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igus® S.L.U.

Ctra. Llobatona, 6

Poligono Noi del Sucre

08840 Viladecans Barcelona

+34 93 647 39 50
+34 93 647 39 51

User report

Polymer plain bearings in yacht reefing systems: seawater-resistant and robust

Polymer plain bearings made from iglidur J replace rolling bearings in yachts at high mechanical loads.

Reckmann Yacht Equipment GmbH develops and manufactures reefing systems for yachts, from small yachts to mega-yachts. At the top of the yacht-building segment, the company holds a large share of the global market. New model generations use seawater-resistant, wear-resistant polymer plain bearings instead of rolling bearings made by the company itself. The plain bearings made of iglidur J turn easily and reliably even under high mechanical loads.


  • What was needed: polymer plain bearings made of the iglidur J material
  • Requirements: high mechanical strength and resistance to seawater, heat, and UV radiation
  • Industry: shipbuilding
  • Success for the customer: The iglidur material is very dimensionally stable, even in wet applications. The bearings cope very well with the high mechanical requirements. They run smoothly even when the sails are highly pretensioned.
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Yacht Reckmann reefing systems are often used in the top yacht-building segment.

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Reckmann Yacht Equipment GmbH specialises in the development and production of reefing systems for reducing sail area in very strong winds. The company's manual, electric, and hydraulic reefing systems have gained it a spot in the top sailing segment. It is especially well-known for high-performance systems for ships up to 66 metres long. These systems can reef sails up to 90 metres long.
Careful reefing system construction is critical to ensuring that the system works in every situation. This is particularly evident on the swivel at the upper end of a reefing system that holds the sail. When the sailor reefs the sail, the inner part of the swivel has to move in sync with it – as smoothly as possible and without stick-slip effects. This places high demands on bearing support and overall component design. Salt water and the tropical climate, which severely affects the components, pose special challenges for the design engineer.
But the most important are the enormous mechanical loads acting on the bearing points: Large ocean-going yachts and circumnavigators have headsails with areas of over 1,000m2. Reeling in this surface requires drive torques of up to 5,500Nm. This involves drives consisting of extremely compact hydraulic motors with an operating pressure of 175 bar. And a current development that Reckmann is driving forward places even higher demands on reefing system drives: Instead of the usual profiles in which the sails are fastened, it uses carbon stays pre-loaded to up to 65 tons. Under these conditions, the drives and swivels must ensure that the sails can be reefed and unreefed smoothly at all times.
The high demands on drive component resilience and availability mean that Reckmann develops and manufactures many components in-house – even the ball bearings. The bearings rotate under load and absorb very high axial and radial forces. Originally, a rolling bearing was used to absorb the axial and radial forces.


Today, the company uses a combination of rolling and plain bearings for the reefing systems: A cylindrical roller bearing absorbs the axial forces. Two plastic bearings attached in front of and behind the rolling bearing provide radial support.
Reckmann partly builds the stainless steel cylindrical roller bearings themselves because there are no standard products that can withstand the required loads and environmental conditions. For plastic plain bearings, on the other hand, catalogue parts can be used. Here, the company uses iglidur J bearings, which perform well under the high demands. 
The material has also proven itself for years in many other fields of application as a fast- and slow-motion specialist with the best friction values. Another important criterion in this case is that the material be very dimensionally stable, even in wet applications. After extensive in-house testing, Reckmann confirmed the results and now uses the plain bearings in its hydraulic reefing systems. The bearings cope very well with the high mechanical requirements. The sailor can see for himself that the desired smooth-running properties can be achieved even with high sail pretension when he tries out the mechanical reefing system emergency operation with a standard winch handle. Even after a long break in which the sail is not reefed, the bearings turn extremely easily under full load.
Reckmann is so satisfied with the experience gained that it is using the material in another new development for boats up to 100 feet long. That development is the reefing system's cardan joint, the electric or hydraulic drive of which is installed below deck. The reefing system itself is mounted in the deck with a special swivel mount. Reckmann also uses iglidur polymer plain bearings in the gimballed attachment's movement axes. Since a very high surface pressure is applied here as well, the installed plain bearings were tested extensively on the tensile test rig at up to 32 tons. But there is more: Some superyachts currently in the construction phase are even larger than the previous top models. So Reckmann is working on new reefing systems also featuring perfect optics, simple operation, and smooth-running properties despite high loads. And it intends to use wear-resistant bearings here, too.
Yacht In individual reefing system components, "iglidur® J" plastic plain bearings ensure smooth movement sequences without stick-slip effects.
reefing system The plain bearings, which are resistant to wear and seawater, are installed in the top swivel (left) and also at the bottom in the cardan joint (right) of the new reefing system.

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