Veronica Brown

Miller works closely with Transpac overall winner Dorade's owners & crew

It was a historic moment when the 52-foot classic yacht Dorade was named the overall winner of the 2,225-mile Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles, CA to Honolulu, HI in mid-July. Not only was she the oldest boat in the fleet - an Olin Stephens design built in 1930 - she also made history by being the only boat to win the regatta twice with a 77-year gap in between victories. Now owned by Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy, Dorade sails with a complete North Sails inventory managed by Kevin Miller of Ventura, CA.

Transpac overall winner Dorade
Miller, an experienced and accomplished sailor and sailmaker, got involved with the Dorade program in January of this year after being approached by Matt Wachowicz, the team's navigator. "Matt Brooks' goal was to switch the crew from an amateur to an all-professional team with his sights set on winning Transpac," Miller explained. "We trained together consistently for five months which included the Newport to Cabo San Lucas Race at the end of March. We knew right away that our boat preparation was starting to pay off when we won our class in the Cabo Race. But we also knew much work had to be done if we wanted to win Transpac in July."

The boat underwent a refit about 1.5 years ago, which included getting new spars and some structural work to toughen the boat up. "But for Transpac, nothing too intense was done to the boat other than small refinements and a lot of sail development. We put together a great suit of sails that included a North 3DL® Marathon main, #1 and #3, along with some panneled Mylar and NorDac sails thrown into the mix. We built the mizzen mast sails to match the main mast's sail inventory. So if we had a 3DL reaching genoa for the main mast, we built a smaller one to match for the mizzen. It was a very comprehensive sail inventory built specifically for Dorade and it helped the performance of the boat for sure," Miller explained.

North Sails' Mike Toppa has been involved with the Dorade sail program since 2006 when the boat arrived in the US after several years in Europe. "I've seen the boat and its sail inventory evolve over the past seven years. There was a reluctance to use anything but Dacron on Dorade but introducing North Marathon 3DL really took her performance to another level in the Cabo and Transpac races," said Toppa who is based in Fort Lauderdale, FL. "I was lucky enough to sail with Olin on Dorade shortly before he died and he was always for doing anything to improve performance. He would have approved."

Born and raised in Ventura County, Kevin Miller opened his North Sails loft near Channel Islands Harbor in 1988. A keelboat sailor who started racing when he was 12-years-old, Miller has many offshore accomplishments under his belt including overall wins in the Sydney-Hobart Race, Bermuda Race, Chicago to Mackinac as well as winning the Transpac six times. Kevin also has a solid inshore racing background including wins at Key West, Rolex Big Boat Series, Maxi Worlds and an 1996 Olympic campaign in Star boats.

Although he has become one of the most respected sailmakers and professional sailors in southern California, he almost left the marine industry all together. "I was close to pursuing a career outside of sailing when a friend urged me to go down to Huntington Beach, CA and meet with Robbie Haines who was running the North Sails loft there in the late 1980s. After mulling it over for a few weeks, I  met with Robbie and I was amazed at what a well-organized and structured company North Sails was and still is. He impressed me so much that I wanted to be a part of it. So we roughed out a hand-written contract in 1988, when I was just 20 years-old and the rest is pretty much history," Miller continued. "One funny note is that Robbie required me to buy a fax machine, which cost me $2,500 at the time, and even though I could barely afford it, I was willing to put myself in debt to become a part of the North Sails team."

"I love boats and everything boat-related. Sailing has definitely been my passion since I was young and I truly enjoy working with customers to find out what their ultimate goals are and how to build on that. I believe that to earn the trust and respect of our clients, we must think about not only sails but boat preparation, crew, spars, rigging and rating optimization," Miller explained. "This all seemed to fall into place on Dorade during Transpac and it paid off huge. Even our weather pattern was perfect for the boat (flat water, not too much wind) allowing us to sail the shortest race possible. It was a close race, with Pyewacket (also powered by North Sails) coming within a few hours of beating us. If we hadn't done all that preparation, surely they would have beaten us."

Next up for the Dorade team will be sailing her back from Hawaii to San Francisco, CA where she will do some touring during the America's Cup in September. Over the winter, she will make her way to Rhode Island, where Loughborough Marine will do a thorough inspection before she races again in the spring. "There's something very special about this boat and this win," concluded Miller. "It has been one of my favorite experiences in my career so far. So many things had to come together for us to win… the right start date, the right conditions, and many months of preparation and training to make this happen. Matt and Pam couldn't be happier and they're such great people which makes this victory that much sweeter."