Tauranga’s new sailmaker is bringing the advantages of big city industry contacts to what was a one-man band.
Sam and Lorena Burton took over the business from Tony Thornburrow last October, with the renaming of the business as Doyle Burton Sails showing the on-going connection Sam has with Doyle.
It puts him in the unique position of being an independent business, but able to bring to Tauranga the same technology that is available in the big city.
Sam left Tauranga in 2001 to pursue an apprenticeship with Doyle Sails in Auckland at the biggest sail loft in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the largest open area sail lofts in the world.
After completing his apprenticeship Sam went over to the Doyle loft in Sydney, where he remained for a year before taking up an opportunity to sail America’s Cup boats in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, as a performance charter business.
“I took that on for three years until I came back to where it all started in Auckland,” says Sam.
“And from there I was sort of looking at what else there was I guess, being there for the last five years.”
Sam agrees he was shoulder-tapped for the job, with Tony telling him: “Hey I’m going to be retiring in a couple of years are you interested in taking it on?”
They were back and forth for a couple of years finalising a move-in date, which sort of happened in October.
“And we were straight into it as soon as we took on the loft,” says Sam.
“Tony was there to work with us, did a great job of the handover and from there we just hit it running.
“It wasn’t goodbye forever. He comes back and gives us a hand every now and then. He’s awesome to have and helps us out a lot.”
They are busy and it’s great with suppliers and customers being helpful and supportive.
“Tony’ handed over the bulk of the cruising customers; I guess the racing customers if not Tony they would go to Auckland. Having both markets definitely keeps us busy,” says Sam.
He estimated the business is about 50:50 cruising/racing. The racing sails are Stratis, which is a Doyle sail membrane they make in Auckland and ship worldwide, “so we have Stratis for the race sail”.
The cruising sails are measured in Tauranga, cut in Auckland and the membrane panels are sent back to Tauranga where they are sewn together.
“They [Auckland] have a plotter but it doesn’t cut, it only draws,” says Sam.
“It draws the line but you have to hand-cut them. Imagine how long that takes. You’ve got to be quite smart these days building sails.”