When Martin Burke set up shop back in 1971, there was little way of knowing how the company would evolve. It all began when Martin built his first boat at 13 years old - a VJ. This soon led to junior championships and a lot of time spent building boats in his neighbour's garage. By the age of 17, Martin began his sail-making apprenticeship with Joe Pearce at Hood Sails, later completing it at Miller & Whitworths, working under Bob Miller (later known as Ben Lexcen) and Craig Whitworth.
By 22, Martin opened his first sail loft. Back in the '70's, Burke was a one man operation - designing and crafting sails out of a tiny loft in Lane Cove village, Sydney. Things have changed a bit since then - Burke boasts a team of designers that set trends followed across the globe, and a range of over 300 products and more than 500 retail outlets around the world.
But how did we go from making sails to marine gear and equipment?
After reaching the pinnacle of the sail-making world - with a string of world championship wins under our belt - we started casting around for a new challenge. It was the early '80's and a bunch of us were on a yacht in the middle of Bass Strait competing in the Sydney to Hobart. Think torrential rain, huge waves and a whole bunch of miserable, wet sailors and you've only got half the picture. That's when we decided to take a new tack and begin designing and manufacturing a premium range of wet-weather gear - the kind of clothing that can take the sort of beating Bass Strait throws at you. What emerged was the Burke Long-Haul range - an Australian made product that encompassed the latest technology, superior fabrics and above all, the kind of attention to detail that promises to keep you warm and dry in any conditions.
It didn't take long before champion sailors such as Iain Murray and Glenn Bourke were wearing our gear for the America's Cup, Admiral's Cup and of course, the Sydney to Hobart.
With a range now spanning footwear, PFDs, clothing and marine accessories, Burke is now Australia's best-selling marine gear and equipment brand.