The famous Crosshaven loft that is part of the UK Sailmakers organisation will shortly have a new crew on deck. Barry Hayes, Claire Morgan and Graham Curran are taking over from Des McWilliam, who is stepping down after 39 years in the business and 25 years at the helm of McWilliam Sailmakers.

“We - myself, my wife Claire Morgan, and Graham Curran - look forward to bringing a new level of sail design and sailing experience to Irish sailing. I hope that my 18 years of sail production and design, and 28 years of sailing in everything from Flying 15s to offshore maxis, will be able to deliver to the Irish sailing market a new level of sailing knowledge and expertise in sailmaking,” says Hayes, who grew up in Schull, Co Cork.

Barry Hayes: Barry Hayes started sailing Toppers at age 13, progressing to 420s, Fireballs and Flying 15s. In 1999 he started work with McWilliam Sailmakers, “where my sailing knowledge tripled while working with Des,” before being posted to UK New York on 2002 as Loft Manager in charge of production, sail design, and OD sails. In 2005 Barry moved on to Hong Kong, starting as a designer on everything from Optimists to the RP76 maxi Jelik, and then moving on to selling sails – “all over Asia.” Since 2016 Hayes has been a member of the Board of Directors of UK International, and is Production Manager for what is the conglomerate’s biggest production loft.

Claire Morgan is a Cambridge graduate in Computer Science, and has recently been working in IT for HSBC in Hong Kong. Claire started sailing on the south coast of England when she was 15, ’rediscovered’ sailing in Hong Kong, and started sailing big boats in both inshore and offshore events, from Hong Kong harbour racing in Ruffians to the Newport-Bermuda Race, and all the major Asian regattas in between, most recently as tactician on the hugely successful A40, Elektra. “But work got in the way mostly, so I am glad to be coming home to Ireland to get back into a lot more racing.” Claire will be responsible for IT management and systems at UK/McWilliam, something that is becoming more important by the day.

Graham Curran needs no introduction around the docks in Ireland. A degree in Computer Game Development at the University of Limerick turned out to be more useful than expected, especially when it came to 3-D modelling, and meanwhile left plenty of time for sailing. Curran sailed Optimists at age 7, “but longed for team involvement,” and by 2011 was sailing with Rob McConnell on the A35 Fool’s Gold. McConnell introduced him to McWilliam, and Graham joined the loft. Today, “Barry, Claire, and I are aiming to place this company at the forefront of Irish sailing. We have a fully functioning sail loft with a hugely experienced staff, who accomplish amazing feats to keep our customers winning on the water. We are first and foremost sailmakers, not just salesmen; we have the products, the knowledge, and the passion to accomplish our goals.”

Des McWilliam hands over the tiller, saying “Our strength has always been service, quality and people. Right now, the right people for the loft are Graham, Claire and Barry. Just last week, Graham won the Sovereign’s Cup on board Fool’s Gold with sails made by Barry. That’s just perfect. McWilliam Sailmakers will continue as part of the immensely strong UK International network, and will immediately benefit from the injection of fresh energy at the top. Me, I’m going sailing!”

McWilliam Sailmakers also has a reputation for producing multipurpose sailbags that are robust and hard-wearing, and windsocks that are exported all over the world. Absolutely no change there - you’ll still be seeing those stripey bags along the docks, and the top oil and aviation companies in the world will be checking the wind direction by a McWilliam product.