Sept 2016: La Tribune de Lyon

Rather than shout from the rooftops, Bruno Rabu preferred to stay under the radar and work quietly from his home in Villeurbanne. He’s finally unveiling his work now that he’s successfully reached his goal and will present his invention at the Nautic Boat Show in Paris in early December.
For more than two years, he worked to develop a winch handle for use on recreational boats that is not only connected but also assisted by an electric motor.
A short summary for novices: using the winch handle to hoist and adjust sails requires considerable strength, so the electric assistance makes it possible to crank the handle without effort, just like pedaling an electric bicycle. Though there are a handful of competing products around the world, Bruno Rabu’s invention is lighter and more powerful.

“Above all, I’ve designed a product that really follows the natural movement of sailing maneuvers, while others provide boxes with just a button to push,”

explains Bruno Rabu, convinced that his innovation will be a great success.

He is passionate about technical design and sailing, and held a number of important positions at Lyon-based giant Merial for two decades before facing a disabling health problem.

“I loved practicing sports, and there were many things I just couldn’t do anymore. I told myself I had to find a solution that would allow me to keep sailing. I looked at what was out there, and I couldn’t find anything I was happy with. That was the starting point,” he says.

He took on a real technical challenge, if only because a winch handle turns in both directions. He fell back on his engineering training, filling notebook after notebook with complex calculations, and creating a number of prototypes (he showed us number 12 when we met him), which he tested on his terrace using a pulley and weights. According to his estimate, he spent about 5,500 hours (or 3 years of work at 35 hours a week) to create what he called a “technological gem,” for which he has filed 3 patents.

“From the designer to the circuit board developer, I only worked with people who are passionate about sailing. And they all thought it was a great idea,”

says Rabu, who is eager to finally present his product to the public before putting it on the market in the coming year. He hasn’t yet revealed the name or the price. However, his ambition is clear: “Only 10% of sales will be in France, the rest will be international,” says Rabu, who hopes to create a dozen jobs in the next three years.

The concept: an electric winch handle.

The advantages: in addition to being electrically-assisted, this handle is also connected: it will provide navigation-related information and statistics.

Production: Bruno Rabu is targeting the higher end of the market, with production that is 60% French.

Vincent Lonchampt
Journalist – Tribune de Lyon
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