A Day in the Loft

This film is an insight into traditional techniques used by a loft that started business at the end of the 'working sail' era as they are seen here repairing a mainsail of 2,906.2 sq foot for luxury classic yacht.

James Lawrence Sailmakers' roots were strongly tied to the Thames Estuary, surrounding rivers and their vessels. Concentrating on Thames Barges and Smacks, the loft worked in a niche market from the start. In recent times the loft exceeds its reputation in keeping the classic boats and yachts in commission on the east coast but also reaches out to one design classes and yachts across Great Britain, Europe and beyond to the Caribbean, even Pakistan!

Mark Butler is the son-in-law of founder, 'Jim' Lawrence and he talks us through repairing their current job - 'Mariette's main sail (Herreshoff Schooner launched in 1915). Mariette's length over all is 138ft and she wasn't designed to sail slowly so her towering rig presents those who admire her on the water with a 2,906.2 SQ FT (270m2) main sail! Mark Butler and his team are seen in this film repairing her mainsail after it had been ripped while the crew were taking her north, in the Biscay, in the spring of 2012 after a transatlantic.

This is what the captain, Charlie Wroe had to say about the condition of the sail and what happened to cause the damage:

"The weather was rough and windy but it was the best window of opportunity for Mariette to get to Cornwall from La Coruna, Spain. We left in the company of Ranger, the J-Class yacht, knowing that we were in for a bit of a pasting. The wind was 30-40 knots and just forward of the beam so although rough we were going fast. The main on Mariette does not like being reefed, the sea state necessitated a reduction in sail area and eventually we were forced to put in the second reef on the main. The sail is strong but with those sorts of conditions it’s hard to get the sail to set flat, and it loads up between the clew and the luff. One big gust of wind combined with a roll to windward and the result is a bust mainsail. Fortunately we weren’t far out of port, the wind was still blowing and so the replacement storm tri-sail pulled us into Falmouth."

"Mark did a fantastic repair. If you did not know the sail was ripped you could not tell, and importantly it did not slow us down on the race course this summer. The main is 270m2, was built by a French loft in 2008 but has been heavily modified by James Lawrence Sailmakers. The boat weighs 180 tons and the main roughly takes about half the righting moment of the yacht."

Visit the loft: www.jameslawrencesailmakers.com

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