Jan 23, 2013

Pablo Soldano Interview

I met Pablo at the 2012 F18 Worlds in Long Beach , being 'Argie' too, he saw me at the Club and shouted "Martín" with our typical accent. We went for some beers and started  talking on the loft founded by Georgio Zuccoli , Ullman GZ, that led the Catamaran Racing innovation for years with the Tornado developments and later with the F18.

Pablo worked with Georgio until he sadly passed away. Now Pablo continues their legacy with the loft to the point of being the choice of the Olympic Tornado Champions and also selected as OD in recent vote in the T Class. Also Pablo implemented a key in-house ISAF approved certificate for several classes. And the loft is responsible for the Hobie racing sails.

Beyond that Pablo also is part of the F18 TechComittee, and of course we talked about the issues the class had in past years.

While chatting at the ABYC 2nd floor bar, Dave Ullman joined the conversation and I took advantage to ask him about the current Multihull explosion scene, being an experienced monohull and Americas Cup sailor, it was interesting to see how open was to this new game. Images ISAF/Pierrick Contin

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Interview made in September 2012 at the Long Beach F18 Worlds held by the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club
-CSN: I saw you some minutes ago with Dave Ullman –what is the story of Ullman Sails?


Pablo Soldano: Dave Ullman set up his own sail loft in Newport Beach, California in 1967. Over time, the success of his sails in the 470 class and other one design classes attracted other independent lofts to use his brand, which effectively created the Ullman Sails group. In 2007 Dave sold his loft and he now runs the group through Ullman Sails International office.
Today the Ullman Sails group is a series of 24 independently owned lofts worldwide with over 70 locations. I own my loft in Italy and we specialize sail design, development and sales. In fact, among the international lofts there are 5 Ullman Sails group designers and each has an area of expertise. Ullman Sails Iseo is responsible for the design and development of performance multihull racing.
The best part of working with our network is that there is positive collaboration that makes use of each loft’s expertise, which is quite difficult to achieve if you are working as a stand-alone loft. Dave is also an America’s Cup sailor.

- CSN: Did you and Giorgio Zuccoli developed the Tornado and F/18 sails for the Ullman Sails group?
Yes – in the beginning Giorgio designed the Tornado and F18 sails and now I have carried forward the development of multihulls and other one design classes. My most recognized sails are small catamaran mainsails. Ullman Sails Iseo designed and built sails that have won 2 gold, 5 silver and 3 bronze Olympic medals.

- And are all F18 sails made in Italy?
Yes, the sails are designed and built in my loft in Italy.
My loft has an in-house certification process that is reviewed annually by ISAF, so we are allowed to pre-certify that your F18 sail is 100% legal. The class does not formally require ISAF certification from a production facility, but we are capable to do it and authorized by ISAF.
The process to be qualified as an ISAF "in-house" certification loft took one year andwas issued, controlled and approved by ISAF officials that visited our loft several times during this period. Now they make new checks two times a year.

- When I was part of the F18 WC, I pushed hard for in-house certification. My main goal was always to protect the final user – the actual buyer putting the money for this show to work. I couldn´t stand how someone would buy a sail in good faith that supposedly was built to the rules, then it was certified at an event and after one year, the same sail was banned!?
I perfectly agree with you, and that is why I described our own in-house certification process that Ullman Sails Iseo uses for making any kind of sail. My intention is to put full responsibility on the builder with an in-house certificate to protect the investment of the sailor. But the class right now doesn´t allow the sails to be certified by the loft.
The class should authorize lofts to build F18 sails, factory-certify those sails, and then the class can spot-check the sails at events for control. And if for example, there are a series of infringements, then the class should cancel the loft’s license to build F18 sails. It’s as simple as that.
Sailors would not be involved at all. You should just buy a sail and go racing. And if there is any issue, it is 100% the sailmaker’s responsibility.

- Well I'm glad we are on the same path and have the same goals.
We need clear rules. The class could authorize builders to build sails for the F18 class, and that way you can have a better control to protect the sailor’s investment. The builder could buy the stickers directly from the class.
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Dave Ullman joins the conversation...

-CSN: What do you think about this new America’s Cup, specifically regarding the development of wing sail technology? Will we see wing sails in the general market?
DU: The America’s Cup is such a small part of the industry. I think hard sails are not suited for most classes because of the costs and handling. But for the America’s Cup, I think it is good because it is different and unique. The public and even non-sailors can say “wow!”. That is something special.

- What about the monopoly on 3D sails in the past America’s Cup events?
Well, we bought a high quantity of the North Sails 3DL blanks in three years while I was campaigning in the America’s Cup. We spent something like $80 million dollars. We even paid retail!
But as soon as they went to catamarans, that business has been reduced to a minimum. But the one who is losing the market is North Sails and not the rest of the lofts.

- We were talking with Pablo about the Ullman Sails group framework and Pablo’s design references.
DU: Yes, Pablo is our catamaran guy!
And the good thing about the upcoming America’s Cup is the huge increase of catamaran popularity. New people are coming into sail and asking “why not a catamaran?”

- In Argentina we have been racing cats only for a few years,
PS: It is amazing how it is growing there, and also all over the globe.
DU: And once people try it, why would you race anything else?

CSN That what is happened in Argentina. Some the first F18 sailors came from Lasers and they kept wondering why they had not sailed cats before.
DU: And the America’s Cup will make catamarans even more popular.

- CSN: And how about the cruising cats here in the States?
DU: They are not as popular.

- CSN. But in Australia...
DU: In Australia and the Caribbean, cruising cats are huge. But not here right now.

- CSN: You’re emphasizing that racing cats will be more popular with the AC. Can it do the same for cruising cats?
DU- I think you may be right. There could be a big increase in cruising cats.

-CSN: We see the AC45 racing in 25knots pushing hard and rather safe considering we will see the AC72 flying on the bay. So I think many will think “why not a cruising cat?”
DU–Every year we go charter a Mooring sailboat and we always used to have monohulls because that is was our background. But ten years ago they didn´t had any monohulls available so they gave us a catamaran instead. And...we haven´t used a monohull since then...! (laughs)
The only drawback with catamarans...

CSN: The security?
DU - Well maybe, but mainly the space required to put it on a mooring.

CSN- Back in Buenos Aires, we have a huge problem with our Rio de la Plata, where shallow waters means there is no future for sailing monohulls of any kind.
DU- It sounds good for cats.

CSN - Yes, but the main problem is, as you say, the mooring space. Do you foresee any solution? What about in the US?
Pablo: The folding cat is an option, but unfortunately it is not for everyone. So the mooring is just going to be more expensive.
And here in US you don´t have issues with space, all is bigger than life, starting with a coffee! But in Europe, it will be an issue. The Mediterranean, for example, is fully packed. So it is just a part of the cruising cat deal – a more expensive mooring.


CSN- Regarding cruising cat sails, does the development made on the racing cats trickle down to cruising cats?
PS: You can always scale up & down, but obviously what you learn from an one design sail is a really good base for bigger boat sail design.

CSN: And how about the specific needs for cruising cats compared to those of monohull cruisers.
DU- I think there is not much of a difference in needs. You have reefing points in both style of sails. In the end I think it doesn’t matter – it still takes judgment.

CSN: Well, in an unpublished interview I had with Santi Lange, when I asked if the Volvo could be raced in cats except for the security issue, he told me he thinks cats are even more secure as you have a clear mark on how the boat is sailing. A large part of the hardware that fails during the Volvo are mainly the responsibility of the sailors who keep pushing and not depowering when needed. Do you think that is the case?
DU: Yes, of course. There is no question about it.

PS: At the highest level of racing the more you push, the higher the risks.

DU : In the catamaran you have a catastrophic failure that tips you over, so you are more aware on a cat. In monohulls the failure can be quite bad too, for example you can break the boat or the rig, but you don´t take your foot off the gas pedal.
In the future I think that the Volvo will be sailed in catamarans too. Not right now, but why wouldn´t you go around the world in the 20% of the current time? Who would have thought that the AC was going to be raced in cats a few years ago?

PS: It all has to do with how the catamaran is becoming more popular.

CSN: I think it is not a new thing, but now we are seeing it much more mainstream.
DU: The America’s Cup is the responsible for that.

CSN: I like how you and others with monohull backgrounds and other experienced sailors are open to discuss and welcome multihull racing. Of course I'm a fanatic, but I don´t think it’s all about racing them. I would like people to just try them – for example, , trying an F18 here in LA.
DU: Building interest is a process. But this will be the biggest sailing World Championship here in the US this year, by more than 120 boats. There will be nothing close to it. We are glad to be part of it with Pablo and John Casey (of Ullman Sails Florida), supporting the sailors using our sails and helping this big step and milestone for catamaran racing and the F18 Class in the US.
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Pablo Soldano: Continuing on the topic of beach cat development, I think one of the issues is with the name, "beachcats". This is the way it was born, but today we have some really advanced small cats like the A-Class, F18 and the latest Tornado developments that are far from the "beachcat" label.

I think ISAF as our ruling body is not being managed in an efficient way. Right now it is being managed by a different generation than the actual sailors who are involved in the sport. ISAF is trying to understand the new era, but I think they don´t reach the needs of our current racing scenario.

I think we've completely lost the logic and framework of the Sailing Pyramidal structure where in the past you have the Olympics as the pinnacle of the sport.
In other sports you can easily identify the highest level: In motorcycle racing you have MotoGP, Valentino Rossi.

But in sailing right now, what is the strongest image? What is the pinnacle? Volvo? Olympics? America’s Cup? Xtreme 40? This is a central global issue.
By extension, I think our focus should be on disciplines in accordance with their correct definitions. Seeing what has happened over the past years with the multihull discipline out of the Games, political insights and restrictions on the COI, you have this Mixed crew solution that is trying to make all happy but without actually reaching that goal.
We need to go back to the concept of the Olympic Discipline. For example you have the Finn and the Laser, which at the end of the day they are same thing, the same discipline. 470 and Skiff, one you need limited weight, the other is more popular in x region and so on...

- CSN: You mean there is not an unified criteria?
PS: We have x amount of medals that need to represent Sailing as it is been sailing today.
What are those disciplines that better represent us?

- CSN: That is also what Lange told me. He said we should focus on defining and representing disciplines as concepts.
PS: The COI gives ISAF 10 medals to represent Sailing as a sports, so what disciplines do we have in sailing regattas today? Multihull, Keelboats, Windsurfing, skift, dinghy.. Kitesurf. I think that Kitesurf could be representative in the future, but not now, it is only at the initial stages …

CSN: I agree. They should have placed them in Rio as a demo event.
PS: I think you need to select a boat that will last at least a mandatory 2 cycles, or even 3.

CSN: Which they did not do with Multis or even the Elliot ...
PS: Total lack of respect for the sailors investing their lives in the Olympic project.

CSN: Don´t we need more involvement of the current racing generation?
PS: That would be an ideal move to get things better - to have this generation at management positions within ISAF.
Kite-surfing does not even have defined racing rules. The class is still growing – they don´t know if they need to limit weight, the boards are still being developed right now – so establishing them as a confirmed discipline is not the way to go right now. I think the kite will have a revolution on their development and it will be the right class to have in the future.
Another class also going through a strong development process is the Moth class. It’s reducing the size of their foils each year. Speaking of development, I think that the Kite could benefit from a hard wing…

CSN: A hard kite wing? Are you kidding?
PS: At the Olympic level you don´t pitch pole on a cat and I would expect the same for the kite – you don´t drop it. So it could be an extreme boost for the class if you added a hard wing.
A hard wing will double power and control. In the technical aspect it has the same design principles of our racing sails. So as the cat wings are more efficient, a winged kite would also perform better.

CSN: Are you involved in any development right now?
PS: I prefer not to comment on this, but clearly it is an area that as asail designer I see a lot of opportunities for innovation. But I can tell you that kites will be quite different from what we are seeing now and the Olympics will have a lot to do with that.

The Tornado class is still competitive today because it has gone through an intense development (right down to the last nut and screw!) I think the same will happen to the kite.

CSN: So being Olympic class accelerates the development process.
PS: Absolutely.
In the F18 we have pros like Bundy racing, but he is not sailing the F18 360 days a year. He sails the major events, rides the standard boat. But in the Tornado while it was an Olympic class, it was in full and constant development. I went through several cycles of testing and there was really no limit to what you can target and develop even further.
As an example, I was behind the famous Quingdao Code Zero.

CSN: The ChupaCabra
PS: Yes – we sailed many hours in secret spots. The ChupaCabra was one of my pet projects and all of those sails were done by me.
That gives you an idea of the immense amount of work that goes into an Olympic campaign.

CSN: So how do you see the F18 now since it is not an Olympic class?
PS: The F18 is now at an ideal stage – a needed space for cat racing. It is not an Olympic boat but neither a "beach catamaran"
It is the ideal performance racing cat accessible to many. And to those sailing these boats for the first time, they are going to be in awe of what they've be doing up until now. They will think they have been wasting their time on other classes!
The F18 is just perfect and is getting even bigger, as a proof this LA Worlds and the first time the class has come to America.
The negative points of the class are the rules right now are old and also the management that could get more up-to-date to fit what the class has become.

I'm part of the Technical Committee and we are working hard to solve current issues. But I think we can do this in a simple way. We need to simplify the system. When it is not possible for your average F18 sailor to understand what is going on with class issues, that is a strong sign that things need to be changed.

You see this also in how the class communicates with their members and the community.
We need to improve communications and simplify the structure of the organization/ bureaucracy.

CNS: I think the In-house Certificate I pushed for and what you are proposing is really the way to go.
Exactly, we need to make life easier for the sailors to get an even stronger class for the future.

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For more info on Ullman Iseo check http://www.ullmangz.it/

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