AT THE FRONT The Harken Newsletter - June 2020

Welcome to the June issue of At The Front, a monthly digest of top news and stories from the world of Harken. This issue is all about love of the DIY project. We feature two boat refits near and dear to our Harken hearts then we supply how-to videos for DIY projects that are surprisingly easy for anyone to complete.

Rebuilds. Refits. Fluffs. Buffs.

Does a project by any other name ever feel as sweet as improving your boat?

by Skip Mattos, Harken Grand Prix Sales & Project Manager

In my job at Harken, I collaborate with lots of project managers and crews whose jobs are to optimize and upgrade boats. I’m regularly called in to help design new deck systems; this includes specifying new hardware and winches, for instance in the event the boat is getting a bigger rig or more righting moment from a new keel.

At the same time, I am also in the middle of an upgrade/turbocharging of a Farr-40, transforming it from One-Design specification to a more powered-up planing ORC and PHRF machine. I’m doing a fair bit of the work myself. So, my perspective on this spring is a little unique. In a “normal” year, we might have finished about half of what we’re going to complete before the middle of June. With so much of the boat’s season uncertain, we decided early to make use of what has turned out to be idle time.

Here’s what we’ve changed or added:

  • a new 2.5-meter fixed carbon bowsprit
  • 6 new asymmetrical spinnakers
  • 6 new winches (Performa self-tailing models 50.3, 46.2, and 40.s)
  • a Harken Flatwinder powering the traveler
  • electric hydraulic pump with string dump valve to power the backstay
  • new halyard clutches with ceramic jaws
  • new running rigging
  • new mast instrument bracket
  • new composite pulpits and pushpits
  • new foot brackets for driver and main trimmer
  • new low-sweep carbon tiller
  • traction matting on cockpit and cabin floors
  • topsides renewed with vinyl application
  • new racing bottom
  • replacement nav station electrical panel in clear carbon

Some great local industry professionals have helped with this project. But I’m also aware of lots of projects being done this year by boat owners with friends and family. Harken’s business was built on sailors looking at their equipment and figuring out that upgrades could make them more competitive or keep them in their existing boats longer. 2020 is nobody’s favorite year. So, remember it as the year you transformed your boat forever.

I hope you enjoy this month’s At The Front…it’s all about projects you can do yourself. If any questions or anything strange comes up, give us a call!


Converting to a Harken Battcar System is of the most common DIY projects happening around the world of Harken right now.

The Harken Battcar System is a simple, low-cost solution to a problem that seems bigger than it is. These systems let you raise, douse, and reef the main instantly from the cockpit, even when close reaching in a big breeze. They're a favorite with both skippers and crew. Battcar systems outperform in-mast or in-boom furling, cost far less, and sails don’t need to be recut.

Follow along as the Tech Team performs an installation of a Harken Battcar system.

Questions? Here's a handy guide.


by Andy Ash-Vie, Harken UK Managing Director (RET)

My name is Andy Ash-Vie, and I am a 6 Meter addict. Lord knows I have tried to wean myself off; I went cold turkey for a few years, selling my 1989 Howlett-designed Wildcat II. Unfortunately, I fell off the wagon when I was offered the 1975 6 Meter, St. Francis VI, designed by Gary Mull and built by Bill Lee. She had been languishing, unloved, in a barn for the last 20 years, and the urge struck. I know, I know, I was beguiled by the extremely low price and thought just a little one wouldn’t do any harm. She looked so sweet and harmless with a nice little bustle and a beautiful derriere. Oh boy, how wrong I was! Hooked again.

As a mid-seventies 6 Meter, St. Francis VI was uncompetitive against the modern ones and was only suitable for turning into a cruiser racer while keeping her heritage. The concept was to dial back on hard racing and head towards doing the events where looking gorgeous was more important than being competitive. Plus, I wanted to do a bit of pottering around in my retirement. So, in late 2017, I began stripping her down of all the old gear and planning her conversion.

An electric engine would be a good idea for short-handed mooring. Mooring her on Lymington River meant solar panels were needed to keep topped up for the weekly beer can racing with shore power when necessary. My female crew used to be a bit sniffy about using a bucket; a small plumbed-in head would keep them happy. The boat needed to be more seaworthy for coastal deliveries to regattas so we fitted a self-draining cockpit and a coachroof, and we put in a barebones galley for a nice cup of tea (or hot toddies). Lifelines were needed to do the Round the Island race. (If it was a displacement race, I would be in with a shout but toast if the others were planing.) Two berths were put in under the cockpit and in the forepeak; it wouldn’t be very comfortable but manageable to sleep off a couple of sherbets. To make sail handling easier, we raised the boom, fitted batten cars to the mainsail, and installed a roller furler recessed in the bow well.

Progress was slow and delayed further with my back problems needing surgery. The good thing was that it made me more and more determined to see the project through, knowing that good health and enjoying life was not to be taken for granted, so we needed to crack on. The ace boatbuilder Symon Woods (AKA Honey Monster) and the all-around rockstar David Alan Williams came into the project to speed things up. We spent a lot of time mocking things up because every bit of space was critical for both racing ergonomics and fitting in the bare essentials. Working out all the control systems made the electric motor a challenge. In the end, we went for a 6kW/48V Bell Marine motor powered with four 150Ah 12V lithium ion batteries with four separate 12V charging systems. This made it modular, lower cost and actually less bulky than a 48V system. Some idiot wanted a black paint finish, so we spent ages fairing her up. Luckily, Jack and Henry Collins joined us. After many coats of hi-build, undercoats, top coats and lacquer (combined with an eclectic collection of swear words), we finished the job.

She left the shed on March the 10th and was launched. I spent a week commissioning her ready for sail trials which were delayed with spring gales. Finally, we were ready…. and then lockdown happened! She was left on her mooring, growing weeds. Finally, on May 17th, I had a grin ear-to-ear. Judge me all you like; I am an addict – and proud of it!

Sailing photo by Hannah Neve. Dockside photos by David Alan Williams.


Replacing a traveler can seem a daunting task. The question of what kind and size unit to select and all the purchase/rigging options can make any sailor's head spin.

Harken replacement traveler kits are an easy way to restore (or exceed) a boat's traveler performance by taking the guesswork out of picking the right parts. You only need to buy a Harken kit, the appropriate length of indicated track, the correct fasteners, and you're done! It's that simple!


All the talk this year is about big projects, but these small projects are important too.

  • Service your winches
  • Fix a loose cam cleat
  • Make sure the engage point on your Ratchamatic blocks are exactly right
  • Replace the ball bearings in your traveler car
  • Repair your winch handle lock

There's a new set of videos on the Harken YouTube channel ready to guide you along the way. The Tech Team Express series is made up of short skills-building videos that are a fresh source of inspiration for your next DIY project.

the shortest distance between your garage and adventurE

Need a better storage solution for your dinghies, bikes, SUPs, kayaks, and tents? Now's the time to hoist it.

Go vertical with a Harken Hoister block and tackle system to hoist, store, then lower your gear to the ground or a car top using a single rope. The load always lifts evenly (a patented feature), and if you drop the rope, the self-locking cleat prevents accidental release. So quick, so easy, you’ll get out on the water more often! And we all need more of that these days. Learn more at hoister.com.


Lauren Topchik is a 20-year-old Blockhead from Portland, Maine with a goal of sailing around the world. She’s the proud new owner of S.V. Cita, a keelboat given to her by a stranger who heard about her dream and wanted to help her gain boat ownership experience along the way. Since she got Cita last summer, she’s been working on it nonstop, learning everything she can, and sailing at every opportunity.

“I have learned so much from Cita! Electrical work, rigging, upholstery, varnishing, and beyond. Maintenance is an important part of boat ownership, and, in my opinion, all part of the fun of sailing! I feel like I have learned skills that will help me achieve my dream of circumnavigation and will help me throughout non-sailing life too. Learning how to care for my boat has been a huge part of my journey so far,” said Lauren. “Never in a million years did I expect to be gifted a sailboat, but by voicing my goals and staying determined, things started to fall into place for me!”

What a perfect project for the 20-year-old. When you're taking on your own DIY projects, don't forget to include your own little blockheads. They'll bring those lessons along with them their whole lives.

Check out some of Lauren's boat maintenance projects:



Photos by Hannah Neve, David Allen Williams, and Skip Novak.