Hobie Cat Co. (“HCC”) has informed the International Hobie Class Association (“IHCA”) that HCC is no longer going to manufacture sails for two discontinued models the Hobie 17 (“H17”) and the Hobie 20 (“H20”). Both boats are still being actively sailed and raced in North America albeit in smallish numbers. There are also some H17’s racing overseas. After considerable discussion with HCC, it was decided the class would take on finding and licensing a sailmaker/sailmakers to continue producing class legal sails for each, however, we cannot use HCC trademarks on the sails. The idea is that the IHCA would license a sailmaker/sailmakers to produce a class legal sail and the sailor would buy directly from them.
Hobie Cat Co. provided the cut files for both boats and the cloth specifications. Previously the H17 sail was made by HCC in Oceanside, CA, and the H20 sail was sold by HCC but manufacturing had been subcontracted out to Danger Sails (Jay Glaser) for the last twelve years. Prior to that H20 sail, manufacturing was subcontracted out to Elliott/Pattison Sailmakers.
Cloth specifications from Hobie Cat Co.
The H17 sail was previously made with Dimension/Polyant 180X and 180P mylar. The chief complaint with this cloth was its short longevity, delamination, and high cost. The battens used are the standard fiberglass Hobie batten.
The H20 main is made from Dimension/Polyant PX15 and the jib was made from Dimension/Polyant 245HTP square dacron. Other than cost, we have heard no complaints about the sails. The H20 uses either fiberfoam or RBS battens.
In talking to the sailmakers, the H20 sailcloth is fine, and we can continue to use that same cloth. Optionally we could switch the jib cloth to PX10 which would be in line with what the F18’s use, however, there would be a slight increase in price compared to dacron.
It does seem this is a good opportunity to upgrade the H17 cloth to something more modern, readily available with better longevity. Dimension/Polyant PX10 was recommended by all five of the sailmakers we talked to as a replacement.
Our thought process in finding a replacement builder:
• Do not obsolete the existing sails overnight
• Use the same cut files
• Update the cloth for the H17 to something more modern
• Offer a source for class legal sails that comply with our one-design principles
• New sails should use the same battens
• We need to have a mechanism to certify and label the sail as “IHCA class legal”
• There will be a small royalty paid to the IHCA and possibly the region when a sail is made and sold. There would provide a certification patch that would be sewn next to the sailmaker patch to show the sail is class legal.
• We need a new logo for the mainsail.
• Builders should have the ability to service international customers
• We are seeking a sailmaker that respects one-design principles and will protect any trademark that they are authorized to represent (HCC, IHCA, or other)
Once we received clarity on all the issues from HCC and explicit permission to proceed. We contacted five sailmakers, Danger Sails, Whirlwind Sails, Elliott/Pattison Sailmakers, Mariner Sails and Quantum Sails and had meetings with all of them. We asked each sailmaker for a written proposal with pricing and all details. All the sailmakers we contacted recommended the same cloth which we felt good about but there is an elephant in the room. There is a worldwide shortage of sailcloth, in particular laminate cloth.
H20 jib Dimension/Polyant 245HTP square dacron
H20 main Dimension/Polyant PX15
H17 main Dimension/Polyant PX10
Dimension/Polyant is out of stock of PX10 and the manufacturer doesn’t know when they will be able to manufacture more. The PX15 supply is very limited, and they also don’t know when they will be able to manufacture more. The problem is the raw materials to make laminate cloth are not available due to the ongoing supply chain issues. Dacron sailcloth supply has issues too but it’s better than laminates. Cloth pricing across the board is also going up. There are other cloth options, but most are considerably more expensive. In theory, these sails could be made of Dacron, but the sailmakers don’t think they would last long. Regardless of whom we select the cloth supply is going to be an issue unless the loft happens to have cloth in their inventory now.
We initially contacted Jay Glaser to inquire if he would be interested in continuing to manufacture the H20 sails and take on the H17. Jay provided lots of helpful details but indicated he was busy with other work and not interested.
This company is owned and operated by Chip Buck in San Diego. Chip worked for HCC back in the 1990s running the sail loft in Oceanside for several years before leaving to start his own business. He speaks very well and we were impressed with his knowledge of the sails and how to build them. He currently makes aftermarket sails for a variety of small catamarans.
Quantum is a large company with 60 lofts around the world. Given Quantum’s size, we were somewhat expecting that the order volume might be too low to get them interested but that was not the case. We provided them with the cloth details and the cut files to review. They asked a lot of questions and are interested in the work. In addition to the cut files, they asked for a new or recently made set of sails for each boat to inspect. We sourced sails through a sailor and Hobie Cat Co. Jeff Alter visited their loft, met with them, and went over all the details in person. Quantum can accommodate low or high sales volume and can also distribute worldwide. They make sails for many one-design classes and the professionalism was obvious.
Sail loft in Newport Beach, CA. Skip Elliot was the original designer and builder of the Hobie 20 sails and the original designer of the H17 sail. They have expertise in catamaran sails, Hobie, Prindle, Nacra, A-class, and Tornado. Considering their history with H17 & H20 sails and their expertise, they are certainly a viable option.
Sail loft and Hobie dealer in Dallas, TX area. They gave us a very nice proposal and are a viable option. They have a small supply of cloth for the H20 but only enough cloth for one H17 sail and the manufacturer has no additional cloth available. Their proposal is contingent on being the exclusive supplier.
Update and Status as of April 27, 2022
A full report has been submitted to the IHCA rules committee for review. Now an unauthorized and non-IHCA class rule change however has created a complication.
Whirlwind produced a prototype sail that was sent to an event in Mississippi in early April. In our initial discussions with Whirlwind, the owner indicated he had “slightly modified” the HCC cut file, however, once this prototype sail was displayed it became apparent this was actually a completely different design. Follow up discussions were held with Whirlwind last week to clarify the issue and what he proposed to build. At that time, it was also revealed that his quoted pricing was based on his new design and not the HCC design. Building the HCC design would actually cost more. While Whirlwind had the lowest quote, unfortunately, it was never a fair comparison as all the other companies bid on building the HCC design.
This has required a pause in the process while this new information is considered by the rules committee. The new sail design may have merit, however, the rules committee is not prepared to rush into a completely new design for the sail without due consideration and discussion which is ongoing.
The Hobie 20 is not experiencing these complications and the process of licensing a new builder is being finalized. These shall be made from the same cloth and from the HCC cut files.
The initial proposal submitted to the rules committee was to identify a new builder that would produce the sails from “IHCA approved patterns and manufactured by IHCA approved manufacturers”.
This is the mission we have pursued but as you can see it has become more complicated. The IHCA is continuing to work with all our partners to ensure we maintain class rules that are fair and equitable in maintaining our strong one-design racing rules.
Update and Status as of May 19, 2022
The rules committee has met and discussed all the issues.
The mission was to find a new builder that would produce the sails from IHCA approved patterns and respect our one-design principles. The Hobie class has always taken a strict approach to our one-design principles and that has contributed to our success, this change is no different.
The Hobie 20 situation is straightforward. We have identified a new builder that will work with us as a full partner and produce the sails from IHCA approved patterns. The new sails will be made with exactly the same cut files from the same cloth. Sailors will simply order sails directly from the licensed sail maker. We have selected Elliot Loft as the new builder. Skip Elliot was the original designer and builder of the Hobie 20 sails. They have a long history with Hobie sails, and we are confident they will produce a high-quality product for the Hobie 20 class. Existing sails sold by HCC will of course continue to be class legal.
Update and Status as of June 2, 2022
The Hobie 20 proposal (May 15) received mixed reviews in the comment period. The rules committee has withdrawn that proposal for further discussion and revision. A revised proposal will be published soon.
The Hobie 17 requires a different solution. We have received a lot of sailor input and the sailors are clearly interested in a new sail design from Whirlwind, however this new design differs from the IHCA approved patterns and Whirlwind has stated they will not provide the cut files to the IHCA and in fairness it’s their intellectual property.
The publication of the Hobie 17 North American’s NOR allowing the Whirlwind sails as class legal equipment with no measurement restrictions, puts the H17 class and the rules committee in an awkward place. It is the goal of the IHCA to keep Hobie sailing one design and fair. Recognizing the complexities of multiple designs when the IHCA does not hold the design patterns, the rules committee has decided to pursue an open sail design for this class. The new sail will need to comply with a set of measurements/specifications as will be detailed in the class rules, but the sail can be made by any sail maker. Sails will need to be measured. Existing sails manufactured by HCC will continue to be class legal. This appears to be the only fair and reasonable decision to maintain the Hobie class principles of one design sailing within the H17 class.