17 Nov 1956 Daily Ind Jnl - Profile of Sutter sailmakers who outfitted FC Fleet
M8 ilnftrprnftrnt-flmirngd. Saturday, Nov. 17, 1956 or bUl.a FUTu he jmilj —K ceui us ui v «vc.pi for remakes. Bill Larson, (left) jots down dimensions as Sutter reads them from the uiuepi int. I ne punncn • vwp v.iu«e tab on racing results. — (Independent-Journal Photos by Dick Steinheimer). CUTTING AN EMBLEM — Dolly Pierce cuts out an emblem for a sail with a electric soldering iron, which melts the dacron. Since the war, syntheti fabrics have largely replaced canvas. SAILMAKING AN OLD CRAFT an adjacent area 150 by 310 feet on the third floor of the Mold Loft Building. All of this space is necessary necessary for handling the huge sails which have been manufactured manufactured in the loft for such Bay yachts as Orient, Altura, Pari Too, Debit, Marilen and Romona, which were fitted with sails for last year's Transpacific race to Honolulu. In the midst of yards and yards of material and islands of sailbags, the two sailmak- ers sit at their benches, equipped with traditional tools of their craft. By BETTY PROS I Following the historic craft of sailmaking in a spacious sail loft in the old Marin ship section of Sausalito, are two enterprising Marin residents, Bill Larson and Pete Sutter. In a way, this local industry had its beginnings half a century century ago in the village of Halmstad, Sweden, where Larson Larson spent his boyhood, apprenticed apprenticed to his father in sail making. Part of Larson’s apprenticeship apprenticeship was a voyage on the square-rigger, Signal, as sailmaker at the age of 15. Sutter is a young Californian Californian whose interest in the unusual unusual business grew out of sailing activities which began at the Aeolian Yacht Club in Alameda, where Sutter became became the youngest junior member in 1938. He trained with a San Francisco firm for five years and joined forces with Larson four years ago. THE ENORMOUS AREA occupied occupied by the firm includes one room 75 by 115 feet, with WAIST HIGH IN DACRON—Dolly Pierce (left) and Normal Rolf seam dacron yardage into immense sheets for sails. Handling synthetics takes some practice, but the materials nnaks »aiU easier to manipulate for crews. Nylon is used for those brilliant spinnakers. Besides the palm and needles in a dozen sizes, they use marlin spikes, fibs for splicing, a heaver which pulls the stitches very tight, and a hook, jocularly dubbed the “third arm,” for it holds the sail in place, leaving the sailmaker free to use both hands in his work. LARSON LOOKS back on a colorful career which includes includes 17 years spent with the outstanding firm of Razzi in New York, and 25 years in the Great Lakes region. He also enjoyed a period of time spent at the old sailing center in New Bedford, Mass., where he helped equip the Dartmouth Society’s Maritime Museum, which includes a fully rigged whaling ship to one-quarter scale. THE MAIN CHANGES in the ancient craft have come since World War II, the partners partners agree. Now 98 per cent of their sails are made of synthetics rather than the classic canvas. Dacron is used for most sails, with bolts and bolts of colorful nylon, reminiscent of a lingerie 3nhr|»rnhritt-3fiiurnal. Saturday, Nov. I 7, I 956 M9 THREE PHASES OF SAILMAKING—Pete Sutter (foreground) lays and trims a new sail on the "deck" of the third floor of the Mold Loft Building. William Larson (center) sews reinforcing around a grommet while Gary Williams (rear) hems the edge of a sail. When Marinship was making Liberty ships during World War II, this loft was used tor similar worn in metals. The floor still bears the old pattern outlines. Big as it seems, that sail in the background is a jib—one of the smaller triangular sails rigged before the mast. counter, waiting to be made up into the ballooning spinnakers spinnakers which make the Bay Area sailing fleet such a spectacular sight on race days. The synthetics are not cut with scissors, but with a soldering gun and sewn on heavy duty commercial sewing sewing machines with dacron or nylon thread. It took a certain amount of experience to learn to manipulate the new fabrics fabrics but both agree that they are easier to handle, stay clean and look sharp. Their most interesting order, order, according to Sutter, is the Farallone Clipper fleet, where all the boats on the Bay were outfitted for sails by the Sausalito firm. Sutter crews for Aldo Alessio on the Mistress II in a class which has been spectacularly close this season. IN A SPORT where “that old Jenny of mine” is often a legitimate loser's excuse, the bay’s eight clippers finished the season with two in dead heat and one only 3 points behind—after 10 Yacht Racing Racing Association contests. Bill Larson takes particular particular pride in having made the sails for the glamourous Orient, Tim Moseley’s “Cruising “Cruising Club A” season winner. He recalls the schooner Ramona’s Ramona’s gigantic foresail and jib, which required six men to handle in the sail loft. In the East, sailmakers go into commercial work during during the winter, making heavy duty boat covers and the like for cargo and passenger ships. IN THE BAY REGION, however, the industry is active all winter. Larson and Sutter, who specialize in the yachting end of it, are busy 12 months of the year with orders of local sailing enthusiasts. enthusiasts. Even their recreation is a “busman’s holiday.” They often often go out on yachts to observe observe the set of new sails, offer offer adviqe on rigging and suggest suggest adjustments. This is really a pleasure, the sail makers say — a sentiment echoed by skippers who thereby acquire a top crew for the day's excursion. llliiritt COVER PHOTO SEWING A SAIL — Here Gary Williams hems edge of dacron sail in the Larson Larson and Sutter sailmaking loft in Sausalito's Marin ship. Ranks of the craft are fast thinning, according according to Bill Larson, who apprenticed apprenticed in Sweden 50 years ago. (Independent- Journal Photos by Dick Steinheimer) EASY DOES IT—Bagged sails are eased by dolly from the third floor down the same ramp on which parts for Liberty ships were lowered during Marinship's war days. The Larson and Sutter sail loft occupies only a fourth of the top floor.