Sailexchange – Recycled Sails & More

Written by John Curnow for Sail-World

31 times, Carl Crafoord has turned right on Boxing Day. You learn a bit when you undertake Australia’s totally iconic bluewater event. Equally, when you’ve done it that many times, you’ve seen as many changes to the boats, sails, and crew, as there have been in weather. For one race is never the same. It’s a bit like saying 31×1, as opposed to 1×31. The answer might be same, but the way to get there is completely different, with each and every one having its own and distinctly unique nature indelibly imprinted on your memory.

Just last year, Carl overtook his equally famous father, the late Max Crafoord, when he completed the 2016 event as Navigator on the brutally quick J/V62, Chinese Whisper. Max and Carl are part of the CYCA Right Stuff, much like the Green and Kirby Families. In those quieter and simpler times, Crafoord remembers all the weekends spent at the CYCA simply waiting for his dad to return ashore after sailing. As you have seen, it did not perturb the young boy, or turn him off sailing completely.

Also, building boats at home was not only practical and economical; it gave you a deep and comprehensive appreciation for the craft. It meant you knew you could repairs things at sea, and how to look out for damage. Yes, Crafoord is very clear that without his father’s involvement, he would not have touched sailing as a pastime, or indeed become involved in the commercial aspects of it. It also means he is well positioned to capitalise on the personal characteristics of that earlier era, in conjunction with the modern requirement for speed, technological breakthroughs, and caring for the environment.

Accordingly, there can be no surprise that over the years, Carl’s own famous name would be associated with other leading ones. Most notably brands like Harken, Lewmar and Quantum. So then getting it right seems to be imbued in Carl’s blood, and his latest project, has already become a tour de force over the last seven months since its inception. Based on all the developments in play now, or about to occur, it too is accelerating as fast as the ocean racers he is so synonymous with.

We’ll get to those, but first come to understand the workings of the portal. It is simply a market place to buy and sell new and used sails, rigs and yachting equipment. The original notion could well have been to take all those sails out of the garage, sell them, and do something else with the money. Indeed, some Skippers were actually paying for storage each month, just to house an inventory they no longer used!

You consign them for sale on, and then can either take the money, less commission of course, or plough it back in to something you do need that does have. It is important to note here, that with the latter you actually get a better rate. Anyway, it was not long before the racks at Carl’s warehouse were getting full to the roof, for not only was there a rapid supply of stock coming in, there was a burgeoning demand, and often those buyers would use a sail they presently had as part payment.

There might be ‘.au’ in the company’s URL, but the word was getting out over the oceans, as buyers and sellers from as far afield as Asia, and the USA came on board. Confidence could well be the key, for each and every sail has a rating, based on construction, care, use, and to a much lesser degree, age. How many sails are five or ten years old and almost never seen daylight? Also, who better to truly appreciate a sail than Carl, who started as an apprentice sailmaker with Hugh Treharne in January of 1977.

At the market place, there is something like 400 pages of sails, which amounts to 750 sails and growing, an abundance of material explaining exactly how the process works, and you can even order a new sail from all the known brands. Yes, the sail makers are seeing the benefit of having things move on and keeping the wheels of their industry turning.

You may think it is all about a whole bunch of rags sitting on the countless racks, but this is an ever-evolving and developing business, which is why you need to keep more than the proverbial weather eye on this market place. Indeed, only a few short weeks ago, your perception would have been predominantly correct.

However, one of the many initiatives of the greater system is to have a constantly updating database of available sails, with real time values applied to them. Think of it as the Hydrographers chart of sails, and also just like the old adage, “There has never been a boat built that is not for sale.” They could be sails on board your boat right now, part of your racing arsenal, and someone is looking to buy something like them, which means you can upgrade to the latest and greatest, without having to stump up for the whole replacement cost.

In that way you could look at it a bit like a car lease, where the residual becomes an incredibly important figure. Best of all, the whole process is but a few clicks away, which kind of makes it a no-brainer.

Out of it all, many interesting new and additional brands have created a terrific line extension under the umbrella of One of the easiest to instantly comprehend is the apparel side of things, which Carl’s wife, Bettina, has been instrumental in creating. They are the exclusive online retailer for the North Sails Clothing branded gear, as well as offering Gill and Helly Hansen, too.

Recycled sails as gear bags or suit packs also form part of this sector, as a great initiative to look after the environment. To assist with the whole ecocycle, sails rated less than one can be used for indoor/outdoor decorative needs, sunshades or ultimately, they can shredded to become beanbag filler, which is way, way better than going to landfill!

The first of the other new brands is ‘rig exchange’. As the name implies, it is about spars, booms, and prodders, as well as spinnaker and whisker poles. Again, it is not just about having items in the warehouse, or a yard somewhere, but items actually in use now, awaiting the opportunity for the owner to liquidate some funds and go again with a new item.

An example is one of the CYCA’s Directors, Noel Cornish. “It is great how people can make offers on things that until recently you had in your garage, or are still in use right now. I sent eight sails to Carl only recently, and four of them have already been sold. I have been so impressed that we are now trialling Sail Exchange by listing sails we are currently racing with. If we get an offer on our mainsail for example, I will take that offer and upgrade to a newer mainsail, thereby offsetting the cost.”

“Also, I now have our aluminium rig and boom up for sale, as we have upgraded to a carbon fibre rig and boom. When these spars are sold on Rig Exchange it will offset my upgrade costs. Therefore, I will not have had to front all of the upgrade cost, either. Carl’s sites are really sensible, and great vehicles to make use of”, said Cornish.

Now just as sail makers are on the bus, so to speak, so too are the rig manufacturers. One has three new TP52 sticks ready to go as upgrades, and is looking for people to take the existing high-modulus gems already in use, and yes, they certainly are at a fraction of replacement cost. It is all part of the ‘mapping’ that is crucial to creating an accurate marketplace. In this way, you know exactly where the gear is, and who’s ready to go, so that a deal can be done quickly and efficiently.

Carl then adds, “We are also finding that is helps the insurance companies too. They need to find items for claims, and we are the ones who know where they are, and what sort of price they will be.” Another brand of the clan to work well in this way is, which specialises in high end racing gear like racing winches and pedestals.

Having a range of the top personal safety gear is where ‘safety gear exchange’ stems from, but it too is not the whole story. Again, adapting the whole traditional style of campaign to make it all the more appealing to everyone is part of the mission. Rather than just owning equipment, you can rent out your life raft, PLBs and so on, for races you are not competing in.
This will help to keep costs down and also grow participation. Take your life raft for example. will look after the annual inspection and repacking, as well as the rental arrangements, so that the asset at least turns a dollar for you to offset all the costs, rather than simply occupying space somewhere for 11 months of the year.

Crafoord commented, “There are so many things happening at once with that it can be a little daunting. We are genuinely excited by it all, however, for it is not just about finding new homes for all manner of boating equipment, and the lifestyle in general. It is also about ensuring we grow the sport as best we can, look after the environment and create a market place that ensures there is value for both buyers and sellers.”

“One of things we are keen to do is fund Youth Sailing by having a, sails for kids day at your club. Please see to get the full picture on that. This will ensure some scale and economies with the owners donating their unused sails to their yacht club’s junior sailing program. We’ll collect them all, and the club will get 60% of the value. We’ll reduce our normal fee, and put the rest into the club’s funding of juniors. I am really passionate about this one, especially given my background.”

Boat and even Marina Exchange are going to be launched very soon, so they’ll be a part of another tale in the exciting story that is – you should go and investigate it all now, because it is going to revolutionise the way the boating business will operate.

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