Squibs, Skiffs and Illusions: The diverse sailing of Hyde Sails' Jack Grogan
by Mark Jardine on 15 Mar
15 March 2017
Jack Grogan at the helm of the Hyde Sails 18ft Skiff © Hyde Sails
We spoke to Jack Grogan of Hyde Sails about how he first got into sailing, the life-long friends that has provided, his 18ft Skiff and Squib sailing, his role at Hyde Sails in the burgeoning covers and accessories department, and also how he will be competing in the Illusion National Championship this weekend at Bembridge.
Mark Jardine: How did you get into sailing?
Jack Grogan: At a very young age; I was 8 years old. I live on an island on the East Coast of the UK, a small island with a small community, and as a social group sailing is what we did. Parents dropped us off, my father bought me an Optimist (which I'm not sure was even an Optimist! It was square, made of fibreglass and called an Optique I believe, it weighed a lot). The friends I grew up with sailing then are still my friends now, based from Dabchicks Sailing Club on Mersea Island. That's how it all started for me.
Mark: Your sailing then, was it all about the fun?
Jack: Yes. We had quite serious fleet separation, we had Port and Starboard fleets and then went onto Silver and Gold in the Optimists. As you progressed through the ranks and moved out of Optimists, I moved into a Byte, which had the perception then of being a girls' boat, but was one of the most challenging sails I've ever had, and then into the 29ers. The big goal then was winning your local cadet week, which for us on the East Coast was enormous.
Mark: You've had quite a time with a number of 18ft Skiffs through the years. What was your sailing like in this class?
Jack: Put simply, I think it's the best sailing that you'll ever do. I race keelboats regularly now, but the 18ft Skiff is the only boat that you can go and sail in a straight line, upwind or downwind, with just you and crew and it's still completely satisfying. The keelboats which I sail now, which are slower, a bit clunky, and not so cool and trendy, you get the fix from that by having the close racing, which you don't necessarily get in the 18ft Skiffs as the gains and losses are huge. But going in a straight line in an 18ft Skiff just can't be beaten.
Mark: Talking of keelboats, you are the reigning Squib National Champion with your father Nigel. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Jack: The Squib sailing has been part of my life for too many years already, but for nearly all of my dad's life! I'm actually a third generation Squib sailor, and the reason I live where I do in the country was because my dad persuaded my grandad to move there so they could sail in the local Squib fleet. So my dad sailed with my grandad in a Squib, and then I started sailing with my dad in it. As a result it's been something my dad's been absolutely mad-keen on - winning the nationals - and finally last year we managed to actually put it together enough to get the job done and win the title.
Regarding the close racing, I don't think it can be beaten. The Squib gets stick for having brown sails, but there are some extremely talented sailors in the fleet, from ex-Olympians to current World and National Champions in the fleet; it's really, really tight, everyone goes the same speed and it has massive fleets.
Mark: Working for Hyde Sails - you don't just make sails, you also make a huge number of covers and accessories - you have a major part to play in that side of the business. What does that involve for you?
My role is effectively making 3D shapes out of cloth that aren't sails. It's very diverse: we've made things for the McLaren Formula 1 team, including bags to take all their overalls and equipment between races, through to seat belts for babies in New York taxis. The bread and butter of that side of the business is boat covers
, where we make a huge number and generally buy 30 kilometres of material per year. We've made this side of the business go from strength to strength.
We also make kitesurfing kites - overall our range of products is huge!
Mark: The Hyde Sails Loft in Cebu, Philippines, has just been increased in size, with another 30% added to the floor space. As well as the growth in sail production, has this also been needed due to the growth in sales of covers and accessories?
Jack: Absolutely. It's one of the areas where we are really busy. The loft space is now the equivalent of 25 tennis courts in size; it blows my mind when I visit and see it and see how clinical the whole operation is. The space is necessary for the increase in demand that we've experienced over the last 18 months; it really has taken off.
Mark: Next up you're competing in the Illusion National Championship at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, in the singlehanded, sit-in keelboat which looks like a tiny 12m yacht. You've had two Illusions in the family for quite some time, so what has made you take the step to actually go to the championship?
Jack: It's something I've always wanted to do. I've had an Illusion since I was 11, but it's never been used by me, it's always been used by my father and his friends, or as a Boat Show exhibit on our stand! However, I've been following all the event reports on YachtsandYachting.com and I've been thinking since I've got one of these boats I can't not go!
Sailing one keeps you very sharp throughout the winter; we sail them on the East Coast and get our practice that way, getting used to steering with your feet rather than your arms, but it means we can roll up to our first Squib or dinghy event and feel race-sharp and ready to go.
Mark: Best of luck in the Illusion Championship. We'll be following and reporting on the event with great interest! Many thanks for your time; it's great to hear about your role at Hyde Sails and your own sailing.
Jack: Thank you very much!