Perched on the bustling foreshore of Port Melbourne lies Doyle Sails Victoria. Established by iconic Australian sailor Col Anderson, the loft spanning 600 sqm’s prides itself on having a close-knit team of passionate sailors and sail makers, including Col’s son Blake, dedicated to making a diverse range of Australian Made sails for their loyal customers.
Col has been involved in sail making for over 50 years, since completing his apprenticeship at Prior Sails, the market leader at the time. It was here, at the tender age of 17, that Col learnt the craft of hand making sails the old school way. “We learnt the very manual way of cutting cloths for a diverse range of boats”. This traditional approach, a tightly held and coveted skill, is how Col found his passion for cutting and making sails for classic yachts – a skill that he is now a market leader in.
After completing his apprenticeship, Col opened his own loft – Col Anderson Sails and honed his skills sailing Sharpies, Yachting World Diamonds, followed by the purchase of the Laurie Davidson quarter tonner, Black Fun (renamed Wonder Woman) in 1979 and going on to win the Australian Title that year, his second Australian after his 1963/64 win in the International cadet Class.
While competing on Banjo Patterson in the iconic Sydney Hobart in 1973, Col developed a passion for offshore racing. From here his offshore career intensified, working as a sail maker and trimmer on Police Car in the winning Australian team for the 1979’s Admirals Cup, culminating in sailing in the infamous and devastating Fastnet Race that same year.
In 1975 Col was introduced to sailing great Lou Abrahams and from here a highly successful and long-term partnership was formed. So iconic that it spanned 15 years and led to 15 Sydney Hobarts (2 wins and a second), 2 Admirals Cups and 6 Kenwood Cups. Col went on to sail a total of 35 Sydney Hobart’s to date, with other owners, including Syd Fischer on Ragamuffin (2nd overall), and Howard de Torres Nips’n’Tux (3rd overall) and John Newbold Primitive Cool (4th overall).
In the late 1970’s Col was approached by Chris Bouzaid, to join the Hood Sailmakers group, which started a long-standing friendship with Chris that continues today. In 1979 Chris and Col sailed on the Hood powered Police Car in the Admirals Cup, which Australia won. this included the infamous Fastnet Race of that year.
Throughout the evolution of his company – from Hood Sails to Doyle Fraser to present day Doyle Sails Victoria – Col has demonstrated a talent for building strong multi-faceted teams around him, effortlessly fusing the older generation of sailor with the likes of One Design specialist Mark Rimington with the new including Lawson Shaw and his son Blake.
With Blake joining the business in 2005, one would assume a natural progression following a childhood sailing dinghies and keelboats on Port Phillip Bay alongside his father. However, growing up he was carving out a successful sporting career in his own right as a professional Olympic swimmer competing at State and National level. It wasn’t until 2004 when Blake retired from swimming that he spent a summer working for his Dad and enjoyed it so much he joined the business full time the following year.
A big stepping-stone in Blake’s career was sailing on Executive Decision, enabling him to refresh his skills from childhood. Blake went on to crew for the team for 10 years, winning local IRC State and IRC and Adams 10 National championships. Blake has gone on to sail well over 8,000 ocean miles including 6 Sydney to Hobarts (including 2nd overall), Melbourne to Hobart, Sydney to Southport, ORCV racing events along with a long list of iconic regattas such as the Lipton Cup and Hamilton Island Race Week.
Blake got a taste of offshore racing competing in his first race to Devonport and from that point on, sailed offshore at any chance he got with his customers, performing sea trials, deliveries and competing.
In fact this dedication to their customers is what comes through so strongly when talking to Col and Blake, and led to some standout partnerships over the decades including Bruce Taylor on Reichel Pugh 40 Chutzpah (Blake has been a part of the crew for 10 years), Daniel Edwards on Mat 1245 White Noise (Blake is currently training with the crew in preparation for 2021 Sydney Hobart) and Jason Close on J133 Patriot (who had a standout performance following a sailing inventory upgrade in the 2019 Sydney Hobart placing 1st on handicap and 9th overall).
It is no surprise that this amazing duo operate one of the biggest lofts in Australia and pride themselves on making Australian Made sails for a range of boats, with their versatility in abilities really standing out.
Blake has a growing interest in short-handed sailing including working closely with several Jeanneau Sunfast 3300 programs.
While Col calls on his specialist skills in the classic yacht market at any chance he can get “we are big in the classic market and proud of being one of the few lofts left in the market that has this skill”. With Blake explaining a recent classic project for Scimitar “This is 100% classic tradition with narrow panel Dacron, hand sewn rings, rats’ tails and a true classic finish”.