The Harken/Jeanneau partnership on the Assisted Sail Trim product has been recognized with the inaugural 2015 IBI METS Trade Boat Builder Award in The Boat Builder and Equipment Manufacturer Collaborative Solution Category. This is a tremendous honor for this product and a vote of confidence by the jury in its power to change the way people sail today.
If you had to pick one attribute about AST that was the absolute KEY to its success what would that be?
I'd say it allows the sailor to spend more time on the water. AST means that the skipper doesn't have to worry as much about finding a skilled crew each time he wants to go sailing. If he wants to take a friend who isn't an accomplished sailor, they can still go out and have fun. If conditions are right, a skipper might even choose to sail alone. AST also increases the number of people who might consider buying a boat because it will be physically easier to handle. People who might not feel comfortable or strong enough to deal with the loads and the effort needed can now think about buying a boat. Of course, they must still practice responsible seamanship. The system does not substitute for that, but all the rest will be easier. That's for sure.
This partnership between Harken and Jeanneau has been three years in duration. What was the best single moment in that design/testing period?
The best moment so far was the day we realized the results of our extensive testing had become completely repeatable-day after single day, maneuver after maneuver. This showed us real product reliability and a system that sailors can absolutely rely on.
Three years is a long time. Was there ever a time during the development of AST when you thought the project wouldn't make it to market…that the technology would not catch up to the dream?
As you can imagine, there were a lot of technical milestones that needed to be met in a project like this. As a result, sometimes the development felt slower than anyone on the team wanted. We were so excited about AST…we wanted to MOVE. But after the first sea trials we knew we were going to deliver! It feels great to have AST ready for sailors to experience. They're going to love it!
What is the next step for Harken in the development/distribution of this technology?
The next step for this technology is to support our partner Beneteau/Jenneau as they expand Assisted Sail Trim systems to more models in their line. At the same time, we will work with interested OEMs to customize the system for future production yachts.
What sort of adjustments need to be made boat-to-boat in calibrating the system so that it works effectively on boats of different lengths, displacements, underwater, and rig configurations etc.?
The ability to configure the system to different models is pretty simple, but it does need to be done. For instance, the system has to recognize that different models have different J lengths, and therefore, different jib foot and jib sheet lengths. This comes into play when tacking. In addition, the winches need to be engaged for different periods of time. The tacking duration is built into the software and needs to be reconfigured. This preset can be sensitive and might need technical support from Harken. Only minor adjustments are required on each boat.
Davide Burrini is Director of Original Equipment Sales for Harken.