Mr. Smith goes to Spain
It was just a job to help pay the rent.
Cody Smith never imagined the places it would take him.
Smith, 26, a 1997 graduate of Douglas High School, began working for the North Sails 3DL division in Minden in 2000.
Beginning in February, he’ll be working on international yacht racing’s biggest stage – the America’s Cup.
“I had no idea it would ever come to this,” Smith said. “It was just a good job to start out. Now it’s something I could really see making a lifetime out of.”
Smith accepted a position with the Alinghi team out of Switzerland and will work with them in Spain through the summer of 2007.
Alinghi is the defending champion of the America’s Cup and is thus assured a spot in the final match, which will be against a challenger yet to be determined.
The process to find a challenger actually started in September 2004 with the Louis Vuitton Acts – preliminary races scheduled periodically over three years.
Challengers earn bonus points based on their ranking in the Louis Vuitton Acts, which are then added to their scores in the Louis Vuitton Cup, slated for April 2007.
While Alinghi will participate in the Acts, only the challengers compete in the Louis Vuitton Cup. The winner advances to meet Alinghi in the America’s Cup.
Smith will be one of six sailmakers for Alinghi. In total, the team employs a crew of about 120.
North Sails is no stranger to the America’s Cup. The company has accounted for every sail on every boat in the last two runnings of the Cup.
The difference with the 3DL process is that it produces one-piece sails out of carbon and aramid composites, creating a lighter and stiffer product by molding the sail as it’s built to the shape it would take when filled with wind.
Smith will be custom finishing the sails built in the Minden plant for Alinghi.
“It was one of those things, I heard about this opportunity and pursued it,” he said. “I think it was a little bit of word of mouth in what they’d heard of my work, but I guess they thought I was the right guy to do it.”
He found out he’d gotten the job two months ago and has been caught in a whirlwind of working out the details ever since.
“I’ve been trying to get everything in order like the travel plans and the visas,” he said. “It’s been pretty crazy. It’s definitely an ongoing process.”
Smith actually met several of the Alinghi crew members when he first started working for North Sails.
“I worked with a couple of them when I first started here,” he said. “They were here to learn the different aspects of what we do with the 3DL process. Then they took off for the America’s Cup.”
In the meantime, Smith spent some time learning the trade at the Minden plant and then moved to a smaller North Sails lot right on the ocean in Rhode Island.
“I didn’t have any interest in sailing when I first started here,” he said. “When I moved to Rhode Island, I figured if I was going to build sails for a living, I might as well learn how to sail.”
It’s a hobby he continued when he moved to another North Sails plant in San Diego a couple years later.
“I worked down there a couple years and now I’ve been back here in Minden for about a year and a half,” he said.
In his time with North Sails, Smith said he’s worked about five different jobs in the company, including anything from finish work to hanging from the gantry in a hang-glider bag while supervising the application of yarn over the sail.
Smith will be North Sails’ first Carson Valley native to go on to the America’s Cup.
“There have been a lot of sailmakers that have gone on, but no one who started here at 3DL and went through the ranks,” he said. “There are people in the building here that have come from all over the world and some of them are at the very pinnacle of their craft. “
n Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.