What exactly is a Blockhead?

Published on July 19th, 2017

Innovators in all forms of boat rigging, the “adults” at Harken want to see kids messing about in boats like they did. Bill Faude, Director of Marketing Strategy/Creative for Harken, explains how their latest initiative – Harken Blockheads – seeks to heighten the connection between youth sailing and boat preparation.

What’s the genesis of the Blockhead program?
Harken CEO Bill Goggins and myself have young kids getting into sailing (four kids between us between the ages of 6 and 12 with younger Goggins kids to age in soon) and so were logically remembering what kind of great sailing experiences we had growing up.

We remember drilling and pop riveting…moving cam cleats and changing between cam cleats and clam cleats and rigging twings and then going back to guy hooks…moving hiking straps around…flipping boats and wet sanding…really taking care of our boats to make sure they fit us better and in the balance learning to be self-reliant.

In the midst of this, we came to the realization that kids don’t do that now. The boats they sail are MUCH better than a generation ago. They all come well rigged, and not much breaks. Even second-hand Optis and 420s work beautifully.

As Harken employees, we are charged with growing our Brand. So we’ll never disguise the fact the existence of a sailing generation growing up without learning to screw or pop-rivet an eye strap to the deck, looked like a potential business risk. We felt the obligation to expose the next generation to the link between high-performance rigging applied effectively and better results. That link was not well understood.

All told we both wanted and needed to launch a program like this.

And what kind of program have you launched?
We want to help the next generation of sailors love sailing as much as we do. Sounds like BS when I say it, but it’s true. Personally, I like sailing because it lets me go ‘off the grid’ for a few hours. There are no curbs and gutters and lines on the racecourse, so I can call my own shots.

I actually still remember what it felt like when I first took my Laser (13095) off the dock and out of hearing range of my instructors. On my own. We think once kids feel that, they’ll imprint on the sport better.

Emotionally, we want kids to feel the confidence sailing can uniquely bring. Rationally, we want there to be less Helicoptering for parents to do. Sailors should know how to maintain their own boats…the earlier they start this the better.

We’re looking to engage the kids in the media they choose. So Blockheads is an old school fan-club model bolted to a video-infused website with social media opportunities for them to share their experiences and results.

Importantly, we’re really conscious of staying in our lane, so the content we’re trying to create is all about boat care, rigging, go-fast ideas and shared experiences. We’re working hard to curate it so we don’t get into areas where others are already excelling.

So there won’t be tactical discussions or sailing technique lessons. That’s not Harken’s niche. We explain how rigging works and how to upgrade for performance.

Who can join the program?
Anyone can join and it’s free, but we’re writing for a target between the Opti Green Fleet and the end of College Sailing. There’s free SWAG when you become a Blockhead. And we hope the program will grow so we can offer the benefits of becoming a member to more kids. Right now, we’ve budgeted for 1000 new members kits for this year.

• Additional details in this fact sheet or at www.harkenblockheads.com.
• Contact at blockheads@harken.com

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