The Karver saga – Episode 2 : 2005-2011, time for diversification
THE KARVER 20TH ANNIVERSARY
To celebrate 20 years of Karver, Tip & Shaft traces the history of this 100% French deck equipment company, from its creation, in 2003, to today, with its ups and downs, its successes and its failures, its teams, its racers, its products, its acquisitions, its key moments… This second episode tells how the brand managed to diversify in 2005, between new products and external growth.
We are in 2005. Two years after its creation (see our article), the Karver brand, now established in Honfleur, is already renowned for its blocks and furlers
It’s time to diversify…
…and the development of new innovative products. “We were consulted by the Orma trimaran teams who had a problem with locking the sails, says Marin Clausin, the founder of Karver. At the time, the lock that held the sail was completely separated from the swivel. Even if it meant making locks, we wanted to integrate the swivel into it. We thought hard to finally arrive at this famous range of KFH swivel locks, for which we have drastically reduced the length of the system and also its weight, with several kilos saved at the masthead, therefore a real gain in performance.” Many racers adopt this system (KFH) which quickly becomes a “must” on board offshore racing machines.
In the process, Karver makes a remarkable entry into the world of the America’s Cup, for the 2007 edition which is still being contested on the America Class. The brand develops very high-end blocks (KBTi), 100% textile grip, for Alinghi. “Our block weighed 300g, compared to 750 for an equivalent model from other manufacturers. There were around thirty blocks on board of Alinghi, which allowed a notable weight saving. We were able to hold gigantic loads on very small diameters. To this day, these KBRC blocks are still the lightest on the market”, assures Marin Clausin.
In 2008-2009, Karver released the KBO range, blocks with plastic textile shackles (and not titanium like the KBTi) more dedicated to the general public, with more accessible prices and always a smaller footprint. Marin Clausin’s imagination seems infinite. “He truly has a genius for creating products. It is an inventor, passionate about innovations, underlines François de Sivry, at the time responsible for the financial aspect. He shakes things up a lot on the market, his innovations are often taken up.”
The financial crisis leaves its mark
Karver is omnipresent in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, by equipping more than 80% of the fleet with locks and more than half with furlers. The year 2008 is also the one of the financial crisis which is putting a significant damper on turnover. “The period was quite severe, remembers François de Sivry. Fortunately, the company was strong on its foundations, which allowed it to get through this ordeal and hold on, in particular thanks to strong customer confidence.”
The crisis still got the better of a project by Marin Clausin, the K 650, a small crewed regatta day boat, designed in collaboration with the architect Juan Kouyoumdjian. “We wanted a boat that was easy to set up and super powerful.
We released the K 650 the year of the crisis and it was a flop. The series was born and died out almost immediately, with only six units built. We were unlucky, it wasn’t the right time”, estimates Marin Clausin.
The year 2011 is marked by the takeover of Grec Marine, a company which manufactured mast rails and cars, notably for Imoca and Orma. Karver integrates the products into its catalog, making them evolve over time. The brand is also releasing its second version of furlers, even smaller and lighter.
That same year, Tanguy de Lamotte, who had held a technical-sales position since the beginning, left the company to prepare for his first Vendée Globe. “Our goal was to challenge the big guys, like Harken, and we succeeded, he remembers today, not without a certain nostalgia. Even today, when I see Karver on a boat, I can’t help but feel proud to have participated in the beginning of the adventure.”
>>>> GOTO EPISODE 3 / 4 >>>>