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Eight Bells: Art Mitchel

November 17, 1937 – December 3, 2021

The following is from a message to the Harken Global Team from CEO Bill Goggins:

I regret to share the news of the passing of one of our finest leaders at Harken. Art Mitchel passed away peacefully with his family last Friday night. The following is some perspective on Art, including two phrases that will forever be attached to him in our minds.

Mitch is (I cannot yet think of him in the past tense…) old school in a never-take-the-easy-way-out sort of way. The ‘Corporate Navigator’ of Harken (yes, it’s on his business card) is the third member of the company’s original afterguard. While Peter Harken covered product development and Olaf Harken covered marketing, Art kept the business on track, making the Harken brothers and the company the success it is today. This required the honest hard work that builds a business. Mitch was never afraid of hard work.

 

“I fill the classic role of the navigator. Just like on any boat, the navigator knows exactly where we are and where we should go. I know exactly the way things should be done, so they’re done right. And like every navigator, the skipper listens to me, considers his options, and then does his own damn thing.” –Art Mitchel

 

Good Duty.

While famous in our inner circle at Harken, these two words carried more meaning the closer you were to Mitch. He carried a personal moral compass that he shared generously at Harken. He served a higher purpose than just day-to-day work. It was service to what was right. For Harken, it began as Peter Harken’s college roommate, eventually joining Peter and his brother Olaf to run Harken and Vanguard Sailboats as the third leader of the company, through to helping create the legacy that will live on for generations of our employee-owners. He taught us to think for ourselves. To do our best. And to do what is right – even when it is hard. He applied that moral compass. If you heard those words from Mitch, you didn’t need to eat. You were nourished for days.

 

Sisu.

The second word that is uniquely Art Mitchel: SISU. Rarely expressed by Art in words, but always shown in his deeds. Anyone who sailed, skied, ran, or did business with him witnessed his uncommonly strong Sisu. Sisu is Finnish—as was Mitch. It’s very hard to define completely in English. Sisu means grit. Sisu means duty. Sisu describes willingness to do work that no one else is willing to do, simply because it’s the right thing. Even in silence. Even when no one else is watching.  No matter how hard that work is. Today there’s an award at Harken given to an employee who stops at nothing to get the seemingly impossible accomplished. It has a large picture of Mitch on it.

 

Sisu and Duty. They made up Mitch’s “warp and the bias”: sailmaker terms for the fiber in the moral fabric of Arthur Mitchel.

Peter Harken said, “I’ve known my right-hand buddy, worked, sailed, skied, and had one adventure after another with Art for over 60 years! No better person have I ever met. He was truly an unsung legend and one of a kind, the best of the best! Now, he’s sailing in the skies above. Good Duty, Art!!”

Fair winds, Art Mitchel. Thank you for so many things.