Applying racing and regatta heritage within the superyacht sector 

Superyacht Technology was delighted to get the opportunity to spend some time with Mark Wiss, Director of Global Grand Prix and Custom Yacht Sales at Harken.  With 24 years in the company he is an expert in Harken products and has combined two of his passions; sailing and business.  His relationship with sailing began earlier in his career when he was a sailmaker and a boat captain.   

Identifying several distinct trends within the superyacht sailing market, Mark stated that a lot of owners are still keen to design and construct a traditional looking yacht, with lots of woodwork, and stainless-steel equipment.  Although incredible to look at, these yachts are not traditionally designed as high-performance sailing yachts.  They are designed for creature comforts and beauty.   

Some designers are constructing performance driven yachts, sleek designs which have come out of the grand prix racing market.  Designers are now working closely with owners and owner’s representative to take these performance yachts and scale them up into large superyachts.  Aerodynamic design and an abundance of carbon fibre instead of stainless steel make them more suitable for both cruising and racing.  Cosmetically and aesthetically, traditional items are being amended to suit the sailing superyacht market.  It’s a question of fashion and taste, carbon fibre, for example, can now be made to look like wood, or in a variety of unusual colours. 

Updates in technology provide owners and captains with products that make superyacht sailing more effortless.  Continuously launching new products for this market allows Harken to stand out from the crowd.  Computer systems provide captured data to be sent to the crew to allow the yacht to sail and race more effectively.   Sensors inside the winches can tell you the current load and the input speed to the drum.  Alarms and alerts can be set to warn staff of any issues or potential problems.   

Harken’s forte is efficiently managing sailing line under tension.  They continue to listen and pay attention to designers and project managers of yards, and, as sailing superyachts get larger and larger the need to have equipment that can manage the loads is essential.  

In the superyacht world, Harken collaborates closely with the rope companies.  Excellent relationships have been built with rope manufacturers globally, where they are invited to bring samples of their products and test them on any new Harken designs.  The rope companies and Harken learn and develop products that work brilliantly well together!  What a fantastic example of companies within the industry co-operating to bring benefit to both themselves and the end user. 

Putting extreme amounts of stress on lines, fibres can become stressed and deformed.  How much can a winch handle?  Harken winches are kings of power and speed, setting owners on the path to fast, effective sail handling.  But, is there a limit? 

Harken has announced the completion of a massive project to nearly triple the load potential of its Captive Reel winch line.  Originally offered for loads up to 50 metric tons, their new 70 metric ton winch is designed for an upcoming breed of ‘giga sailing yachts’. 

Traditionally Harken has been very focused to remain number one in the racing market.  That market is continuously trying to upgrade performance. Companies’ like Harken are at the front of designing fresh solutions.  These are then scaled up for the superyacht market and scaled downwards towards dinghies.  The advances in technology are beneficial to all sizes of the sailing industry.  

So, with the ever-increasing size of sailing superyachts we asked Mark whether he thought there would be a draining of skills from the racing sector.  He said “It’s true, a lot of the skills now need to crew a sailing superyacht or racing yacht was not required a few years ago..  Due to the increased size of yachts and how aggressively the owners want to push them these days,  the need for talent is greater and it is important that crewmembers know how to use the equipment properly.  But there is a steady supply of people coming into both ‘traditional’ Grand Prix racing and super yachting.  The knowledge complements each other, so I don’t think one will deprive another of talent.” 

Teams of highly skilled Harken technicians attend regattas globally to build great relationships with captains and crew on yachts.  The yachts attending need to be proactive with Harken in advance of those events, so they share their schedule.  It is smart to get the Harken team on-board to provide preventative maintenance and provide the yacht with a pre-race MOT.   The teams are also there at the event for any reactive issues, getting a technician on-board to solve any problems as fast as possible.  

The Harken team will be at most regattas globally including the Superyacht cup, St Bart’s Bucket, the Lora Piano Regatta and many more.  

Visit Harken