Nyfiken på… Per Andersson, segeldesigner

I samband med att jag skulle åka till North Sails i Nevada så hade jag en mailväxling med Per Andersson, som är chefsdesigner för North i Nordamerika. Och då är det ju kul att få koll på vad som händer i den stora världen…

What’s your background – how did you get into sailmaking?
I started sailmaking in Stockholm at Rebell Segel in the late 70’s. I ended up in Western Australia (Perth) in 1980 and worked for a small local loft called Hartley-Hood for a year.

In 1981 I landed in Auckland, New Zealand and applied for a job at North Sails but with “not a lot going on” at the time they send me over to Hood Sails NZ. I ended up going back and forth between NZ and USA working for Hood Sails until 1989 when I joined Sobstad Sailmakers in Annapolis. Sobstad Annapolis eventually founded/changed to become Quantum Sail Design Group in the late 90’s where I had the position of VP and Design Manager.

I have been with North Sails since 07′ and currently serve as the North America Design Manager.

I spent a lot of time designing sails for and racing on the IOR Maxi Boats and IOR 50ft in the 80’s and 90’s. I have had plenty of involvement in Whitbread and Volvo campaigns through the years including UBS Switzerland, Yamaha, NZ Endeavour, Swedish Match etc. I designed sails and sailed with America3 for the 1992 Cup in San Diego and joined them again as designer and sail coordinator in 1995. I was involved with Aloha Racing for the 2000 Cup in Auckland. Over the last 10 years I have been more involved with TP 52’s, IMS, IRC, one design and OD offshore classes.

How did you end up at North Sails?
I was approached by North Sails to join the company and felt it was good time in my life to move on. I had spent 30 years competing with North and was always intrigued by their innovative and highly technological approach to sailmaking. During my 30 years in the industry and Grand Prix racing I made many friends at North Sails which made for an easy transition. The company has a tremendous amount of technical resources and highly skilled designers and is always looking for the “edge”!

In you role as designer, what’s been the biggest change in the past 10 years?
Materials are always changing where we have come a long way with laminated fabrics since the mid 70’s. North 3DL took laminated sail cloth, and the way to produce a sail to a different level in the early 90’s. Today North 3Di is a new revolutionary way of producing sail membranes.

Even woven polyester/Dacron/nylon fabrics are constantly evolving. Our new warp oriented Dacrons have proven extremely good and are likely to replace some of the laminates currently being used for cruisers and cruiser racers.

Design tools vary a lot between different companies and going from one company to the next you get exposed to new tools you did not even knew existed. In the last 10 years some quite sophisticated commercially available programs have appeared on the marked which makes it easier for the smaller sailmakers to at least computer generate and computer cut their paneled sails. The one part that is more or less cost prohibited for most sailmakers is the simulation tools. No matter how sophisticated the tools, they need constant attention to make them work with new innovations. For example; with 3Di in our inventory, we had to re-write code in our “Membrain” simulation program to adapt to the new way of using fibers or in this case, filaments. Our advantage is that we have more than 60 designers and engineers on staff worldwide that constantly keeps our programs and tools on the leading edge.

Classes of boats have fortunately gone in the direction of producing faster, simpler, and better looking more fun boats to sail. Some of the older “One Design classes” have been staying strong because of the attraction of sailing “boat for boat” and due to their strong class organizations. Also, good value over a long period of time (fun per dollar) is important to keep classes strong. Look at the J 24 for example. The “box” rule classes have ended up more or less one design and updates to the existing box rules (ex. TP 52) to make the boat dual purpose (IRC and TP Class) helps where you can be competitive in more than one circuit.

In the next 5 years, where do you see the biggest development?
Material development over the next 5 years I think it will be more a matter of refinement. 3DL is still being refined after 18 years on the market. 3Di is going through constant development and refinement. 3Di will likely still be considered the “new” product in 5 years time. We are always looking around the corner and communicate with other high tech industries to see what we can use in sail making. On the other hand our 3DL and 3Di technologies are currently also being used for architectural purposes, in the airplane industry and in other sport industries.

The sail designs and tools are developing along with the material development. We have been limited to certain modulus range due to what fibers and how those fibers are used to produce a sail. With 3Di we have taken a huge step in terms of how we utilize the fiber/filaments to make a higher modulus product. With 3Di we are looking at something closer to solid wing technology and the designs have to be adapted accordingly. Certain older type yacht designs may not adapt well to the super high modulus fabrics and at times we have to “detune” the fabric to adapt to a certain sail and boat type.

With our design tools the goal is to be working in a completely dynamic design environment rather than static. There are endless possibilities.

For classes of boats I think it is natural we are always looking for more speed so new “One Design” classes, not bound by a restrictive rules, will be going in that direction. I think the last multihull Americas Cup opened up some eyes in terms of speed and technology. On the other hand with a lot of solid good old classes out there that keep the racing close and fun, there will not likely be any major changes over the next 5 years.

How do 3Di change the game? Do you as a designer have to adopt/change?
When all is said and done with 3Di development, it will be tough for any Grand Prix level boat not to use 3Di and still be competitive. For North Sails, 3Di is a way to continue being innovative and to be on the cutting edge. We like to lead and not try to play the catch up game.

As designers we have to adopt and change for any improvement and change we do to both 3DL and 3Di. It is like doing research projects every day and that is where our design tools play a big part.

Where do you see 3Di as a “perfect fit”, and where would you be more careful?
I am not sure there is a perfect fit for 3Di. We are working in many areas including GP racing and cruising. Look at 3DL that started as a “one regatta” sail and is now powering everything from 20ft One Designs to 200ft racer cruisers, America’s Cup boats and VOR 70’s.

Sometimes you have to be careful where you put out new products. As I said earlier we are always developing and we have to rely on a lot on input and feedback from clients, pro and non pro sailors and sail trimmers. We spend plenty time on the boats ourselves but a big part of development is happening in a race environment. You have to be good at “weeding” information because there are so many aspects that play part. If we could always test in a perfectly controlled environment it would be easy. With tools and programs moving towards more dynamic analysis, it will be easier and quicker to reach the end result in the future.

What would you say would be the biggest difference for the trimmer going from 3DL to 3Di?
I general the trimmer will be working with a shape that is more “locked in”. With 3DL or similar type sail, the trimmer has to adjust sheet lead, halyard, and sheet constantly to adjust the sail shape according to the conditions.

The 3Di sails need less adjustment in the medium upper range but as much adjustment in the lower range.

Can you identify any major trends in downwind sails?
The obvious trends are parallel with boat development. Faster boats with prods and apparent wind angles closer than 90 degrees! This puts a lot of emphasis on stable fabrics like Cuben Fiber, Polyester and 3DL rather than nylon.

Correct sizing and efficient molds are key factors. We use both real and virtual wind tunnel for a lot of the development. In the real world many of our refined molds for asymmetrical sails come from our Americas Cup and VOR 70 development. These are arenas where we as designers work on development with the best sailors and trimmers in the world.

Do you get to do any sailing yourself?
Yes I do. As a designer it is important to be on the water to make further improvements to the designs. It is as important to listen to the person trimming sails on the J-105 as on the Cup boat. I also sail for fun!


  1. Patrik Apr 18, 2010 Reply

    Ööööö… är han engelsk eller svensktalande, eller bara en släng av Dolph L.. syndromet ?

  2. Magnus Apr 18, 2010 Reply

    Svensk men har nog hängt lite länge over there…. Trevlig prick e han i alla fall, Hälsa

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