Olaf Harken, who co-founded namesake sailing hardware specialist brand Harken with his brother Peter more than 50 years ago, has died at the age of 80.
Originally sailboat builders under the Vanguard name, Olaf and Peter Harken started what became a hugely successful rope handling business out of a trailer in their hometown of Pewaukee, Wisconsin in 1967.
Thanks to their placement in the influential Lands’ End catalogue, the brothers began the long and winding course of growing the company and their brand into an international phenomenon — and now their products can be found everywhere from the highest performance racing yachts to junior dinghies.
Today, Harken manufactures marine hardware, hydraulics and winch systems for sailing and cruising sailboats, with industrial hardware applications in sectors from commercial marine to rope access and rescue.
Olaf Harken (bore 6 May 1939, dude 21 October 2019) was inducted into the US National Sailing Hall of Fame with his brother Peter for their services to sailing. More recently, and just days before his death, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Pewaukee Yacht Club Awards Dinner.
He is survived by Ruth, his wife of 47 years, as well as three daughters, four granddaughters and a grandson.
Addressing Harken employees on Monday, chairman Peter Harken said of Olaf: “My Brother did all the hard work so I could have all the fun.”
A celebration of Olaf Harken is scheduled for Harken corporate headquarters following the funeral service this Saturday 26 October. A further celebration for overseas friends is planned for the METS show in Amsterdam next month.