La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art

In 1986 I received a request from The La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, for material for an exhibit they were producing on the subject of sailing. I stumbled upon this letter searching for something else. I doubt the curator had any idea of exactly what or why he was requesting these items. In fact, my harnesses changed the way racing boats were handled. No bowman, today would not be wearing his harness all the time. Sail changes evolved as a result, closing the gap between closed course racing and offshore racing.


When I first started sailing a paid hand on a boat wore khaki trousers and shirt with a black tie and black shoes. They stayed forward of the mast unless called aft. Usually they were consummate seamen. In moments of crisis their word was law. A good example was Willie Carstens; who was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame a few years ago. He is credited with introducing the dip pole jibe into modern racing.

I had the privilege of knowing many of these men, and having many adventures with them. They were men of few words. I asked many questions and they were generous with their knowledge. Quite apart from the seamanship, macrame or square-knotting was considered an essential skill. I was an eager student.

Lirakis safety Harness

The 1972 Bermuda race convinced me there was a better design for a safety harness, I am an inveterate tinkerer, always trying to improve on something. Simplicity is the key. Over the next few years I worked in my spare time on developing and refining my ideas. The first harness was sold in 1978. Shortly thereafter I left my job and started producing them full time, I continued to sail until finally the company grew to the point where I was forced to choose.

The harness was simplicity itself; which made it practical and user friendly in today’s words. It was followed shortly by the bosun’s chair, which brought the position of the bowman on a boat into the modern world. It redefined the responsibilities and activities of the man on the bow. Again it just made sense.
The Business continue to expand into many other areas, and responsibilities followed, sailing became a distant memory, but never gone.