The Team - Mystic, Connecticut

The Team

Andy Halsey

Andy Halsey

In 1984, Andy Halsey and a talented group of sailmakers purchased the Van Zandt sail loft in Old Mystic, CT, USA, The emphasis was on personal service and to create the best racing and cruising sails by true sail making professionals. Rob Scala, for example, while working for Halsey, developed the most advanced software for fabric testing, a system that provides information on how sailcloth will react under different wind conditions. This technology, along with new test procedures, played a key role in the development of "Cuben Fiber" sails, a key component in Bill Koch's success in winning the America’s Cup in 1992.

Halsey, from the outset, was deeply involved in big-boat racing. Andy's own experience includes three Americas Cups ('83, '92 and '95) and Halsey Sails have teamed up Whitbread RTW efforts (ROTHMANS in '89/90, FORTUNA in '93/94 and both Team EF and SILK CUT in '97/98) as well as maxi- and super-yachts. In recent years, Halsey supplied Super Yachts REBECCA (140’ ketch), ADIX (198’ schooner), SUMURAN (94’ ketch), SUNRISE (140’ ketch), EXTRA BEAT (112’ sloop), ARRAYAN (120’ sloop), PHILANDERER (130’ sloop), HETAIROS (145’ ketch) and others.

During the 1995 America’s Cup, Andy Halsey and Jim Lidgard, two competing sailmakers, held a number of meetings while both were in San Diego. Lidgard headed a New Zealand based group with a stellar record addressing similar customers (including America’s Cup competitors!) but on opposite sides of the planet. As Jim Lidgard said, before his death, "We found both companies had a lot in common." A joint venture made perfect sense, and their merger created a 16-loft network in a win-win situation for their combined clientele.

Halsey-Lidgard had been on the forefront of maxi multihull sail design and construction since building sails for the 110-foot catamaran TEAM ADVENTURE that sailed in The Race in 2000. Piggybacking on this experience, Andy’s loft made a full inventory of sails for Steve Fossett’s 125-foot catamaran PLAY STATION. With those sails, Fossett bested many records including the around the world record, which held up until this year. When PLAY STATION started that around the world contest, her 5143-square-foot Cuben Fibre mainsail was two years old. The same sail was used when the boat, re-named CHEYENNE, entered the Oryx Quest around the world race — that’s an incredible record of durability for a sail that is 134 feet on the luff and 53 feet on the foot.

Early 2010 saw the end of the UK Halsey merger bringing to close another chapter in the history of the Halsey Sailmaker name. Today Andy, along with his talented staff of sailmakers, is proud to join forces with Evolution, taking us into the future, with the same expertise and dedication of providing the best racing and cruising sails for all our customers.

David W. Simmons

David W. SimmonsI learned to sail at Mystic Seaport 44 years ago, and have enjoyed being on the water since that time. I have been a sailmaker since 1975 with a few years off for additional education. I have worked at sail lofts both large and small through the years. My career has come full circle now that I am again working in the same (though enlarged) building where I started. I was working as a quality control back fill inspector at Millstone #3 after dropping out of college after my freshman year. Looking for a more interesting and constructive job I answered an advertisement for an entry level sailmaker at Van Zandt Sailmakers. Over the next ten months I cut a lot of one design sails, and discovered that I enjoyed the work and possessed some of the skills and aptitude needed by a sailmaker. After another year of school I went back to sailmaking as a career. I worked for O’Neill Sailmakers, International Speed Shapes Sailmakers (now Farrar Sails), Bailey and Staub, then O’Neill Sailmakers again over a period of seven years. All if these businesses were small sail lofts making sails and canvas goods for the local market in SE Connecticut. In 1984 I started working at Sobstad Sailmakers in the Old Saybrook loft. This was my introduction to large scale sailmaking with multi franchise companies. Sobstad was at its peak, building sails for one designs to Maxi boats, and everything in between. I worked as the head of the Dacron sail department, soon my responsibilities spread into laminate sail production also.

In 1989 as Sobstad Sailmakers was imploding after the breakup of the two principle partners I moved to Rhode Island to work for Hood Sailmakers which was moving their corporate base from Marblehead MA to Portsmouth RI. I started off as head of the handwork-finishing department, and quality control. Eventually I moved into the sales office for a few years, and then became production manager and designer before leaving in 1997. After leaving Hood Sailmakers I worked for Team Dennis Conner’s Toshiba campaign during their preparation for the 1997 Whitbread Race. Later that year with a partner I started East Passage Sailmakers in Jamestown RI. We started out as Sobstad Northeast, a franchise of Sobstad Sailmakers now headquartered in Greensboro, GA. After a few years with Sobstad again in disarray, we joined UK Sailmakers as UK Rhode Island. I was back into a smaller business again, but we served customers from all parts of New England. After Halsey Lidgard Sailmakers joined forces with UK Sailmakers to form UK Halsey Sailmakers I grew tired of struggling with a small loft in the land of the giants. So I gladly closed my doors to take a position in the Old Mystic loft, formerly Halsey Sailmakers, formerly Van Zandt Sailmakers, now Evolution Sails Mystic. Where it all started for me years ago.

The Old Mystic loft of Evolution Sails is a medium sized production facility that builds sails for any size boat, but specializes in larger boats. We have designed and built sails for America Cubed, and the recent China Team America’s Cup Challenges. Many maxi racing and cruising yachts, mono, and multi hull have had their sails built here. The size of the team here and my wide range of experiernce allows me to keep my hand in all aspects of the sailmaking business. I consult with boat owners and captains on service and new sail projects. I guide and lead the production and service workers in the loft to ensure that our products are of the best quality and fit available. As a sales consultant I bring my complete understanding of sailmaking materials, and construction to the table to help our clients purchase the sails that will fill their needs, and perform as they should. I am familiar with all types of sails and yachts, having built sails for square riggers to mini transat racers, and everything in between.

Neal O'Connell - Sales

Neal O'Conner

Neal has been involved in sailing for the majority of his life and sailmaking for almost fifteen years.

He has a broad sailing background which includes inshore, offshore and one design racing, as well as many years of coastal cruising.

A member of the Eastern Connecticut PHRF council for 20 years, serving as Chief Handicapper for 5 years, Neal can provide the PHRF racer with a wide range of assistance.

When not helping clients with their programs, he can be found racing his own PHRF boat. He is actively involved with Evolution’s Viper 640 development program and is currently the head sailing coach for a local high school sailing team.