navtec rigging solutions history

Ken King formed the company in 1970 in West Concord, Massachusetts for the purpose of bringing a better rod rigging technology to the marketplace. He was operating the Dover Ski Binding Company at that time and Navtec originally shared the same premises. Ken had studied engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and also had a graduate degree in business from Harvard University. Rod rigging for sailboats at this time was available from MacWhyte in the form of lenticular 316 stainless steel and from Nautical Development Corporation which had arisen during the late 1960's by bringing high strength 17-4 stainless steel headstays to the racing market with varied success. The ends were swaged and the stays themselves were prone to failure from stress corrosion. Ken's initial foray into the marketplace was very much concerned with reversing the negative publicity generated by the NDC 17-4 problems.

Initial customers for the cold headed headstays were sought from the 1970 America's Cup contenders and a relationship began with Charlie Morgan, designer and builder of the 12 meter "HERITAGE". Charlie brought to the table his knowledge of an alloy called MP35N which had impressive tensile and modulus properties as well as superior corrosion resistance characteristics to 17-4. Charlie needed help in attaching fittings to the rod and the rest, they say, is history. Ken received a patent for the cold heading process for marine rigging in 1970 and Navtec supplied a headstay for the eventual 1970 America's Cup Defender, "INTREPID".

Navtec's early rod offerings also began with the ARMCO alloy 22-13-5 which also had superior corrosion resistance properties but was not quite as stiff as MP35N. It was less expensive than MP35N and lent itself well to the new cold heading technology. This is the same alloy in use today more commonly known as Nitronic 50. A variety of fittings were developed to accept the finished cold head and Navtec eyes, jaws, pin eyes, turnbuckles, etc. were added to the offerings.

In 1971, Tim Eliassen, a trained engineer working for the US Navy, joined Ken as a part-time summer employee. He began full time in 1972 and remained a driving force in the company until his departure in 1988. Navtec began offering "streamlined" rigging in 1973 after acquiring a rolling mill formerly used in the nuclear industry. One of the first customers for streamlined rigging was a C&C designed "Canada's Cup" contender and the following year Navtec produced streamlined MP35N rigging for both new America's Cup contenders, COURAGEOUS and MARINER.

In addition to the obvious performance benefits of rod rigging, the company sought to market its product as a replacement for 1X19 stainless steel wire rigging. Early advertising speaks of the superior corrosion resistance as well as the increased life expectancy. Navtec performed fatigue tests between rod and wire in order to document their claims and the company began an expansion into the production racing boat market. Relationships with mast designers as well as yacht designers grew and flourished for the purpose of designing better rigging fittings as well as for the purpose of providing custom fittings tailored to specific new boat projects. This close rapport between Navtec and its customers produced a huge variety of designs which is still a signature of the company today.

Hydraulic control systems were added to the product line in the mid 1970's and Steve Loutrel joined the company in 1976 from MIT to take charge of hydraulic design. Hydraulic backstay adjusters had been introduced by several companies as a means of easily varying the headstay tension on these new boats sporting rod headstays. The proliferation of marine hydraulics for cruising as well as racing boats is a tribute to his success in creating a comprehensive line of pumps, valves and cylinders which is unequaled by our competitors.

351 New Whitfield St Guilford, CT 06437-3400  USA   (203) 458-3163 Fax (203) 458-9291

company history