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Barton's new block range: We speak to Suzanne Blaustone and Simon Reynolds

by Mark Jardine 11 Dec 2017 12:00 GMT
Barton Series 2 block with swivel and becket © Barton Marine

We spoke to Suzanne Blaustone and Simon Reynolds of Barton Marine about their new block range and also the Victory block range.

Mark Jardine: Why have Barton invested in this new range?

Suzanne Blaustone: Barton have always been, and are now more than ever, customer-led. Our customer base told us that they needed a new contemporary block range, that they didn't want two block ranges; but one block range for all their requirements, with multiple uses for each block. This way our distributors don't have to buy and stock excessive products that do the same job as other blocks.

We listened to everybody; they told us they needed a new sleek design with contemporary lines and in a darker richer colour to meet the needs of OEMs and the younger sailors who wanted something better, stronger and stylish. That's why we created the design in this new block range.

Mark: The analogy, when comparing the old and new block range, is like comparing a car from the 1990s to one out in 2017. The Barton identity shines through, but everything looks sleek. Was that the premise behind the new design?

Suzanne: Definitely yes. We were told "don't do anything so different, or the same as our competitors", they said "give us something which complements the previous Barton range, yet gives the blocks a lift", so that's what we did. We wanted to show the same equipment endurance that we've demonstrated over the past three decades, but lift our range into a new, contemporary era.

Mark: This isn't just a new aesthetic to the range. I understand the range is 13% lighter and 12% stronger?

Simon Reynolds: Yes, on average it is. We have the quality control for robustness and longevity, but it's a new sleek design which shows that Barton has come of age with this contemporary line of blocks.

Mark: Is this just utilising modern engineering techniques, so that the weight isn't saved at expense of the longevity?

Simon: We've examined the application of how to manufacture the product, with the objective of ensuring robustness and longevity, to produce a block which people have the reassurance and confidence to use for many years to come. We're pleased to have applied that formula at our factory in Whitstable.

Suzanne: The extra strength comes from the steel framework inside, not just the sleek plates on the outside. Its like Pilates, the strength is from the core, with the aesthetic surrounding it.

Simon: This has brought about a change in the visual perception of a Barton block, and we have clearly moved on from the traditional range here.

Mark: You also have new blocks in your Victory wooden block range, which was new last year and is aimed at the classic market. How have sales been with this product?

Suzanne: When I first started with Barton, we found the one niche market which was really growing was classic yachts, so the decision initially was as to how we could penetrate that market. With the Victory range we have created an image for Barton outside of traditional block lines. Our wood blocks can be taken apart for re-varnishing, which again we found was a need of the customer. We provide a fastening tool so that you can take it apart and back together as many times as you want, and it allows sailors to have ball-bearing high-performance blocks which fit in perfectly on a classic yacht.

Mark: One of the remarkable things about the Victory range is the ability to take the wooden side panels off, varnish them and the put them back on again, maintaining the block in the same way as you maintain your classic yacht. How is a concept like that turned into a reality?

Suzanne: We found the niche in the market which hadn't been met. You can find beautiful wooden blocks everywhere, but you can't take care and condition them in the way that sailors said they wanted to. So we created the range on what customers said they wanted for their classic yachts.

Simon: It's also about stepping back and putting yourself in the mindset of the audience you're trying to sell to. Saying, "If I had a classic boat and had to maintain it, what would I look for?" I believe we've done that with this block range.

Mark: This a great range, but there are still a couple of gaps in the range. What's next on the horizon?

Simon: We're investigating a ratchet block to fit in with the new block range – that's our top priority.

Suzanne: Barton last had a ratchet block in the 1980s and we need fill that gap in our product line.

Mark: Simon, it must be an exciting time to join Barton?

Simon: It is indeed. Obviously I've been active in the marine world for a long time as a sailor and, coming from a project management development background, it's nice being involved in a job which is also your hobby.

Mark: I'm very much looking forward to future developments and how the market takes the new block range. Many thanks for your time.

Suzanne: Thank you. We're trying to tick all the boxes!