AT THE FRONT January | 2018

Happy New Year! Welcome to the January issue of At The Front, a monthly digest of top news and stories from the world of Harken.


  • Opening Thoughts by Steve Orlebeke, Director of Engineering
  • Behind the Hardware: Volvo Ocean Race Cape Town Stopover & VO65 Walkthrough
  • High-Efficiency Ceramic Mainsheet System for Grand-Prix Catamarans
  • Harken Tech Team Asked & Answered: Travelers
  • Tips for Making Reefing Easier and Safer
  • Choosing Winches

Steve Orlebeke’s Perspective Looking Ahead

I’m looking out my door onto the engineering section in the Pewaukee Harken offices. It’s almost the end of 2017 and a logical time to look ahead toward next year. In my job as Harken’s engineering lead, I spend a good amount of my time working on our new products. Significant to us next year will be the first use of newly-designed Grand-Prix hydraulic pumps and control valves on monohulls. Our engineers have spent the better part of this year completely updating these products. Harken has made hydraulics a significant engineering priority over the last several years on the Grand-Prix level and we’re pushing hard on solutions appropriate to production boats too.

Our first rotary hydraulic pumps debuted on the Oracle 75′ foiling cat that defended the America’s Cup in San Francisco. We expanded our application of that rotary technology, reduced it in physical size, and applied it to the lower psi rule requirement for the last Cup in Bermuda where our pumps and valves were aboard several of the competitors. We then applied many of those fundamentals to pumps used in Grand-Prix monohulls like TP52s, Fast 40+ and Maxi72s. As with any Harken product, we listen to sailors, we design, we test, we refine, we apply on the water, and we listen to the sailors again…

It’s in that spirit that we’re looking forward to watching as the first of nine next generation TP 52s begin to launch in February. We’ve been privileged to have our hydraulics package on the majority of them. It’s an amazing fleet with expert sailors who also provide expert feedback. We’re confident we’ll see performance gains.

Professionally, I’m excited to see those hydraulics in competition and seeing our Element blocks in new deck plans, and as replacement blocks on boats all over the world. It will be an exciting year.

Personally, it’s much past time for winter to get here! As I write this, the winter solstice is tomorrow and the lakes are still liquid in what is supposed to be Frozen Tundra. WE NEED ICE for iceboating! I sail E-Skeeters and DNs at as high a level as I can achieve. My equipment is in perfect shape. It’s in the garage ready to go. My truck is tuned up and ready to hit the road for…anywhere. Harken’s closed next week for the holidays. I hope that when we reopen, I will have some black-ice stories to tell. I also hope that you have a great holiday season going as fast, or taking things as easy as you would like.

-Steve Orlebeke, Director of Engineering

(from left) Newly assembled y-valves awaiting testing, Ben Biddick, Hydraulic Engineer, testing a new y-valve, Hydraulic headstay cylinders and reservoirs bound for new TP52 builds.

Behind the Hardware: Volvo Ocean Race Cape Town Stopover

When the race to Cape Town ends, the Harken Tech Team's begins!

Read the Tech Team's report from Cape Town:

Volvo Ocean Race VO65 Walkthrough

Join Stu Bannatyne of Dongfeng Race Team and learn about the systems aboard the VO65.

Follow the story of the Harken Tech Team supporting the fleet in the Volvo Ocean Race:

High-Efficiency Ceramic Mainsheet System for Grand-Prix Catamarans

A lightweight, low-windage system designed for top-tier catamaran sailors. Learn more about these high-end systems in an upcoming Tech Team Asked & Answered video!

Harken Tech Team Asked & Answered: Travelers

Harken's Rick Wilfert talks about the history of Harken travelers, provides maintenance tips, and welcomes the arrival of CB+ cars.

Tips for Making Reefing Easier and Safer

Our friends at BoatNotes illustrate how a few simple updates to a stock system makes it much easier to reef your mainsail.

Choosing Winches

When the time comes to upgrade or replace winches, make sure you know what to look for!


Gretchen Dorian | Hannah Cotterell Media

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