As keen dinghy sailors and dedicated Midlands manufacturers, it gives us great satisfaction to have come so far in the boat-building industry. When a customer comes to collect their new boat, we stand with pride as we hand over our expertly made, hand-crafted dinghy. What was once liquid resin has been fashioned and formed, by our skilled craftsmen, into a sleek new boat. Having produced a cracking boat we always want to ensure that the new owner gets the most out of it. In the past we outsourced our sail making, however, recently we concluded that to get sails that really suited our boats we needed to be doing our own sail R&D and sail making and, that would be best done in-house.

We want top-class racing sails that can perform as fast as the boat, sails that will make a significant difference to the new owners sailing performance. Essentially, we want to offer fast sails that will also last and be good value for money. For our cruising and training boats, we want to provide strong sails made from long-lasting sail cloth that will perform well and withstand constant use. Sails that we can confidently guarantee for at least 4 years.

In addition to providing great boats and sails, we also concluded that we wanted to improve our boat cover offering.

We want to provide covers that are: well-fitting, water-resistant, breathable, UV-protective, durable, affordable, and easy to handle.

We have recently expanded our manufacturing facility in Derby to include a vast new Sail Loft with specialised cutting and sewing rooms. The new facility sports a massive state-of-the-art Zund™ CNC precision cutting machine that is expertly used by our in-house Sail Maker Steve Graham and his dedicated team. As loft manager, Steve is responsible for delivering our new Hartley Boats sails and covers to a very high standard. We asked Steve to take the report from here so that he can tell you more about his involvement and how the Hartley Boats Sail Loft is progressing.

New Beginnings

At the beginning of 2021, a friend told me that Hartley Boats wanted to add a Sail Loft to their operation and so I made contact and began chatting with Richard and Mark about the project. I wanted to know more so I took a trip to Derby to see how far they had progressed. It was soon clear that they had invested considerably in the project but they were still missing some key people and pieces of the puzzle. I decided that this was something that I could help with and that a move to Hartley Boats at the beginning of the new Sail Loft project was a great opportunity that would present me with a fresh challenge in my career. On joining the company in Spring '21, I set about organising and setting up the new Sail Loft. The new Zund™ CNC cutter had already been installed and Mark and I got to work building work benches and installing machines. I then gave Richard the bad news that we would need even further investment. We went ahead with the purchase of "state-of-the-art" sail design software in the form of Smar Azure™ and a CAD package that would allow us to make best use of the impressive Zund™ cutter. We also acquired two new sewing machines from Solent Sewing in Portsmouth that would allow us to produce sails and covers at the highest standard. We recruited and took on more staff and began additional training so that we could cope with demand as the project progressed.

We then commenced a daunting project. To design, test, and make new sails, covers, and accessories for every class built by Hartley Boats. With 14 classes (now 15) and up to 7 sails in each class the task was huge, not just any mountain this was an Everest of sail making! Somehow, we did it and by Dinghy Show '22 we were able to display every boat in the Hartley Boats range with a Hartley Boats Sail made in our new loft. We could now offer our very own sails and covers to every customer.


When designing and specking new sails I was keen to make the very best we could. I brought to bear my full 20+ years of experience in this regard, selecting quality materials from the very best suppliers. Racing sails should be robust enough to cope with the demands of Championship and Club racing whilst being light enough to read in the smallest of zephyrs. I chose Contender Sailcloth's Fibrecon RSQ Polykote for this purpose. Proven in racing from club level to Olympic events, the specialist Polyurethane coating gives a hard finish to help stabilise and connect the yarns. This results in a sail that is easily trimmed with unrivalled shape holding throughout the wind range. Having developed championship-winning designs in many other classes I am confident we can produce sails to compete at the highest level. Similarly, our cruising sails must be light and easy to handle whilst also providing excellent longevity. Dimension-Polyant's: C-Breeze™ material was a perfect fit. The low aspect, balanced construction with its tighter weave results in better bias stability. Both warp and fill fibres have high tenacity with good tensile strength. This results in a better shape retention over the life of the sail as permanent stretch is reduced. When designing the sails that required a slightly flatter cut for ease of use, we also included features such as 2 rows of reefs as standard and Genoa luffs that accommodate the various luff spars now in use.


As we began to look at covers, Richard was adamant we should only have the best material available having been let down in the past by other suppliers. Again, we selected quality materials from an established supplier. For our top covers, we chose Top Notch 9™ (Formally Top Notch Elite) a 100% solution dyed Polyester fabric with a fluorocarbon finish. This fabric is breathable, water repellent, highly UV resistant, and has a luxurious feel. Because the yarn is solution dyed, colour fastness is exceptional. When designing, we looked to make tailored covers that fitted closely and covered well, covering exposed transoms and coloured top sides where possible. We included overlaps at shroud points, reinforcing on common wear areas, and extra halyard loops on flat covers we then finished with easy-to-use clips and buckles to make fitting as simple as possible. As we come to the end of year 2 for the Sail Loft, it is satisfying to see how far we have progressed.

Every Hartley Boat built is now delivered with the best quality sails and covers to match.