KA Sail History...
Our journey through time begins in the mid 1980’s when a brand called Wild Winds was first launched in Australia. This brand came to be well known as one of the oldest sail brands in windsurfing history. KA Sail actually came forth out of this brand in 1990, but first things first … so let’s get back to the beginning!
Andrew McDougall (AMac)
Back in the 1980s, an Aussie engineer and windsurfing/sailing fanatic named Andrew McDougall (AMac) joined forces with Ian Mort, a manufacturer of windsurfing booms and accessories already under the name Wild Winds. As a hobby, AMac had been building sails and hulls since he was 15 years old and had a number of Australian Moth championships under his belt, sailing self-designed sails and hulls. With an engineering and computing background and a passion for making fast sailing craft, a perfect partnership was formed. Wild Winds started building windsurfing sails by hand in a small factory, but thanks to success, they soon felt the need to expand the operation further into a larger factory and start up a production line for windsurfing sails to offer a full range of windsurfing products. The new factory site was located in Mordialloc, Victoria, 24 km south-east of Melbourne's central business district and conveniently enough, just a few kilometres away from the famous sailing waters of Port Phillip Bay.
Business was Booming
The innovative sails of Wild Winds dominated the Australian market right throughout the mid to late 1980’s and were exported to a great number of other countries around the world, notably to Italy and Japan. Business was booming! Besides growth also some changes were imminent… In 1987 Mort sold his share sold in Wild Winds to a friend of AMac, Terry Grundy, and two years later in 1989, Grundy sold his share in the company to the Italian Wild Winds importer.
As the Victorian factory could no longer handle the planned production volumes of Wild Winds, in 1989 production of the sails was moved to the Republic of Fiji, one of the most developed economies in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean. This exotic island country is comprised of over 332 islands and situated about 1100 nautical miles (2000 km) northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. AMac moved to Fiji himself and production was soon cranked up to around an amazing 1000 sails per month! Unfortunately, this also created huge logistic problems, mainly related to import, export and telecoms (remember, no internet! International phone calls needed to be booked ahead!) which bled the company of capital. In the wake of this, AMac decided to leave the company and give over control of Wild Winds to his Italian partner. However, things did not end well for Wild Winds, as the company was declared bankrupt only a few months later…
Launch of KA Sail
A sad ending for Wild Winds, but new opportunities opened up for the launch of KA Sail! Encouraged by his former Japanese importer, Andrew McDougall teamed up with former World Cup Windsurfing champion Tom Luedecke (Australian National sail number KA1 – KA of course stands for Kingdom of Australia) to found the brand KA Sail in 1990. This team was an immediate success and the KA Sails soon became a significant presence in the Australian and Japanese markets. Luedecke left KA Sail only a few years later to pursue other interests, leaving AMac as the sole owner of the brand
Ben Severne took over the design and development of most of the KA Sail range using McSail in 1998 for a year or two, until he decided to focus his efforts on building his own brand, Severne Sails, and subsequently also bought a license for McSail.
After Ben Severne had left the company, the brand’s popularity started to wane slightly. But the brand truly came to life again more than ever before, when in 2004 the very first KA Koncepts were built. This project was initially just a personal project by Andrew McDougall because he wanted to build the best cambered 6.6m sail for himself he could devise. The Koncept was a huge success right from the get-go! Everyone who tried the prototype, loved the sail and ordered it right on the spot… So the Koncept was quickly put into production. The sail was so successful that it gave the company an enormous boost. A 5.0m version followed in 2005 and by 2006 the range had been extended completely to cover all necessary sizes. Quite rightly so, the Koncept is often considered to be KA’s signature sail. This sail has both impressed and brought huge smiles to speed freaks around the world for many years. It’s easy to go on and on about the records this sail has broken on multiple occasions, but it would be better to keep it simple and explain its virtues: the Koncept combines the blistering speed and acceleration of a full-blooded race sail with the user friendliness of a freeride sail.
Blade Rider MOTH
KA Sail had taken on a new partner in 2006 to help finance and develop the revolutionary foiling Bladerider Moth, which took the sailing world by storm. This, however, also introduced some management challenges on the windsurfing side of the business. The company was split up officially in the year 2008 with Andrew McDougall retaining the KA Sail brand and windsurfing business and exiting the Bladerider business.
In 2007 another important event occurred that would change the future of KA Sail considerably. After racing at their local sailing club, Andrew asked Martin Love, who at that time was racing a Formula board, why he wasn’t using KA Sails. Martin, a professional designer AMac had known since their early teen years, responded by saying “I know they work great, but they look pretty average.” Andrew then challenged Martin to do some designs and after liking the subsequent sketches, Martin’s relationship with KA Sail began there and then. Martin has raced dinghies and catamarans from a young age and first windsurfed in the late 70’s. Around 2000 he stopped racing yachts and focused solely on windsurfing. Currently he is Chief Designer, Exteriors, for GM Australia, working on production and advanced concept vehicles for all of GM’s global brands. An extremely experienced Industrial designer with expert skills in concept design and 3D CAD modelling, he is now the focal point of all KA Sail design. Martin describes his work for KA Sail as an absolute labor of love, “Well, it combines my 2 great passions, designing stuff and windsurfing … I’m like a pig in poo.”
Also around that time KA Sail was looking for a new European importer to take on the distribution for KA Sail and Andrew came into contact with Peter Weitenberg, a long-time enthusiastic KA Sailor from the Netherlands, very familiar and well-known with the brand, and willing to take on the import of the sails for the European market.
Slowly but surely, Peter started to grow more and more into the business, getting more involved, taking on more responsibility for the brand and working closely with Andrew McDougall and Martin Love. In 2010, during a meeting with the American distributor of KA Sail in Los Angeles, USA, the first talks about Peter taking over the windsurfing side of the business were held, leaving Andrew McDougall free to focus on his new Moth: the Mach2. At that point in time, it was still too early for Peter’s company PWsurfsport to take over the brand completely, so talks continued for a couple of years to find the perfect business construction. A license agreement was signed between the two parties in 2012, making Peter and his company solely responsible for the KA Sail Windsurfing products. The brand name KA Sail remained and still remains in the hands of Andrew McDougall, who now produces the Mach2 Moth and KA branded sails for the Moth market.
As front man, Peter continued the cooperation with Martin Love on the design end, taking over the full design work from Andrew. In the meantime, Peter had learned the ins and outs of McSail. A perfect set-up was created with Martin taking care of all the concept design sketches, the technical numbers and initial CAD lay-outs, and Peter translating all this into the McSail design software, creating a DXF file output with the finished panels, which are then manually tweaked in CAD by Martin.