Harken has been supplying gear to America's Cup competitors since the early 1970s, and been providing the winch and hardware packages for both challenger and defender since the 1995 match. "As you would expect, the Cup match in Valencia was very interesting," says Harken's Global Sales Manager, Mark Wiss. Harken supplied the batten car systems for all three masts BMW Oracle developed for their soft mainsails. When the third mast fell down in San Diego, the wing that the team had been building in Anacortes, Washington had just arrived there. With the third rig out of action, the crew installed the wing, the team went sailing with it and they never went back.
"Actually the soft rig batten cars turned out to be a great example of the trickle up theory," says Wiss. "The tracks for the batten car systems on the first two Oracle masts were attached with screws but we glued the third one; it was first tried by the Telefonica crews in the last Volvo Ocean Race. Gluing the tracks saved a lot of weight by eliminating the screws and of course there are a lot fewer holes in the mast. This technique will soon have a much wider audience."
But Harken, as usual, was asked to come up with plenty of special items. The block controlling the canting wing on USA, for example, had a sheave diameter of about one foot and a working load of around 30 tons!
Finally, both boats used Harken's 1135 carbon winches fitted with special load pins that can electronically sense when the load on the winch approaches a specified number. When the number is reached, an alarm goes off and the winch automatically stops turning. "Here again," says Wiss, "I'm sure this feature is something that is going to be embraced by a much larger group of users."