Today Dolphin Sails operate from 2 Lofts in Essex, employing over 20 people but the early days were a lot more humble.
Sailing buddies Brian Vincent and Patt Webb started Dolphin Sails some 49 years a go in 1964.
Brian and Pat built and raced dinghies, in particular Cherubs. They enjoyed great rivalry and raised each others game to such an extent that Brian and future wife Frances enjoyed success winning the 1970 Cherub Nationals beating such notable sailors as Russel Bowler. The sailmaking was done in a 22′ by 12′ shed at the bottom of the garden.
Dinghy sails of course were the order of the day and experience was gained building for various dinghy classes including Ospreys, Enterprises, Mirrors and Cherubs amongst others.
Fast forward 10 years and Pat followed a different road concentrating on building boats. Anyone buying a Pat Webb built boat guaranteed a bargain with high quality being a prerequisite.
With Brian’s now wife Frances working full time in the business the family team was expanded with Matthew Vincent joining from University. The family had moved to a large 3 storey house / workshop that gradually began to lose internal walls as the need to make larger and larger sails increased.
In 1983 with all possible expansion exhausted the business was moved to an ‘enormous’ old cinema. Here sails for boats as large as 70 feet could be made and at the same time the company enjoyed racing success with wins in various classes including round Britain and trans atlantic races.
In 1987 further expansion was undertaken to accommodate the burgeoning windsurf sail market and separate premises were acquired about a mile from headquarters. Local enthusiast Pete Boxer joined the team to head up the operation and the company went on to enjoy huge success for a number of years building up to 100 sails a week at the peak.
In 1992 the windsurf market was flooded with cheap imports and the decision was taken to close the Division and sell the building. The funds from the premises were reinvested allowing expansion of the main yacht sail building premises at 400 Main Road where a second floor was added.
The company continued to be associated with considerable racing success, with sail designer Matthew enjoying some of his own with the half tonner ‘Miss Piggy’ – winning EAORA and her class in Cowes Week.
Our long standing relationship with world renowned bespoke local boat builder Oyster Marine began in the mid 90’s and since the take over of Gowen Ocean Sailmakers in 2001 Dolphin Sails have been the sail and canvas maker of choice for new Oysters. Oysters’ owner at the time, Richard Matthews, owned a series of race boats for which Dolphin provided many sails.
Both Dolphin and Gowen were supplying sails to Oyster during the 90’s and it was during the late 90’s that Richard Matthews started Ocean Sails which very quickly merged with Gowen. However, after a short period of time we were offered the opportunity to take Gowen Ocean Sailmakers over in 2001.
Jon Sturmer and Gareth Heel head up the Loft at West Mersea and the sail business goes from strength to strength with the size of sails and number of sails continuing to grow including many Superyacht sails which now grace the world’s oceans.
In 2002 it was decided to add a boat cover and awning arm to the business. Paul Gray joined the firm to head up the operation. Today with a team of 10 people the Cover Department create the finest and often the most innovative covers available.
51 years on and Dolphin have become one of the largest sail and cover making companies in the UK currently employing over 20 people on 2 sites. We are currently developing a range of ‘race’ dinghy sails and expanding the Superyacht division.
Further development continues apace in the sailmaking and awning manufacture with company boss Matthew Vincent helping to develop the business further with the purchase of the ‘Form Finding’ software that was used to produce the Millennium Dome structure. Dolphin plan to grow this ‘sails on land’ concept with the manufacture of unique and innovative shade and rain proof tensile structures.
In 2014 Dolphin open a sales office in Hamble on the south coast. Paul Austin, who has over 20 years sail making experience will be running our south coast operations.