Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Blennerville Windmill Project Is a New Spin for McWilliam Sailmakers

2nd June 2022
Blennerville Windmill on Tralee Bay
Blennerville Windmill on Tralee Bay has specially designed sails from McWilliam Sailmakers to adorn its new wings. Sailmaker Barry Hayes (in high-viz) is pictured at the foot of the windmill

Kerry County Council approached McWilliam Sailmakers in Crosshaven to build and design new windmill sails for the Blennerville Windmill on Tralee Bay.

Restoration works on the windmill have already seen new wing frames built by Cedarlan Ltd, which has its own sailing connections through director Martin Lane who sails out of Schull with his Oceanis 331, Chatterbox. 

The new windmill sails are 16 square metres each, made from Tanbark Dacron cloth and specially designed to fit the new wings.

A closer view of one of the Tanbark Dacron cloth sail — note the twist towards the inside of the wingA closer view of one of the Tanbark Dacron cloth sail — note the twist towards the inside of the wing

Each sail is designed to be hoisted and dropped independently from the deck without going aloft, which is safer and quicker to do.

This commission has been a very specific project in how the sails will be used.

They are left on the wings resting against the whip (mast) of the wing, rolled up. And when they are out fully working, you need to use each opposite side to balance the windmill when opening and closing.

The windmill with reefed sails, with Barry Hayes of McWilliam Sailmakers beneathThe windmill with reefed sails, with Barry Hayes of McWilliam Sailmakers beneath

You can also reef each sail for specific wind conditions, taking one, two or three reefs in each sail or just having two sails out if get to 15 knots. Again you can reef these last two sails down as well depending on the wind you want the windmill working in. 

The windmill has a brake which allows you to stop each wing at deck level when you want to work on each sail.

All in all, it's been a highly interesting technical project for the Cork Harbour sailmakers, learning something very different in how working sails are used on a windmill.

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About the Loft

UK Sailmakers Ireland brings modern professional sailmaking to Irish Sailing.​ Formerly known as McWilliam Sailmakers; the company was started 47 years ago to bring the latest technology to Irish sailors - we continue this mission today.

Under new leadership in 2018; our loft is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of all Irish sailors. ​As sailmakers, we do not just design sails for boats. We design and build sails for your boat. Our extensive and versatile product line allows us to produce sails to suit your requirements and expectations.   

​As a core loft within the UK Sailmakers Group, we are uniquely placed to draw from a worldwide pool of knowledge and experience - these ties have been recently strengthened with the return of Barry Hayes and Claire Morgan from Hong Kong. ​Barry held a key role in our primary production facility on Hong Kong Island for the past fifteen years. With their return comes a renewed focus on technology R&D on Irish waters.  

​With a wide variety of sailing conditions and an impressive pool of talent, the Irish cruiser racing fleet is the ideal testbed for new technologies.​ 

​As with all things in sailing; the secrets will be closely guarded - but for the first time in decades Irish sailors will be at the forefront of sail technology development.​

Although much has changed; some constants remain. The same great sail and customer service we have provided in the past will continue, as does our commitment and passion for growing the sport of sailing all over the country. 

Barry Hayes [email protected]

Contact Information:

UK Sailmakers Ireland

Hoddersfield Mill


County Cork

P43 EY26

Republic of Ireland

Tel: +353 21 4831505

Fax: +353 21 4831700

Email: [email protected]

Barry Hayes

About The Author

Barry Hayes

Email The Author

Barry Hayes, Director of UK Sails Ireland, managed the main UK Production facility for UK Sails in Hong Kong until last October and has been a sail designer with UK sails for over 15 years.

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