Geoff Bishop has been helping sailors in Western Australia sail with confidence as the head of the UK Sailmakers loft in Fremantle since 2004. A sailor for 44 years, as a young dinghy sailor, he was offered a job in a sail loft which he accepted noting, “It was a great opportunity…to make a living doing my passion. It was too good an offer to refuse.” For the past 36 years, Geoff has been designing and making sails, the last 16 years as part of the UK Sailmakers International network of over 50 sail lofts around the world. “It was the best decision I could have ever made.”
When not in the loft, Geoff has sailed in 10 Sydney-to-Hobart Races finishing third overall 1989 and winning his division, with Ron Lally’s yacht RED JACKET they campaigned together in the 1998 race, returning in 1999, winning their division by over 24 hours. He represented Australia in the 1989 Admirals Cup onboard TRUE BLUE that included the Fastnet Race. He went on to sail in the world racing circuit for another five years. He was the IRC Western Australia State Champion 2018/19 and ticked off a bucket list item sailed in the Transpac Race onboard ICON, a Perry 66.
While a career in sailmaking, manufacturing and servicing sails, can become routine at times, there are special moments along the way that demonstrate how fulfilling a lifestyle sailmaking can be. Geoff’s greatest satisfaction comes from designing and building sails that outperform a customer’s expectations. When he delivers a sail that’s faster, he knows will be durable, and fits the boat perfectly, the customers’ smiles and happiness make it all worthwhile.
Geoff has learned to listen to customers’ needs, to educate them on sail options so they are better at buying a new sail, and then showing them how to gain the maximum potential from a sail by showing how to set and trim it properly either on the water or in a seminar at a local yacht club.
Geoff said, “One of my most memorable experiences was not long after I started my own business, as a 22-year-old. I delivered a new mainsail to a IOR Farr 40 IOR. The crew didn’t think they would be racing that day as no other sailmaker had delivered a sail that fit the first time. Not only did the sail fit, but we also went out and won the race! Some of those crew members became longtime customers who become great friends and role models that helped me to grow my business.”
Geoff has had some very good mentors at the Fremantle loft. Tony Carter, a successful businessman and sailor, winner of many offshore races over a period of four yachts, is a mainstay. As is Trevor Taylor, another sailor/ business operator, who Geoff first met when Trevor purchased a Farr 9.20 and through at least six different yachts sailing locally and abroad. Like many of his clients, Geoff has built lasting relationships. Their business, advice and support has helped his loft grow.
The UK Sailmakers Fremantle loft also gives back to the community. They have been a longtime sponsor of the S80 Association of WA, FSC’s doublehanded series, Geographe Bay Yacht Club as well as helping to support the offshore racing community at Western Australia.
When asked to sum it all up, Geoff noted, “UK Sailmakers Fremantle is proud of the relationships we build with our clients; nearly all of our longtime, loyal customers are still sailing today. What disappoints me is when I see our competitors selling sailors products that they don’t really need, and therefore, in turn, the customers fall out love with the sport because of the costs. We want to be involved with our business and the sport of sailing for a long time and want our customers to enjoy the experience. We offer them the right sails at the right price so they can sail with confidence. Sailmaking is what I do, but to share my passion for sailing is why I do it.”