Vanguard Sailboats

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Vanguard Sailboats
Industry Sailing
Founded Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA (1967)
Founders Peter Harken, Olaf Harken
Headquarters Portsmouth, Rhode Island, USA

Vanguard Sailboats was one of the most successful sailboat builders. It was founded in 1967, and is now owned by LaserPerformance.


Vanguard Sailboats was founded in 1967 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA by Peter and Olaf Harken. The brothers started to gain attention after their sailing hardware was used on boats that won Olympic gold in 1968 and after Vanguard supplied the Finn class for several countries in the 1976 Olympics. The hardware segment was maintained somewhat separately, as it was marketed to competing boat builders. In 1986, the Harkens sold Vanguard to Stephen Clark, who moved the business to Rhode Island. The brothers focused their efforts on the performance sailing hardware business in Pewaukee, WI under the name Harken, Inc., while Vanguard continued in boat building.

In March 1997, Vanguard Sailboats, Inc., bought Sunfish Laser, Inc., which built the Laser, Sunfish and 49er sailboats.[1][2]

In 2007 Vanguard Sailboats was acquired by Performance Sailcraft Europe. The combined company is known as LaserPerformance.


LaserPerformance now builds and sells a wide range of racing and recreational sailboat dinghies, including the Laser, Laser Pico, Sunfish, 49er, Club FJ, Club 420, Vanguard 15, Dart 16, and Optimist. [3]

Their most famous boat models are the Sunfish, created by Alexander Bryan and Cortlandt Heyniger in 1952 under the name Alcort, and the Laser designed by Bruce Kirby in 1970.

LaserPerformance manufactures 17 classes, including several Olympic classes.

Sailing Community[edit]

LaserPerformance is very active in the sailing community and is a major sponsor of the Intercollegiate Sailing Association, the organization that governs college sailing in North America. Most colleges and universities sail fleets of 420s, Flying Juniors or Vanguard 15s. Additionally, LaserPerformance is a sponsor of many adult and junior sailing regattas.

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