Something like 49 years ago, the subject of this month’s “Letter” from Antigua, Andrew Dove, was born on a blustery day in the Essex town of Romford, England. When he was two years old, he and his English mother and father moved to Hullbridge on the River Crouch. It goes without saying that this coastal estuary is one of the top sailing locations on the east coast of England.
It wasn’t long before his father bought a Heron dinghy designed by Londoner Jack Holt, a well known racing dinghy builder, in which Andrew at a very early age learnt to sail. Soon the family decided that a Mirror dinghy was more suitable for their young family so the front room of their house became a boatyard! Before long the very young Mr Dove was racing in the dinghy fleets of the Up River Yacht Club situated on the banks of the River Crouch and, when he was only ten years old, he became the youngest Club Champion ever. At the tender age of eleven he actually won the Seminal Trophy, a Club Championship in Fireballs and to this day is still the youngest person to win this trophy.
So, why are we writing about Andrew? Well, for some time now he has been writing a monthly article for All at Sea in the lordly position of being the area manager for North Sails, perhaps the world’s most pre-eminent sail maker with its head office in the USA but with many other sail lofts around the world. He has his own loft in Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe and, in October 2007, rented half of Antigua Sails loft situated between Falmouth and English Harbour in Antigua. He is specializing in first class sails which he designs and builds himself for any size of boat.
Most All at Sea Readers will know the value of having the North Sails emblem on their own yachts. For example, all of the entrants in the recent Americas Cup held in Spain were equipped with North racing sails and, believe it or not, not one of the competitors came up with any grumble.
But, to go back to Andrew’s early days, he was soon to gravitate to Merlin Rockets in which he won more than his fair share of races as a young teenager. Not that it was that easy, for his parents made him pay at least half the expenses that racing a top flight Merlin Rocket demanded. It’s interesting to note that despite his interest in yacht racing there was little or no future for a young man when it came to sailing. And, to be honest, Andrew wanted to be either an architect or a chef in his early teens.
Soon he was sailing Lasers and Enterprises and, to say the least, was pretty successful. On one occasion the halyard on the dinghy he was racing broke and the mast fell down. He was three miles out to sea and he refused the offer of a tow alongside the rescue boat back to land; using a jury rig he successfully navigated his way back to inside Plymouth Hoe. This simple but extremely enterprising adventure was watched by Owen Aisher, a well known English yachtsman, who straightaway presented, as a prize to Andrew for his ability, a week of racing at Cowes aboard one of Mr Aisher’s famous yachts of the Yeoman string.
Andrew then moved into 12ft Nationals having a China Doll design and from then on his sailing career did not look back. After working for a year at sail makers Musto and Hyde, he was offered the job of Sales Manager but declined and instead went to York University where he studied Animal behavior and Human Physiology which he passed with flying colours.
However, he was soon to join the British Voluntary Service Overseas and was posted to Montserrat where he taught science and maths in a secondary school. He also ran the school football team and in his spare time played for a football club in Montserrat. He stayed in Montserrat from 1983 to ’85 and soon met an attractive young French girl from Guadeloupe who became his wife.
He started his own sail loft in the Marina Bas de Fort in Guadeloupe where he guaranteed to fix or repair sails in three days…or the customer didn’t have to pay!! He started the loft and found he was making a suit of sails for the catamaran which Denis Conner sailed in the Americas Cup. The managing director of North Sails in the States heard about Andrew and asked him to join North Sails in Guadeloupe.
All this has lead to Andrew now starting a new loft under the banner of North Sails here in Antigua. So we in Antigua now have three sail making companies which will happily do any repair jobs, make awnings, and even reupholster. Aren’t we a lucky little lot. These companies are Antigua Sails, A & F Sails, and the new North Sails Loft. So Andrew will be a busy little fellow flying back and forth possibly every week from Guadeloupe. Good Luck, Monsieur Dove.
Jol Byerley arrived in Antigua in 1957 to captain Commander Vernon Nicholson’s schooner Mollihawk. 2 years later he bought the first of his many own yachts, Ron of Argyll. She was followed by the 73ft Alden gaff schooner Lord Jim. In 2004 he was awarded a G.O.M. by the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda for long service to yachting.