Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Albert Clark, foreman sailmaker

Albert Clark worked for the Gosport firm of Ratsey & Lapthorn, and served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, before joining Butler Verner in the early 1970s.

They specialised in producing machine-sewn sails in light synthetics for small boat owners, a great change from earlier times of making heavy sails in cotton or canvas by hand, sometimes for the huge J-class yachts produced in Gosport.

His expertise came from a lifetime spent on and next to the sea, where he learnt the importance of the shape of the sail to the performance of the boat.

Listen to the recording

John Norwood
Can you tell me, just in outline, what a Sailmaker hopes to achieve?

Albert Clarke
Well, the main thing behind a Sailmaker's - a designer's idea - is to get the best setting sail, with the best curvature, to drive the boat faster than his opponent.

 

Listen to the recording

John Norwood
Can you just run through the various tools which a Sailmaker uses?

Albert Clarke
Well, there's not any modern tools as such that the Sailmaker has. They are still handed down from Nelson's time. You have the, um, lignum vitae fid (spike used for splicing rope and stitching 'eyes'), the steel spikes, the leather palms.

 

Listen to the recording

John Norwood
What is it about hand sewing which makes it so superior to machine work?

Albert Clarke
Well, first of all, there's the strength. No machine can handle the size of a twine that a man can sew by hand. The Sailmaker's stitch is half-buried where a machine stitch is always proud.

 
 
Albert Clark, foreman sailmaker

References

  • WFSA tape ref. AV6/M73
  • Hampshire Museums Service reference: P.1973.57/1
  • Hampshire Photographic Project reference: TD695-40