Doyle Sails | Loft Profile: Doyle Sails Qingdao, China

Loft Profile: Doyle Sails Qingdao, China

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Doyle Sails China is based in Qingdao which is a coastal city on the Shandong Peninsula in Jiaozhou Bay, China. Ever since playing host to the 2008 Olympics, the city has grown from relative obscurity to China’s powerhouse sailing city known for its world class facilities and events, with a strong presence of sailors, boatbuilders and sailing events. In fact of the 150-plus annual sailing events on the Chinese mainland, Qingdao accounts for almost a fifth, with many of them international events.

Doyle Sails China has been owned and operated by Mark Fullerton and John Hearne since its inception in 2007. Over the years Mark and John have grown the business to become a large modern sail making facility, which matches the legacy of the city in which the loft resides in. To date the loft spans some 2,400 sqm, employs over 40 highly skilled workers and manufactures high quality sails for a significant number of Doyle Sails lofts globally, as well as boat builders and retailers.

Mark and John had the incredible opportunity to visit Qingdao and setup a temporary service loft during the Clipper around the world race and 2008 pre-Olympic regattas. At this time, the city was on the cusp of a sailing renaissance, growing and consolidating its position as a global premier yachting venue. “We recognised that with the heavy investment from the seaport city of Qingdao ahead of the 2008 Olympic regatta, it was a logical place for Doyle Sails to set up a permanent residence as a major sail making facility.” says Fullerton.

It was then that Mark moved to China full time to set-up and run a permanent loft, tasked with hiring and training staff, organising suppliers and translators and putting production systems in place. “We set up a WFOE (Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise) in China which means we have total control of the running of our company in China under Chinese Law” says Mark.

Of all the set-up tasks, Mark considered his most important job was ensuring the new loft had strict quality control measures so it could maintain Doyle Sails’ world-renowned reputation for quality production and products.

The loft applies the same sail making design, technology and experience to every single one of their projects from grand prix racing and superyacht sails to weekend club racers and cruisers. “The design work for our Asian loft is primarily done in Australia by the same team who designs all our racing sails. The technology and design history filters down using the exact same design principles, production standards and fibres."

Doyle China Loft

At the core of Doyle Sail’s ethos globally is this dedication to supreme customer service. “Whether it's to a Doyle loft or a single customer, it’s about going above and beyond. Whether it’s sharing our sail making history with lofts or customers, our large operation gives us the versatility to help wherever we can. We cover markets from retail to wholesale, OEM, big or small, racing or cruising. Every order is treated with respect."

Mark and John have over 70 years of sail making experience between them spanning the retail and wholesale sectors. It is this business acumen, vision and drive for quality and success that has navigated their loft through some challenging waters including a 2008 financial crisis (soon after opening the doors) and a global pandemic.

With a shared love for what they do, in a city that they now call home, it is safe to say Doyle Sails Qingdao will be a dominant presence in years to come. “We're only a tiny business compared to some of the Chinese companies here. But it’s given us an opportunity to focus on growing our business.", says John. "Sailing has created a platform for the world to know more about Qingdao."

MEET THE TEAM BEHIND DOYLE SAILS QINGDAO

Mark Fullerton, Managing Director

Mark started his sail making career at Lidgard Sails New Zealand as an apprentice in 1986. After two years with the Lidgards, Mark moved to North Sails to finish his apprenticeship in a custom-built Fisher and Paykel loft on their bespoke Whitbread Round The World Race boat. It was during this time that he worked alongside the likes of Richard Bouzaid, Mike Sanderson (who was also completing his apprenticeship at the same time) and Daniel Fong.

After completing his apprenticeship along with a two-year RNZYS youth training program under Harold Bennett, Mark travelled for a year, working for a brief stint at North Sails Hawaii, before settling in Sydney.

It was in Sydney whilst working for Fraser Sails Sydney (which later became Doyle Fraser Sails) that Mark’s sail making and racing career went from strength to strength, competing in his first Sydney to Hobart race on Farr 40 Assassin, claiming an overall handicap win. He has since competed in 15 Sydney to Hobart’s, two Fastnet’s, two Transpac’s, three Volvo legs and a multitude of other offshore races and regattas around the world.

It was during his time at Fraser Sails, Mark headed up the D4 Research & Development team. He played an instrumental role in developing the D4 sail system shortly before purchasing and setting up Doyle Sails in Sydney and then moving to Qingdao in China.

John Hearne, Managing Director

Like many Australians, John got into sailing from an early age, owning his first optimist at 7 years old.

John completed his apprenticeship at Elvstrom Sails Australia under Australian sailing Olympic icon Mike Fletcher and Ian MacDiarmid, graduating from Dinghies, Skiffs and One Designs to ocean racing boats.

John has extensive experience having competed in many regattas, both inshore and offshore, on a range of boats from One Design to multihulls from 20 foot to 100 foot. He has competed in almost every ocean race along the east coast of Australia, including 10 Sydney to Hobarts, along with most races on the Asian circuit.

For more information on Doyle Sails Qingdao, click here

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