Scott Allan UK/Allan Sailmakers

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.

He 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 industry.

"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," he says.


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Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
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County Fair

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