Hard Sails and Blue Balls Gear

Wallace C. Ross purchased Hard Sails, Inc. in 1954 from a friend, William Hard. Ross had been an account executive at a local Long Island radio station and Hard Sails was one of his accounts.  Ross’s success at sailmaking came during the exploding yachting boom during the early 1960s when, coincidentally, synthetic materials were first available for the crafting of sails. Ross’s work in Dacron gave his staff a medium that held its shape, allowing for the application of aerodynamic theory to sailing. A material holding shape also allowed for relative mass production, especially when compared to the older, individual sailmaking techniques using Egyptian cotton. By the mid-1960s, Hard Sails was using a new device – the computer – to accelerate the design process.

At Hard Sails, Ross made sails for over one hundred national and international small-boat champions. These included many in the 12-Meter class, including champion yachts Phantome, Windigo, Tempest, and Ondine. Among Ross’ innovations were the radial spinnaker, the spherical spinnaker, and the ball-bearing traveler.

Hard sails was also widely known for their Hard Sails T-Shirts. They were not only popular with sailboaters but also presented provocative messaging for young males to wear  in clubs and taverns, beaches and wherever their normal social activities would stand out to start conversation with females. There were two basic shirts:

hardsails hardsailwith

The Hard Sails Triangle logo was on the left front chest and with one of the following sayings on the back

“Sail with a Hard On”..as seen above, or

“A Hard Man is Good to Find”

As previously explained in the “Clothing with a Message” blog section was the following:

Also important was how you dressed, very important! It always amazed Blue Balls Gear that a T-shirt with a good solid message could be an attractant or maybe just an “ice-breaker” for male/female conversation. For example, there was a sail company in S. Florida that was called Hard Sails. Their T-shirt had the Hard Sails triangular logo and the motto “Sail with a Hard On!” across the back. Blue Balls Gear met more girls wearing that shirt than any Gant shirt and Bass Weejuns shoes could ever do. Hell, a pair of Levi cut-offs and a Hard Sails shirt should have been outlawed! It was like hunting in a “baited – field!” Blue Balls Gear wore that T-shirt until it virtually fell off the body from the rips, tears and holes in it……and that was years and years later.

The Hard Sail Company formed the basis of Blue Balls Gear  and is the driving force integrated in it’s business model……..”Clothing with a Message!”



2 thoughts on “Hard Sails and Blue Balls Gear

    • Wally Ross purchased Hard Sails, Inc. in 1954 from a friend, William Hard. Ross was President of Hard Sails & Seaboard Marine from 1954 to 1974. Ross was born in 1923 in Bayshore, Long Island, NY. He lived in Bellport, NY for a number of years with his first wife who is now deceased. He later married Jean Ritchey in 1978 and lived in Rowayton and Darien, CT, Martha’s Vineyard, MA and later in Vero Beach, FL.
      In the late 1950s, the critical personnel acquisition for Hard Sails was Owen Torrey. Torrey invested in the revitalized company, and became the sail designer. Torrey designed his first sails via slide rule. Hard Sails’ first formula-cut mainsail appeared a year later. The engineered sail was criticized as too extreme. It was purchased by competitive sailor William Cox, raised on his Lightning class sailboat, and was the key to winning the World Championship the next year at Buffalo, New York. Between 1954 and 1961.
      In the early 1960s, the team of Ross and Torrey applied the computational revolution to spinnaker sails. Hard Sails created a crosscut spherical chute and dominated the spinnaker market. A flatter spinnaker followed, allowing them to maintain a competitive edge on their peers.[1] These early efforts resulted in synthetic nylon spinnakers with cross-cut construction. Torrey’s slide rule designed sails resulted in the standard-design of radial head spinnakers commanding the market until the early 1990s.[2]
      per: Wikipedia and Eight Bells


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