Typically, when we buy a new sail, I cut up the old sail and save big chunks of it for use in future repairs or perhaps to make canvas buckets. We’ve purchased several new sails lately, however, and we can only use so much extra sail cloth before it becomes a bit overwhelming. With my sail cloth supply sufficient, I was looking for something else to do with the old genoa. I spotted a sign in yacht club soliciting sailors to donate their old sails to Re-Sails in Cape Town. I gave them a call to see what they were all about.
Though they offered to come pick up the sail, we decided we’d rather bring it to them to see how this cottage industry had grown into a viable business. Come to find out, a South African sailor started Re-Sails in San Diego, California. According to their website, “Re-Sails started breathing new life into old sails in 1994 by South African waterman, Christian Schlebach. Re-Sails is the first company in the world to commercially make products from old yacht sails. Having worked on sailing yachts for years as a deckhand, Christian was always intrigued at the huge amount of old sails the industry discarded each season. Something had to be done. Re-Sails was born out of a small room in San Diego, California, but soon after relocated to Newport, Rhode Island, home of the America’s Cup and prestigious New York Yacht Club.” In 2011, Christian and his brother, Mike, set up a new production facility in nearby Woodstock.
We headed on over one morning with the old genoa. Mike met us at the door, grabbed our sail and offered a tour.
The old genoa was delivered to Richie, who was busy at work cutting up old sails into material to be used for new “sail-able” products. Re-Sails employs 13 people total between this production facility and their retail store at the V&A Waterfront.
Upstairs, we met the production staff, sewing away at new creations. Everybody smiled and stopped working to say hello as Mike introduced us to his crew.
We were impressed with the range of products produced … everything from multi-sized duffels and totes to jackets and even beach chairs. Melinda, formerly from the fashion industry, makes the patterns for new product development. It’s quite the enterprise and we were impressed.
We left feeling like our old genoa had found a good home and a new life as part of several new products. As a parting gift, Mike gave David a great new duffel and I received an outstanding tote that I’ve already used twice. Good trade.