Don Jordan, am writing this for Dave Pelissier because
without him and his remarkable energy and dedication, the drogue
would have rotted on the beach. Now its reputation has spread
throughout the deep sea world, and I, now 89 years old, can be
confident that it will continue to be available to sailors for
As a result
of my early magazine articles and lectures, a small number of
skippers made their own drogues using the Coast Guard Report to
define the configuration. One skipper, after using the drogue
in a severe Atlantic storm during his cruise from England to Australia,
started a company to build and sell the drogue in Australia. Another
skipper, the owner of a company making hydraulic equipment in
Texas, after riding to the drogue in a near hurricane also decided
to make and sell the drogue. There were several other companies
in England and the U.S. who started to offer the drogue for sale
I made an
effort to keep in close contact and personally wrote to all purchasers.
However, sales were very low, about 2 to 4 drogues for each company
a year. The price of the drogue was high, about $2000, considerably
more than a government surplus parachute, the main competitor.
Many skippers who choose ocean sailing as a way of life do not
have very much money and the price was a serious deterrent. Somewhere
I remember reading that the total estimated market for drogues
was probably around 10,000, not a number on which to get rich.
Gradually all the companies gave up the battle and ceased to offer
that, despite the successes at sea, the whole project might fail.
As a final move I wrote to a number of sailmakers. All expressed
no interest. A few weeks later I received a call from a young
man who said he worked at a local sailmaker and had seen my letter.
He was leaving the company to start a small sail repair business
with his father as a helper and would like to make the drogue.
We got together and I started to refer interested skippers to
him. He managed by hard work and clever procedures to lower the
cost from $2000 to $1000. He also offered low cost do it yourself
kits and he gave competent and responsive service to all skippers,
including special deals to poor but deserving types.
For the past
fifteen years as the owner of Ace
Sails, Dave Pelissier has made most of the drogues in
the world except those made by the skippers themselves. I believe
that there may be at least 1000 afloat. I have the addresses of
drogue owners in 20 countries and 30 states. If it weren't for
the good work of Dave and his company, I do not think that the
drogue would have survived and prospered.
A great majority
of ocean sailors go through life without encountering a survival
storm. Whenever such a storm strikes there is a flurry of drogue
sales. It is a real tragedy that, while my 20 years of effort
was devoted to preventing a recurrence of the 1979 Fastnet, none
of the unfortunate boats in the 1998 Sydney Hobart race carried
the drogue .
By now Dave
and I have the satisfaction of knowing that we have probably saved
the lives of many sailors and that we have made a lasting contribution
to safety at sea.