Please select your home edition

The fantastic world of Lewmar R & D

by .. on 20 Dec 2008
Somewhere in a Lewmar laboratory... /AUS ©
Location: a top secret R & D laboratory somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. You are an elite sailor that has been blindfolded and dropped into an unknown foreign country in the dead of night by a Black Hawk chopper. When your blind is removed by the marines that have accompanied you on your parachute drop, you find yourself standing in front of a metal lined door.

The laboratory door creaks open and standing there is a very strange group of men, sporting white coats and holding something that appears to be an elongated door knob on a stick. Tubes of chemicals are bubbling over Bunsen burners, there are little tanks of water with model boats in them, and in the corner of the room a fax machine is constantly spewing out reams of paper covered with intricate drawings that resemble crop circles, but which are actually winch schematics. A discreet sign on the wall reads ‘Welcome to the Fantastic World of Lewmar Research & Development.’

The lead scientist is a man with intense blue eyes and he comes towards you holding the elongated door knob with a kind of fanatical pride. ‘We’ve done it’ he says, gesturing to the tired group of scientists hovering like proud parents in the background, ‘we’ve come up with the perfect winch handle!’ He hands you the plastic object he’s been carrying and it’s obviously very light, comfortable to hold and extremely strong. In a reverential tone he murmurs ‘we’ve named it the Lite Touch.’

‘Now’ he says, looking grave, and sending the other scientists an apologetic glance, ‘your job is to try and break it. You need to expose it to the worst conditions nature has to offer, and see if it survives them; give it to men and women who are at their physical and mental breaking point, and see if they can still use it; and have it on boats owned by people who want to win, whatever the cost. How about the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart?’

Ok, so this probably a slightly exaggerated version of how Lewmar develops and tests their fantastic marine products. But parts of it are true: Lewmar really does send their newly developed gear out to be used in the world’s toughest races by the world’s best sailors. Name any top level sailing event and there’s a good chance that some of the competitors either work for Lewmar or are racing on boats which have Lewmar gear on board.

The Lite Touch winch handle had extensive sea trials during its development. Lewmar’s Carl Crafoord, also Rear Commodore of Middle Harbour Yacht Club, took one with him during the recent Newport to Bermuda race and used it on board Andrew Short’s ASM Shockwave 5. They’ve been tested during hardcore Farr 40 racing and will be handed out to a number of this year’s Sydney Hobart crew.

‘The Lite Touch is a development from our winch handle that won a design award two years ago at METS (Amsterdam’s Marine Equipment Trade Show), which was the One Touch. We’ve taken the same design and have changed the grip slightly; we’ve a knob on the top that you press to release…It’s a floating plastic racing handle.’

Katie Spithill, another Lewmar employee and an extremely competitive match racer, observed that the lightness of the handle would make it a highly desirable object for weight obsessed racing crews. Like many members of the Lewmar team, she combines her passion for sailing with her day job.

‘We have all been testing the Lite Touch out, taking them out twilighting and Saturday racing…the official launch will be at METS and we’ve already got a backlog for the production side.’

When Spithill isn’t working out of Lewmar’s Sydney office, she’s pursuing a very successful international match racing career. Recently her Wot Chicks team made it through to the semi finals of the Busan Women’s World Match Race, only to be beaten by two teams of full time sailors.

‘We are very elated with her performance because she went up against Claire Leroy, who’s world number one, and Sally Barkow, who’s also highly ranked’ said Carl Crafoord. ‘Katie has an office job and works as a non-professional sailor, the other guys are professional. She did great getting third place. It was a fantastic effort on her behalf and probably one of her best efforts all year.’

Spithill herself observed that while working in an office full of dedicated sailors was great fun, it did make things difficult when they all wanted to go to the same event- apparently there’s intense competition for a place on a Hamilton Island boat.

‘But we don’t get too many fights for the Hobart’ she joked ‘Carl goes to that one, and Grant Pellew. The rest of us are smarter than that.’

Lewmar has fitted out a number of this year’s Sydney Hobart fleet including the new Limit, Loki and Living Doll- if you take a close look it’s likely that some of their crew will be clutching a Lite Touch.

Crafoord is onboard Quantum Racing as her navigator, while Lewmar’s Queensland Sales Representative Matt Von Bibra will be on Black Jack. Lewmar winches and deck hardware are onboard ASM Shockwave 5, Chutzpah, Quantum Racing and Wild Oats XI.

Meanwhile, in the secret laboratory, somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, the Lewmar scientists are busy with their latest invention…

Lewmar Contact details
Address : Unit 4, 224 Headland Rd, Dee Why NSW 2099, Australia
Phone : (02) 9936 7111

Southern Spars - 100Barz Optics - FloatersMackay Boats

Related Articles

It’s Chuck’s fault!
The blame rests squarely with the much venerated, and truly celebrated US sports photographer, Chuck Lantz The blame rests squarely with the much venerated, and truly celebrated US sports photographer, Chuck Lantz. Had he not shown me this image he took during the recent Rolex Big Boat Series on San Francisco Bay, then this editorial would not have come to pass.
Posted on 26 Sep
…and don’t call me Shirley!
Ah yes! It could only be the truly inimitable Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) from Airplane! Ah yes! It could only be the truly inimitable Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) from Airplane! (And that takes us all the way back to 1980 – believe it or not.) You know the lines; it’s when Ted Striker says, “Surely you cannot be serious?” To which Rumack then replies, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley!”
Posted on 19 Sep
The door’s been flung open – again
Now whether it was the Champagne or something far more ethereal, there is the chance that sailing gets sexier for Tokyo Now whether it was the Champagne or something far more ethereal, there is the chance that sailing may get sexier for Tokyo 2020. Yes, the proverbial door has been cast ajar before, often to much fanfare, and not that much has been achieved.
Posted on 28 Aug
Brawn v Brain? The Bar or The Room?
Interesting questions and can they possibly be linked in any way. Interesting questions and can they possibly be linked in any way. Is it just the one connection, or could there indeed be several ways to address this conundrum? Well the route of the answer could be SailX, the online inshore racing game.
Posted on 7 Jul
Volvo Ocean Race to be contested over longest distance in history
Tough, intense, and featuring almost three times as much Southern Ocean sailing as the previous edition The 43-year-old race around the world – the ultimate ocean marathon, pitting the sport’s best sailors, against each other across the world’s toughest oceans – will start from Alicante in late 2017 with a 700nm sprint to Lisbon, Portugal that will provide the first test of the form guide.
Posted on 29 Jun
Volvo Ocean Race adds full Southern Ocean Leg and 5000nm to new course
Volvo Ocean Race has announced a new course for the 2017/18 round the world event. Several major changes are planned including a return to a full Southern Ocean leg, and the addition of a massive Leg 5 of 13,300nm - the longest leg ever sailed in the Volvo Ocean Race. By way of comparison a minimum circumnavigation around the planet is approximately 21,600nm to be recognised as, a record for the course by WSSRC.
Posted on 28 Jun
Practice makes perfect?
There are a lot of us who try to get out on the water whenever we can. There are a lot of us who try to get out on the water whenever we can - be it a club race, a weekend open or a championship. The general feeling is that the more we sail, the better we get, but is that actually the case?
Posted on 27 May