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Thank Goodness for New Zealanders, America’s Cup, and the Ensign Class.

July 8, 2015

Ensign class guru, Doug Burtner’s, fun and unlikely path to the Quantum Sails family.

In 1995 an event occurred that would change my path in life. I was 16 years old and just starting to think about life beyond high school. Around the same time, 2,300 miles away, my mother was on a business trip to San Diego with a colleague. Late one night they were walking the docks in San Diego and stumbled upon a party that had New Zealand flags flying everywhere. Somehow the two of them were caught up in the right crowd at the right time, and ended up in the party and celebrated with the New Zealanders with until 3am. If you haven’t already guessed, this was team Black Magic’s celebration party after winning the 1995 America’s Cup. It was this single event that sparked my mother’s interest in sailing.

By the next year my parents owned a sailboat on Canandaigua Lake, NY. At the age of 17 I wasn’t too interested in what my parents were interested in, or being confined on a boat with them. I was, however, very interested when local sailor, Bud Rohrer, called me at school when I was 18 and asked if I wanted to learn how to race sailboats competitively. Apparently, he was asking around about young people that were interested in learning how to race sailboats and my parents threw my name and my brother’s name in the hat. Two months later and my brother and I were at Svensons Castle Harbor Sailing School on Biscayne Bay, FL learning how to race Ensigns. I was hooked.

To speed things up a bit, that coming year was amazing. Bud Rohrer was a fantastic teacher and an incredible man who taught me not just about sailing, but about life. We won the Canandaigua Yacht Club Series that first year and I was introduced to past national champions and local sailing professionals. That winter, we ended up getting new sail designs on the boat, along with a couple local sailmakers, and towed the Ensign to my first regatta ever – the St. Petersburg Nude Regatta (what, we’re sailing naked?!). I later found out that is was actually the NOOD Regatta (National Offshore One-Design). That summer, I went to my first National event. Everyone on our crew was under 25 and we placed 9th out of 40+ boats. My love for racing had just grown tenfold.

The following year, the local sailmakers I had been racing with, Haarstick Sailmakers, asked if I could work part time cutting numbers and sewing bags. The year after that I started working full time and here we are 17 years later. I have been to just about every Ensign National Regatta since that first one, many other Mid-Winter and Regional Regatta’s, and have made countless Ensign Sails.

Two months ago and a few years in the making, Steve Haarstick, after 50 years in the business, decided it was time to retire himself and the name “Haarstick Sailmakers.”  Local sailor and co-worker Kris Werner worked out an agreement to buy the sail loft from Steve Haarstick and joined Quantum Sail Design Group as an affiliate and to become Quantum Sails Rochester. I can truly say that I am overjoyed at the new course my path has taken. Rebuilding the sail loft and joining a company with so many resources to pull from is rejuvenating. Professional sailors from around the world that I only knew by name I have now met, and their expertise is available to me to help grow this business and continue to do what I love.

We are very excited about incorporating the best of what Haarstick and Quantum have to offer in order to provide the highest level of customer service. We know the sails are fast and well-built and now we look forward to showing our customers the benefits of a national service team. 

It is amazing to me how a party full of New Zealanders in San Diego in 1995 could change the entire course of my life. I am so thankful that my mom and her coworker snuck into that party 20 years ago. I have been so lucky to stumble into a job that I love doing. I get such joy out of being able to make and repair sails and go out sailing with customers and teach them what I have learned while still continuing to learn from them at the same time. I look forward to my future with Quantum Sails and the Ensign Class.

By Doug Burtner, Quantum Sails Rochester

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