All Harken customers benefit from our America's Cup research and development. Not only are the ultra-competitive AC and Louis Vuitton Acts great opportunities to experiment with new products, materials, and manufacturing techniques, but the extremely taxing conditions test the reliability of our hardware—AC yachts sail more in a single week than maxi racing yachts sail in a season.
Feedback from the race course is crucial to understanding how a particular design accommodates varying sailor, installation, and serviceability needs, but scientifically controlled analysis is also necessary. To stay on the cutting edge and to verify the high quality we demand, we continually upgrade the Harken Italian and U.S. research departments with the latest electronics and computer software. Large solid-aluminum components are machined and heat-treated in-house, and we test hardware in accelerated environments—just one day in a saltwater bath is equivalent to three months on the ocean. Quality control teams develop procedures to check every piece of equipment before it ships, and engineers examine working loads, breaking loads, and fatigue and lubrication issues.
Thanks to the hard work of Harken engineers, AC2007 improvements to our winch systems have already trickled down to Grand Prix racing classes. The latest generation of AC foot buttons, handles, disconnect systems, gear boxes, and overdrive boxes are being installed on TP52s, Open 60s, GP42s, and STP65s. VO70s are already using our latest AC winches in the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race. These winches are built with strong and lightweight titanium components.
Before the 2007 AC, the 1111 mainsheet, 65 halyard, 990 runner, and 50 traveler winches received a full design review and weight reduction. Engineers removed nearly 3 kg (6.6 lb) of weight from the 990 by making more parts with carbon and doing further computer finite element analysis (FEA) of the drum, housing, and base. A complete test-analysis of all gear-cutting methods, materials, and lubrications increased reliability. All of the teams' project managers and service technicians attended private Harken seminars on winch servicing and lubrication.
Winch Monitoring System
Harken provided yacht designers and trimmers with electronic load pins and amplifiers for winches, while speed encoders for pedestals allowed crews to gauge exactly the right time to shift gears for optimal winch speed and power. Trainers and coaches also use this equipment to make sure grinders are working at their highest capacity.
Carbon Pedestal Handles
Carbon Harken pedestals feature aerodynamic handles that are the stiffest and most efficient we have ever developed. Cushioned rubber hand grips provide crew with total control, even in wet conditions.
Top-Drive Winch Handles
Despite new designs in the market, Harken's forged aluminum handles continue to be the choice of America's Cup syndicates. For their weight, they flex the least of any handle.
Pedestal & Gearbox Systems
Using Precision Spline Technology, pedestal and gearbox disconnects were fine-tuned for better control and connections. The redesigned clutch and spline have less backlash, giving grinders more control over the entire transmission system. While other systems require a 25 mm (1") turn first, our technology gives instantaneous overdrive control and engagement of the connection. Carbon brackets and forks reduce weight.
Lighter and more precise foot buttons control the Precision Spline connection and overdrive functions. They are considerably more reliable and are now maintenance-free.
A reliable gearbox that is 98% efficient and takes 90% less time to service is the biggest engineering success of the AC2007 winch program. With nearly total freedom in designing the 701 family, our engineers examined radial and thrust bearing systems, bevel gear shapes and materials, and how well different lubricants prolonged gear life. The 701 is a combination of gears and bearing systems that work in an oil bath housing. It uses cost-effective universal components and has a window for quick service access.
The 701 overdrive boxes have custom speed-increasing gear ratios so each team can set up their boat for that day's forecasted weather. The gearbox foot button is an instant on/off toggle, allowing grinders to gybe, hoist, and retrieve sails at twice the normal speed.
We've designed ball bearing blocks for more than 40 years, and the America's and Louis Vuitton Cups have been our proving grounds for over 30. Our designs continue to evolve to take advantage of new materials, applications, and manufacturing techniques.
ULC Titanium Block
In 2003, Harken started developing its ULC (Ultra-Light Composite) block line with soft attachment technology, which replaces heavy steel toggles and shackles. ULC Titanium blocks have high-load composite bushing bearings, titanium sideplates, and an aluminum sheave riding on Torlon® thrust balls. ULC soft attachment blocks are so lightweight and dependable that they are now standard equipment on most Grand Prix racing yachts.
ULC Loop Block
ULC Loop blocks combine extremely light and strong materials with a composite bushing bearing system for an exceptionally high strength-to-weight ratio. With snap-fit Torlon® bearings for thrust loads, Loop blocks excel in static line applications that require small adjustments.
The TTR (Titanium Roller) AirBlock® surpasses all other blocks with an incredible 98% efficiency, increasing trimming speed and harnessing power that would otherwise be lost to friction. With nearly twice the safe working load of comparable Black Magic® blocks, the TTR has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any block to date. Non-capsizing soft attachments maintain a fair lead and replace metal sideplates as the primary load-bearing structural components—now only minimal sideplates are necessary to keep the line and the sheave captive. Harken recently expanded the TTR AirBlock line to include extreme-strength versions with working loads of 10, 12, and 15 tons.
CRX Roller Traveler
With high loads and the need for smooth adjustment, Harken saw significant room for improvement in AC yacht mainsheet systems. In the 2000 America's Cup, we presented CRX traveler cars, which carry nearly double the load at half the weight of similarly sized traveler cars. Recirculating Torlon® roller bearings provide much more contact than ball bearings for low-friction performance—even after months of extreme loading. They can run on curved track, allowing trimmers to ease the sail without affecting mainsheet tension. The design eliminates weight from the construction of the deck.