In 1957, at the age of 30, Lowell North decided to leave aerospace engineering to become a sailmaker. He never looked back...
One of his first projects was a new Star main sail, which he first raised in the 1959 Midwinter Championship in Los Angeles. The leader had an unusually stretchy luff and foot that allowed for a fuller shape when sailing down. With ample reach and run in the regatta, Lowell won the series. North Sails was now on the map.
Over the next five years Meldner computerized most of the North Sails tests, and the result was nothing less than a revolution in sail design. He was helped by Kiwi Tom Schnackenberg, who was close to earning a Ph.D. in nuclear physics when Lowell lured him to San Diego. Within ten years, the company was designing sails on the computer, testing them in a computer-simulated wind tunnel, performing computer-simulated structural analyses, and cutting sail material with a computer laser plotter/cutter. Dr. Michael Richelson, North's brilliant sail designer who is also a software engineer and mathematician, has since taken North's computer technology to even greater heights. In 1984, Lowell North sold his company and retired from sailmaking. He raced his boat, Sleeper, for many years, and even toured the Pacific with his wife Kay. His purpose, creativity and competitive spirit continue to drive North Sails today, even as the company explores territories he could never have imagined when he gave up rocket science to become a sailmaker. North Sails is now part of the North Technology Group, a company dedicated to design, engineering and performance leadership in the marine world. The company employs more than 40 advanced engineers worldwide, and its excellence in engineering and science has led to cooperative development projects with aviation companies, Formula 1 and NASA.