If you were going to trust anyone with your yacht’s sails then surely it would be the guy who was involved in five America’s Cup campaigns as both a sailor and sail maker? Steve Jackson is the brains behind Sail Inc, the latest addition to GCCM’s unrivalled pool of marine talent. He personifies sailing pedigree and further strengthens the appeal of the iconic facility as the ultimate destination for maintenance, refit and repair for sailing vessels on Australia’s east coast.
Steve began sailing at the tender age of four in sabots on Sydney Harbour. His sailing career followed the normal progression to 16 and 18-foot skiffs and then onto Etchells. At 15 he began his sail making apprenticeship before joining the big league in his early 20s as part of the Nippon Challenge and Stars & Stripes campaigns for the America’s Cup, racing with and against the likes of Dennis Conner. He spent close to the next two decades as a sail maker and sailor in competition for the world’s oldest sporting trophy. If you can sail it, then chances are Steve has.
A significant amount of his life during this time was spent on the east coast of America and the Caribbean. “I worked on some challenging projects and had some real career highlights when in America. I set up one of the largest sail lofts in the world at that time. It was in the US Virgin Islands and serviced the whole of the American East Coast. Aside from design and manufacturing sails, we were servicing sails and could often have over 6000 sails lined up ready for inspection,” explains Steve.
“Yet some the biggest projects and most challenging ones came from superyacht clients. The sheer size and scale of the sails were impressive. Mostly, I was commissioning new sails for them and it was thoroughly enjoyable work.”
He returned to Sydney to start Sydney Sailmakers which he ran until he sold it in 2018. By that time, it had become Australia’s largest manufacturing sail loft. You can see a theme emerging already. Along the way, he met Jasen Cowling, master rigger. Jasen had already made the move to Queensland and had a thriving business, JCMS, in GCCM so Steve thought he would join his friend to make a formidable team servicing the needs of yacht owners.
It is clear the history and friendship the two have, and how it has translated to a successful collaboration built on mutual respect and admiration. Steve’s sail loft is side by side to Jasen’s workshop and they assist each other with their respective crafts.
“We work hand in glove. Steve helps me lift out rigs which is an ideal time for him to inspect the sails and advise the yacht owner on the best path. There is no running around for the owner or moving heavy sails. No waiting on a loft. The rig and sails come out, get fixed and go back in altogether,” says Jasen.
These days, 80% of Sail Inc’s work is designing and manufacturing new sails. “The design software for sail makers has dramatically changed since I started my apprenticeship. It is so accurate and specific to the boat that we can send the design files straight to the cutter. I would have 3000 sail designs on file now. And with new fabrics and materials such as carbon fibre, the life of sails is much longer,” continues Steve.
“We don’t do as much service work in Australia as we did in the US, yet I would encourage boat owners to do it annually. For the sake of a couple of hundred dollars, you can elongate the life of your sails and fix any minor issues before they become irretrievable. We have no size limitations in the loft so can accommodate even the largest of sails.”
GCCM has long been a mecca for sailing yachts, both recreational and competitive, with over 90 individual marine businesses onsite, world-class facilities and purpose-built keel pit. With Steve and Sail Inc now operating side by side onsite, GCCM truly is the east coast’s Sailor’s Paradise.