Have you ever
tried to sail a boat with your eyes closed? It's a proven test
of seamanship and one's ability to "feel" the wind in the sails
and the wash of the water as it glides past the rudder, according
to world-class sailor and local businessman Scott Allan.
doesn't recommend doing this for a long duration of time, or if
one is alone, but Scott indicated that many world-class sailors
can sail a boat faster by feel than by relying on instruments.
And he should know---he has won a number of sailboat races since
he first entered competitive sailing during the early 1970s.
Born and raised in Southern California, Scott developed an early
interest in sailing. By the time he enrolled in college at the
University of Southern California, he became quite skilled at
the sport. During his college years, he worked for Peter Barrett
at North Sails. Barrett was a former Olympic gold medalist and
encouraged Scott to try out for the 1972 Olympics. After a four-year
campaign, Scott won the trials and qualified for the 1972 Olympics
in Kiel, Germany.
After he graduated with a business degree from USC, he went to
work for Murphy & Nye, a well-known sailmaker in Eastport. The
company was based on Eastern Avenue and it was here that Scott
learned some advanced skills in sailmaking under the mentorship
of Al McKinsey, whom Scott refers to as "a gifted man with a needle."
In 1975, Scott decided to go out on his own and opened a small
sail loft on West Street in Annapolis. "We wanted to be near the
water but could not find any space," he says. Two years later,
a piece of property located at 108 Severn Avenue came on the market
and Scott bought it. The company has been there ever since. In
subsequent years, the company joined the Doyle Group of sailmakers
and, by 1985, a consolidation of smaller sailmakers led to the
merger of Ulmer & Kolius, which came to be known as "UK."
Scott merged with the company in 1993. The backbone of UK-designed
sails comes from the computer-aided design software developed
by Jerry Milgrem who many consider the father of CAD in the sailmaking
"We knew in 1974 that computers were the way to go," explains
Scott, "and we were able to design sails from a computer that
incorporated an aerodynamic software program." At that time, it
meant using keypunched cards and renting time on a mainframe computer
capable of plotting the design onto a template. With the advanced
hardware technology available today, the processes of sail design,
plotting, cutting and sewing are all accomplished with a desktop
PC. In the industry, it is referred to as "panelizing."
This process saves space in the sail loft as well. Most companies
like UK/Allan utilize about half of the floor area it formerly
needed to fabricate a sail by hand-cutting the material laid out
along a measured space on the floor. "We design it, panelize it
and 'nest' the data onto a computer disc. Another program in the
computer actually cuts the panels for each sail. The only time
we actually use scissors anymore is for trimming the edges of
the panels," Scott explains.
A sewing machine, which is also computerized, sews the panels
together into the overall shape of the sail. "It's much like putting
together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle," he says. The custom-built
computerized machines used in the industry typically cost anywhere
from $40,000 to $75,000.
In years past, canvas was the standard material used in sailmaking.
But today, the primary fabrics include Dacron, Kevlar, Spectra
and carbon fiber-based synthetic materials. On average, sailboat
owners replace their sails every eight to10 years. By comparison,
in the fierce competition of America's Cup sailing, the sails
are replaced every 17 hours.
As a successful competitive sailor, Scott Allan knows the value
of good sail design. "We design a sail depending on what we think
the conditions will be," he says, "and the design of the boat
hull is a critical factor in our work."
In 1988, he entered the multi-hull ProSail series. "It was some
of the most exciting sailing I've ever done," he says. The boats
are designed to sail with one hull hiked up out of the water at
a routinely fast pace of 20 knots. In some instances, he achieved
speeds of 35 knots. "The only boats that could keep up with us
were the small, fast chase boats," he says. The series had large
corporate sponsors like Tide, AC Delco and others, but slow economic
times during the late '80s forced them to pull out and the ProSail
series ended after three years.
Now Scott Allan's competitive sailing is with his customers---usually
as tactician. "To be successful, everyone has to work together.
It takes four or five people making adjustments all the time.
In competitive sailing, half an inch of sail trim can make the
difference between winning and losing," he says.
Several years ago, Scott Allan was inducted into the first class
of the Annapolis Maritime Hall of Fame along with other well-known
sailors---Gary Jobson, Arnie Gay, John Sherwood and Stuart Walker.
The Hall of Fame was the brainchild of the city's Maritime Advisory
Board in its efforts to recognize individuals who have made significant
contributions to the maritime heritage of Annapolis.
Scott lives in the Bay Ridge community of Annapolis. He and his
wife Kathryn have been married for 30 years. They have two children,
Scott Jr., an attorney in Washington, D.C., and a daughter Christian
who lives in California.
Over the years, Scott Allan has given back to the community through
volunteer programs and projects which he believes will help future
generations to become part of the maritime industry. From his
early days in Annapolis coaching sailing at the Naval Academy
to his most recent contribution as a board member of the Fales
Committee---the maritime advisory board at the Naval Academy---Scott
stays involved. "It's important for me to help future generations,"