Brian Hancock - Founder/Owner Great Circle Sails

Brian Hancock is the founder of Great Circle Sails and has been a working sailmaker for almost 40 years. He started out rolling fabric and hand stitching corners at Elvstrøm Sails in Durban in the late 1970’s. In 1981/82 he raced around the world in the Whitbread Round the World Race and when the race was over he was recruited to work at Hood Sailmakers in Marblehead, Massachusetts running their maxi-boat division. When Hood faded as one of the world’s top sailmakers Brian went back to racing professionally and competed in his second Whitbread Race aboard Drum which was owned by the rock group Duran Duran.


In 1986, after the Whitbread was over, Brian formed Great Circle Sails and sold sails independently with the sails being built in a modern facility in Durban, South Africa. Sailing, selling sails and writing was a way of life until marriage and a small daughter forced him to settle down in Marblehead where Doyle Sails quickly snapped him up to help with some of their special offshore projects. Brian worked closely with Robbie Doyle on many projects and learned the skill of building Super Yacht sails, an area where Doyle was dominating.


The call of the open ocean was never that far away and Brian went back for his third Whitbread Round the World Race this time with the first, and by happenstance, last Soviet Union entry named Fazisi. By the time the race was over the Soviet Union had disintegrated.

In 2002 Brian wrote the definitive book on sails and sailmaking. Maximum Sail Power was hailed as the best book ever on the subject by industry leaders including Tom Whidden who at the time was head of North Sails. The famous circumnavigator Sir Robin Knox-Johnston wrote of Maximum Sail Power, “The mystery of how to obtain the best performance from your sails has been exposed. This book will be of inestimable value to the learner and experienced sailor alike. Sail trimming has always been considered an art. Brian Hancock has shown how it is also a science.” It was Brian’s farewell to his sailmaking days.


He went on to co-found a new global around-the-world race for smaller boats and smaller crew. The Portimão Global Ocean Race was the first solo circumnavigation race for single or double-handed teams. Most recently Brian has been the PR and media manager for SpeedDream, a quest to build the world’s fastest monohull. Despite the success of SpeedDream and Portimão Global Ocean Race Brian has always thought of himself as a sailmaker and has continued to sell sails under his Great Circle Sails brand at the same, now greatly expanded facility, in Cape Town.


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