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Sailmakers in French Polynesia – good and not so good

By Val Ellis last modified Sep 28, 2011 11:53 AM

Published: 2011-09-28 11:53:09
Countries: French Polynesia

Original Posting 31st August 2011

This short article is to advise other cruisers sailing in French Polynesia to be careful when deciding where to have sail repairs undertaken.

Pipistrelle is a 48ft Wauquiez,. We left the UK in 2008, and had new sacrificial strips added to the genoa and staysail in St Lucia in 2009. On leaving Panama in 2011, all the sails which were new in 2006 looked in good shape for the Pacific crossing. By the time we reached the Marquesas the stitching on the sacrificial strips was coming undone, not an uncommon problem. They were repaired expertly in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva by a cruiser who has a sail loft there.

We then sailed through the Tuamotus to Tahiti, and by that time had two tears in the main, one by the luff where one panel had given out at the first reefing point, and the second further along the 1st reef, which we had repaired ourselves on passage but required professional sail repair..

This sail and also the genoa were collected from Marina Taina by Api Yachting, which is run by an American, Christophe. His sail loft is in Papeete, and we had provided details of our requirements both by email and by telephone in advance of collection. The repairs were completed and Christophe assured us he had thoroughly checked the sails. According to him, the main in particular "had a lot of beef left in it", an expression to indicate we would have no problem reaching New Zealand, and probably Australia.

Having got the sails back on board, we were dismayed to find that although Christophe had charged for two repairs to the main, only the luff had been done. So the sail was duly collected again and repaired.

We then sailed direct from Papeete to Huahine, an overnight passage, and as so often happens in these islands, the whole time one is trying to sail slowly to avoid arriving before daybreak. We had 25 knots of wind, and sailed with two reefs in the main, and no headsail.

As daylight broke, we could not believe that the main now had another large tear by the luff below the second reefing point. So much for Christophe’s expert advice.

At Apooiti Marina in Raiatea we discovered Voilerie Sellerie Aveia, a sail loft run by a charming French lady, Regine. The day after we had left the main with her for inspection, she had laid out on the sail loft floor to show us the many areas of the sail where UV had damage had taken its toll, making repairs essential. Her charges were good value; her work exceptionally professional and thorough. Regine had not just stitched around the patches as was the case at Api Yachting, she had sewn down the length of the repair following the seams to match the stress in the sail. She also took the time to show us her repair work. The majority of her business comes from the two charter companies that operate from the marina, and as she pointed out, sometimes she has to turn work away from private yacht owners because she is so busy with the charter fleets.

Bob & Elaine
SV Pipistrelle

Noonsite contacted Api Yachting for their comments but as at 28th September 2011 we have received no reply.