These evolved
into UK's Tape-Drive® sails, the continuous refinement of which over the
last 25 years keeps them the "gold standard" for strength and
efficiency in load path laminated construction. Club racers swear by the
longevity of Tape-Drive, ocean racers love their durability; and many
cruising customers have reported life spans of eight or more years with
their UK Spectra Tape-Drive sails.
UK Sailmakers’s MatriX sails are
load path constructions that represent the next step in the evolution of
the Tape-Drive concept. Instead of applying the load path structural
members to a pre-made sail membrane, we fabricate the sail skin and load
path structure as one integral product. String sails started out as a
grand-prix product because they are lighter and less elastic. Yet going
forward, we expect string sails to be used in more and more applications
– especially on super yachts where lighter sails are a necessity.
the UK Sailmakers group continues to grow and expand even more into the
worldwide market, more than doubling the group’s size, the company
retains the personal touch that sailors expect. Butch Ulmer, son of the
company’s founder and topnotch sailor, goes to the office in City
Island, New York, every day to oversee corporate matters and details of
the City Island loft.