Contender UK was founded in 1986 by Martin & Carol Shires to represent the world leading brand of Contender Sailcloth in the UK. In 1989 they were joined by their son Alastair, who now heads the company. Today we have grown to become a major leader in the supply of premium fabrics for sailmaking, covermaking, structural and architectural applications, plus associated sail hardware and fittings.
Primarily started as a supplier to the trade, our ever evolving catalogue and increased demand soon encouraged us to extend our high quality and efficient service to the public.
The Contender Sailcloth brand is a world leader in fabrics for the sailmaking industry and has become widely respected for quality and excellence. The Contender offices throughout the world are run by sailors who actively participate in the sport at all levels and who work closely together to support the ‘best in class’ brand name.
Keeping pace with ever advancing technology, in 2012 we unveiled our unique C360˚ precision cutting service. The combination of our highly trained staff, in house software solutions and innovative automated laser and blade cutting machine has allowed us to stride ahead with our complete plot and cut service for fabricators.
Evolving our high quality service to customers, in 2017 we introduced a fully integrated ecommerce website to showcase our products and services, making ordering a more user friendly experience and increasing our profile direct to the end user and private boat owner.
Our team here at Contender UK are keen sailors and with a combined experience of well over 150 years within this specialised industry, we are highly skilled to advise on our products and services. We are always exploring new products and ideas to expand our catalogue, although not wanting to forsake our tradition of quality and service, we ensure only top quality product lines make it into the Contender UK portfolio!
At Contender UK we always strive to Go the extra mile!
The Contender UK Crew
Alastair Shires - Alastair has over 27 years experience with Contender Sailcloth and has worked within all aspects of the business. Having spent time in both the Australian and New Zealand markets and through maintaining a close relationship with the rest of the Contender group, Alastair has a broad technical and practical base. A keen and active sailor, Alastair has raced offshore in The Fastnet and Sydney Hobart, within one design classes such as Dragon’s and RS800’s and numerous regattas including The Commodores' Cup. Heading up Contender UK, Alastair concentrates on technical sales, development and customer support.
Martin Shires - With more than 50 years working with sailcloth, Martin started Contender UK in the mid-‘80’s along with his wife Carol. Martin is known and respected throughout the industry for his wealth of experience and technical background and looks after our sales and customer services.
Tim Pearse - Tim has a wealth of experience in the trade and retail arena, having helped establish leading brands such as Rooster, Zhik and Adidas Sailing within the European market. He is a life long dinghy sailor, currently concentrating on the Laser class. As genreal manager here at Contender UK, Tim focuses on technical support, marketing and purchases.
Richard Knibbs - Richard joined Contender UK to extend our commitment to technical sales, customer service, support and product development. Richard has many years experience in the technical textile industry, specialising in technical threads such as brand leaders Tenara. Richard offers invaluable technical and sales support.
Mike Palfreman - Mike has worked within both the trade and retail sectors for leading marine brands such as Sunsail, Rooster and Rigit. A lifelong sailor, Mike is regularly seen campaigning at the top of the Musto Skiff fleet. His experience and knowledge provide a sound base for his role of sales, customer service and goods inwards.
Damion Green - Damion heads up our C360˚ cutting service team. With over 15 years dedicated to providing the very best in automated cutting services, Damion is highly experienced at using our Contender C360˚ laser and blade technology and is responsible for handling our cutting and design requirements from start to finish.
Francis Savege - A former customer, Francis has previously worked extensively for the Ministry of Defence and has brought with him to Contender UK considerable experience in logistics and customer care. Francis has an excellent understanding of the practical needs of our customers and works as part of our C360˚ cutting service team.
David Leigh - Having also previously been a customer, David heads up our stores department. He understands the needs of our customers and the level of service we strive to offer. David ensures the smooth operation of all sales orders, goods in and shipments out.
Sue Hobbs - Sue has been involved in the marine industry for around 20 years and with Contender UK for over three quarters of that! Sue is often the first person you will meet, handling our reception duties, day to day administration, sales invoicing, bought ledger and general sales enquiries.
Rachael Pollard - Rachael has been with Contender for over 5 years and oversees the financial side of the company. Rachael and Sue work hard together to ensure everyone is paid on time, including us!
Ann White - Having previously worked as a machinist in the sail and cover making industry, Ann joined Contender UK over 15 years ago, bringing with her invaluable product experience and knowledge to the store team. Ann looks after goods in and orders, specifically those with a hardware bias.
Ewan Green - The youngest member of Contender UK, Ewan joined the Contender C360˚ cutting team in 2015 on an apprenticeship. Progressing rapidly and with his ever broadening knowledge base, Ewan's diligent approach helps us ensure all cutting jobs are undertaken and presented to the customer to the highest standards.