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Luxury Boats Still in Strong Demand Despite Economy

08 July 2002

Despite the sagging economy, demand for the luxury boats built by The Hinckley Company here is stronger than ever, according to company officials.

Emblematic of the trend is the Sou'wester(R) 70 sailboat named Patriot that the 75-year-old American yacht builder lauched just in time for the July 4 holiday. Painted red, white and flag blue, the multimillion-dollar, all-American yacht was ordered 18 months ago and construction proceeded even with dire predictions about the nation's economy going into a long slump. Hinckley also sold three other Sou'wester 70 sailboats during this time period.

Demand for Hinckley's new line of Talaria(R) 29 jet boats has also ""far exceeded"" expectations given the current economy, according to Ralph Willard, president and CEO of Hinckley. The 29-foot yachts combine classic wooden boat styling with a high-tech construction, including a Kevlar(R) hull, water-jet propulsion and computerized JetStick(R) handling. The company has sold nearly 30 of the boats -- which cost more than most homes -- since the new model was introduced last winter.

Other sailboats and jet boats built by the venerable Maine boatyard also continue to sell well, Mr. Willard said. The company's trend-setting 36-foot Picnic Boat(R), for example, has proven popular in waters around the world, including New England, the southern states, Caribbean and Great Lakes.

Patriot is a shining example of the American craftsmanship and design work of The Hinckley Company, which has been building yachts in Maine since 1928. The 70-foot center cockpit sailboat, which has three staterooms, three full heads, separate crew quarters and a bevy of other amenities, is reminiscent of yachts built a century ago. It combines a teak deck, cabin and pilothouse with solid cherry cabinetry and old-style library bookshelves throughout. The all-American theme is carried throughout the interior of the craft with plush upholstery depicting George Washington and other Founding Fathers, along with plenty of stars and stripes.

All this traditional look belies the fact that the yacht is built with the latest technology, including Hinckley's patented DualGuard(R) composite construction. DualGuard hulls use Kevlar for the outer skin, sound-absorbing balsa in the core and super-stiff, super-strong carbon for the inner skin. The boat also houses the most advanced water making, communications and navigational equipment.

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