Sail solutions south of the line

To the editor: Voyagers setting off for faraway places must make the major decision on how much space below and how much money should be allocated for spare sails. Ideally, a complete spare suit of plain sails, plus a variety of light-air and storm sails, would be aboard. However, budget and stowage space realities usually preclude an ideal inventory.

When the main blows out or the realities of cruising show the need for new light-air sail combinations, what does a voyager anchored in some distant cove do? There are many answers to this question, but a little-known one for those in South America is Omega Performance Sails in La Punta, Peru.

Some 18 years ago, Steve Wagner, a sailmaker from New Jersey, started flying to Peru for surfing vacations in January and February when his workload allowed him some time off. Each year he stayed longer and made more friends and acquaintances. When he found a chance to make sails for the Peruvian Navy’s training/racing fleet of small boats and met the woman he would marry, he decided to build a life and sail-making business in the cozy waterfront community of La Punta. There he found major yacht clubs, the Peruvian Naval Academy and the space for a sail loft.

Today, he makes several hundred Optimist sails a year for individuals, sailing schools and yacht clubs all over the world, as well as J/24 sails for competitive racers. He produces cruising and racing sails for vessels of all sizes and types, and has access to the technology of Doyle Sails of Gloucester, Mass.

Voyagers can send Wagner specifications and measurements on the sail(s) they need on a CD in any sail making software program, which he will then convert to the Sail Science software he uses to plan the cutting and sewing. Alternatively, actual measurements, written instructions and desires can be sent. He will enter the traditional information into his computer and design the type of sail needed. Plans and quotations will be sent back for approval.

Wagner is in the process of installing a vacuum table and computer-controlled plotter that will convert drawings into perfectly cut sailcloth panels ready to be sewn with one or more of his specialized industrial sewing machines.

Omega Sails can be contacted by email at to begin communications over a replacement sail or to fill a new need.

Voyagers heading for or returning from Cape Horn and other Southern Hemisphere destinations can find Wagner in person by calling at one of the two major yacht clubs at Ancón or La Punta. His shop is an hour’s taxi ride from the first port and a moderate walk or short taxi ride, past lovely classic homes, from the yacht club at La Punta.

Knick & Lyn Pyles are home-based in Point Roberts, Wash., when not sailing in South America aboard their Vagabond 47 ketch, Murielle.

By Ocean Navigator