Florian Raudaschl loves and lives for the sport of sailing – there where he grew up, on Lake Wolfgang. He operates a sail making workshop and a sports camp. In summer, he only leaves the Salzkammergut under exceptional circumstances.
A tall, athletic man works in the light-flooded first floor a large wooden boat house. Barefoot on this hot summer day, he glues a competition sail. All the while, he casts quick glances out the window every now and then – but not because he wants to enjoy the fantastic view of Lake Wolfgang and the surrounding mountains of the Salzkammergut. He’s watching for signs that the wind is rising. The wind is the sailor’s friend. “And now for the L – then the national symbol for Poland is finished. The letters are standardised just like the size of the sail, the distances between labels and many other details. In a regatta, everything must be 100 per cent accurate. Our customers rely on the fact that we deliver sails which perfectly comply with all regulations,” the sailmaker and athlete, Florian Raudaschl, explains.
The lake to which Florian looks time and again has shaped him since childhood. “I am from a boat-building and sailing family and grew up on Lake Wolfgang. I started sailing at age 5 – which was actually much too early. When I was 10, I turned to windsurfing and only at age 17 did I return to sailing.” Afterwards he combined education and sport. Florian learned sail making from scratch – in three of the world’s sailing hotspots: Boston (USA), Sydney (Australia) and Auckland (New Zealand). Sail making and sailing were a good combination that allowed him to further develop his sport. Several European and Austrian championship titles as well as participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London prove his expertise. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A large amount of inspiration for Florian’s sailing passion comes from his father, Hubert, who became an Austrian sport icon with 10 visits to the Olympics. He is regarded as a pioneer for the international success of sailors from inland Austria.
From the athletic camaraderie between Hubert Raudaschl and the US-American Olympian Robbie Doyle – a friendship which began in the 1960s – stemmed a business partnership. Since 1998, the sail making workshop on Lake Wolfgang is part of the international Doyle Group, which operates 90 sail making lofts throughout the world. Florian explains, “I took over our firm, Doyle Austria, in 2003. My father still comes by our operations on a daily basis. We focus on markets in Austria, southern Bavaria and Switzerland. I consider it very important that our sails are designed and manufactured by individuals who are passionate sailors and who love and live for this sport. As part of the Doyle Group, we can work very independently and receive excellent support from the parent company, especially in the areas of technology and design. We currently have 14 employees.”
While Florian continues to work on his competition sail for the Polish team, an approximately 10-metre long sail lies on the floor next to him. Two of his employees are working to reinforce its edges. They explain, “This sail is here for repairs. It will be finished today and on its way to a customer in the Caribbean tomorrow.” Individual service is greatly emphasised at Raudaschl. This is not only true for repairs or alterations. These strengths are more often employed for the creation of a new sail. The first step in this process is a detailed consultation session. Florian explains, “It’s crucial to know the contract requirements. The cut, choice of fabric and manufacturing details are made to fit these specifications. Through this process, we can incorporate our extensive know-how and experience from the sport of sailing.” The sail design takes place with the help of the most modern 3D-design software. Afterwards a laser/plotter system with a vacuum bed precisely cuts the individual pieces of the sail and fuses all seams in a single step. For the joining of sail panels, various sewing machines come into play depending on the type of sail – from the filigree spinnaker sewing machine to the maxi-sewing machine which weighs a half tonne. Florian says, “For the sewing and subsequent processing, high-quality handiwork is necessary. Our team embodies a strong love of detail. We are committed to offering our customers the best individual solution possible.”
Sail making combines handiwork and high tech. In terms of materials, it is similar to Formula 1 – the variety is almost infinite. Research and optimisation are constantly being implemented. Current developments in sailing have brought about an especially strong dynamic: foils. The foil is a type of wing at the bottom of the fin. Under the water, it works on the same principle as an aircraft wing. At a certain speed, lift is created by means of water coursing above and below the foil, and the surfboard or sailboat is then elevated out of the water. Due to the suspended position above the water, drag is decreased, and speed is significantly increased. Florian is convinced that “foils are far more than just a trend. This concept will come to prevail in sport sailing and will change sailing in general. With regard to materials as well as in the areas of design, boat building and optics, there is a push for change. Even in ‘normal’ sailing, there is still a lot that can be learned from foils.”
At the Raudaschl sport camp, located on the ground floor in the same building as the sail making workshop, requests for courses, in which foiling can be learned, have increased. At present time, two courses are held each week. Even here, the name Raudaschl stands for pioneering work. “Currently we are the only ones in Austria offering training with foils for both sailors and surfers,” Florian remarks, pointing out the extensive offerings of the sport camp. No desire remains unfulfilled for fans of water sports. Furthermore, especially for beginning sailors or surfers, Lake Wolfgang is a predestined body of water. In addition to their courses, beginners can enjoy a wide variety of free time activities – no matter the weather. Florian explains the reason why Lake Wolfgang has such a good reputation among sailors and surfers. “Because of its unique location, Lake Wolfgang is the most wind-certain lake in Austria after Lake Neusiedl. There are very good gradient winds here. Combined with the incomparable beauty of the landscape, they are mainly responsible for ensuring that many international regattas of the highest level are held here.” Lake Wolfgang draws water sport enthusiasts from many countries. Florian Raudaschl is a prime example of how the extraordinary attraction of the lake and the surrounding region impacts locals. “I love being in the Salzkammergut. During my time as a competitive sailor, I travelled a lot. Now I appreciate being home all the more. Meanwhile, it is my declared goal, if possible, to never or only in exceptional cases leave the Salzkammergut during the summer.”