Ronstan

Jud Smith: The long road to the top

Published on June 25th, 2019

Jud Smith

The Star Class has immense history as an organization, with its members among the who’s who of yachting’s elite competitors. With Doyle Sails helping to claim its first victory at the 2019 Star World Championship, we checked in with Jud Smith of Doyle Sails One Design Salem to learn how they climbed to the top.


It has been a long road getting to this point in the Star class. My hats off to these elite Star sailors, who are still competing in the Star Worlds, as many were campaigning for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games when I entered the class. They are the best of the best keelboat sailors and are a pleasure to assist in achieving their goals.

My only regret looking back was not getting involved with Star class prior to 2007. I was so focused on the Etchells and Yngling sail development through 2006 that I didn’t have much time to take on another class until 2007. However, the Star was a humbling class to break into, but I felt I had to learn to sail the Star to be able to make competitive sails.

We at Doyle One Design have enjoyed the challenge and it’s been a rewarding 10 years. Tomas Hornos has really picked up the ball and taken the lead from our loft. Tomas has the youth, talent, and experience to keep our sails and Star sailors competitive going forward. It takes someone with his talent and energy to stay relevant in an elite class like the Star.

But how did we get there? Looking back I’m not sure it was necessarily as much of a growth plan as another challenge.

Prior to getting in the Star, we had a big market share in the Yngling class for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. In 2008 we made well over 300 Yngling sails. That class grew from making one spinnaker for Hannah Swett’s campaign to building sails for the entire fleet by the 2008 Games. However, when that class was dropped from the Games, our Yngling business went to zero because it took two years for the aftermarket Yngling sails to be absorbed by the class.

As one design sailmakers, the combination of losing all the Yngling business and the economic crash was a brutal combination. But what we did take away from starting with just one sail in the Yngling class in 2002, to becoming the top sailmaker for the class in 2008, was a good model for how to get from point A to point B.

Robbie Doyle had been willing to invest in the Yngling research and development and saw a return on that investment, so when we decided to move forward with Star development, he was extremely supportive and knew it would take getting sails in the hands of a top sailor.

I knew Mark Mendelblatt from Etchells sailing and he tried out a set of my earlier version Star sails one day in Miami and did well. Mark helped us develop our Star sails going forward as he prepared for the 2008 Worlds in Miami.

Mark felt in order to be successful at the top of the Star Class you need to be developing your own sails to get an edge in speed. Mark has since gone on to represent the USA in 2012 Olympics, won Bacardi Cup twice, and won SSL Finals twice. Mark was involved in developing the M14 + main, J6 Radial jib, and J8 light air jib we still build today as he prepared for 2011 Worlds in Perth.

We were the first sailmaker to design a competitive Radial jib in Star class and still have the only Radial main that’s competitive. Mark was not afraid to take that risk, and has been a critical part of our success in breaking into the class.

When Mark won Star Sailors League Finals a second time, I think that was the turning point for getting other top teams trying our sails going forward. In the 2018 SSL Final, both Jorge Zarif and Robert Scheidt had top two spots with Doyle sails. Paul Cayard started using our sails in 2018 and won the Midwinters with great results at Star Sailors League, Worlds, and Europeans.

As for the 2019 Worlds, it was very gratifying for the winner Mateusz Kusznierewicz to use our mainsail and jibs while runner-up Augie Diaz used our mainsail and Elvind Melleby getting third with our jibs.

It’s always best for sailmakers if the best teams are using your sails. Top sailors just want smooth and versatile sails that will work in all conditions, upwind and downwind, so they can achieve their goals.

Our goal at Doyle One Design is to make every sail we build perfect so our teams can perform to their potential. We put in all the R & D necessary to get the sails right the first time and then we make minor tweaks from our own down and dirty experience or feedback from the top guys. That is how we tackle each of these highly competitive and popular classes.

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