Sandy Goodall; Sail designer

Re: Sail Making and Sail Design.

As introduction, Sandy Goodall designed the PT 11 sail. Working with Sean Rankins of NW Sails and Canvas, and Russell, they prototyped and modified the sail to its current size and shape. Sandy is a friend and great to work with but I realized that I knew very little about his career as a sail designer. So I asked. (I have to say, that Sandy is pretty humble.)
Sandy in the PT 11

Ashlyn: How did you get into sailing and sail making?
Sandy: I was very interested in sailing from a fairly early age (my mother was an avid sailor from the Canadian maritimes), and I knew that I wanted to get a job working with sailboats.
So it was either yacht design, boat building or sail making. I ended up choosing sail making, thinking that it involved the least math. (wrong!)

Ashlyn: When, where and how did you learn sail making, and how long have you been doing it?

Sandy: My family was living in Toronto in the late sixties, and the famous Danish sailmaker Hans Fogh (who trained under Paul Elvstrom) had emigrated to Canada, and lived in Toronto.
His loft was not far from my parents’ house, and I visited him and nagged him until he agreed to take me on as his apprentice, after I completed university in 1974. So, it has been 40 years now!

Ashlyn: What types of boats do you deal with?

Sandy: Almost all kinds. My first real responsibility as a young sailmaker was cutting the Laser sails for the newly introduced Laser class dinghy.
But since then, I have sailed, and made sails for everything from Optimist dinghies to square riggers, high tech mono and multi hull racers, and Arab Dhows.
So all kinds of boats, really, and I appreciate all of them for different reasons.

Ashlyn: What type of design tools do you use?

Sandy: When I started sail  making back in 1974, it was all still pretty traditional. The master sailmaker kept all his design notes and secrets in a "little black book", and we apprentices were not necessarily privy to all the tricks of the trade. But we were in search of ways to increase the repeatability of a good design, so we gradually started to reverse engineer the traditional methods, at first using very simple programs written for HP programmable calculators.
Surprisingly, as a non–math person (I studied philosophy at university), I was very interested in this process, which ended up directing my career in sailmaking.
I continued along this path, becoming involved in the ongoing development of sail design software. I ended up selling my share of the Elvstrom Sails loft in Denmark, and focused on sail design software (“SmSw6” and “Azure Project”), and sail design, working free-lance, designing sails for other sailmakers. These days, sail design software is quite sophisticated, and we can do both structural and aerodynamic analysis on proposed sail designs, all on a lap top computer.

Ashlyn: Do you manufacture sails?

Sandy: Not any more. I was directly involved with manufacturing sails (Elvstrom Sails Denmark) until 1990, but I have specialized in computer sail design since then.
The digital recipe that is the result of the sail design process is then sent by E mail, and cut on some computer driven machine, to be assembled "somewhere in the world".
I collaborate with quite a number of sailmakers, where I do the design work, and they build the sails. I also coach other sailmakers in the use of the sail design software.

Ashlyn: "Do you think custom sail makers (in the USA for example) still have an impact in a world of factory made sails?"

Sandy: "Yes! It's hard to dispute the fact that the big offshore sail manufacturers offer very attractive prices, due to the economies of scale.
But there will always be an important place for local lofts, producing excellent sails and providing on-the-spot personal service to their clients. I'm happy to be in a position where I can collaborate with these local lofts (like Northwest Sails and Port Townsend Sails). The personal contact, the creative discussions, the boat measuring, prototyping etc. that this close collaboration allows, certainly represents added value for the end user."

Ashlyn: Do you have any favorite boat types, or types of design work?

Sandy: I like all kinds of sail boats, large and small, fast and slow, modern and traditional. But I suppose that I prefer smaller boats, and the projects that involve working with people I know and like.

Ashlyn: Can you predict anything concerning the future of sails and sail making?

Sandy: New high tech materials are constantly being developed at an increasing rate, and we can build sails that are lighter, and less stretchy, than ever before. But these (racing) sails are not necessarily a pleasure to use, for the leisure sailor. So there is still a place for traditional dacron and nylon sails, and there are still many people who appreciate and prefer them.
I think we will see more kites and “thick sails”, and lots more work on hydro foils, and various other drag reducing inventions! The "foiling moth" class is a good example of one of the many interesting directions things are going!

Ashlyn: How can people best contact you?

Sandy: Via E mail, at

Ashlyn: What information should people have on hand to begin a new "design" conversation?

Sandy: To begin with, just the size and type of boat they have, and where they sail, and whether it's racing or cruising. Then we can take it further from there.

Ashlyn: Thank you Sandy! Russell and I feel very fortunate to work with you.
Sandy: You're welcome! I really enjoy working with you and Russell!

Learn more on Sandy’s website;

Read Sandy Goodall's Review of Sailing the PT 11 nesting dinghy.