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Jol Byerley’s Jan 06 Letter from Antigua

Since 1979, Judy and I have represented North Sails here in
Antigua as we strongly believe that North Sails is one of
the best sail lofts in the world. Now you might say that we are rather proud of
this. Anyway, it was in 1989 that a young Englishman named
Andrew Dove became the General Area Manager for
North in the Caribbean. He was based in the
rapidly expanding Marina Bas du Fort
on the flat side of Guadeloupe. During this
time North had enlarged dramatically with their various lofts all over the
world, and they made sails in most of the major sailing countries. Their sails
could be seen on the majority of the race boats worldwide. So from a relatively
small loft in Guadeloupe, North Caribbean has
grown to become the supplier of sails to all and sundry and also the cream of
the West Indian race boats.

So who is
this fellow Andrew Dove? Well, he is
now fluent in French and even thinks in his adopted language. He has developed
close ties with North Sails, South Africa
and of course the “3DL” loft in the middle of
America’s
Nevada desert. But more
about that later. Andrew was born in Romford,
Essex just north of London
in 1958, and when his family moved to a small village on the River Crouch, his father built him a little Heron dinghy. This
meant moving most of the furniture from the living room which rapidly became a
boat yard! The Heron was followed by a Mirror dinghy and young Andrew was soon
making a name for himself sailing at the Up River Yacht Club. He lived for racing
and there was hardly a regatta in the area which he did not attend. Then he was
in to 12 Foot Nationals and Merlin Rockets and with them, he started to make
his own sails. Now, this fact became known to Keith Musto
of Musto and Hyde Sails and soon our young hero was
employed full time with what was a major loft in the
United Kingdom. But not before he
had fallen head over heels with the Merlin /Rocket Class just as I had done
many years before. But then his family insisted on a “
proper education”, and despite being offered a job by Musto and Hyde as a sales manager, he toddled off to
York University
and studied animal behavior!

Several
years later, he left York with an Honours Degree only to have the “Volunteer Service
Abroad” or VSO send him to the Caribbean
island of Montserrat.
There he was head of science! After a two to three year period, he moved to
Guadeloupe, met Olivia, his wife to be, and started to
repair sails for a living. His advertising in those days was “Sails back
in three days or repairs for free”. One thing lead to another and North
Sails was to move into Guadeloupe. So Andrew
worked for them and soon became manager and then area manager. Since his
arrival there North has spread over the Caribbean
and not surprisingly has made sails for some of the largest most famous yachts
that spend their winters in the sunshine.

I asked
Andrew the other day what he thought was the biggest advance in sail making.
“Has to be the present 3DL” he replied without hesitation.
“Now, the material is only made in Nevada
and it is stronger, better and longer lasting”. I would agree with him
entirely!

So a man
with a mission is Andrew Dove! But
don’t expect him to slow down if you just want to tell him about how the
grass on your lawn grows, or the varnish on your boat
deals with tropical sunlight. For someone who thinks in French and speaks in
English Andrew’s attitude to life is not surprising. Anyway, if you
really want a set of Dacrons or purely cruising main,
that is no problem either.

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