Boat Building reports : Nautor, Baltic Yachts, Maestro and Bella Boats

Boat Building Industry

International boat companies Information

INTERNATIONAL BOAT BUILDERS

the business of boating

Ostrobothnia's marine cluster is working together to secure the future of boatbuilding in the region.


BELINDA SNELL reports.

Companies featured in this report

Baltic Yachts: www.balticyachts.fi
Bella-Veneet: www.bellaboats.com
Finn-Marin: www.finnmarin.fi
Linex Boat: www.nordstar.fi
Maestro Boats: www.maestroboats.fi
Nautor: www.nautorswan.com
Sarins Batar: www.minor.fi

Finland, with around 1,250km of coast and an estimated 200,000 lakes, has one of the highest boat ownership rates per capita in the world. One in every seven Finns is said to own a boat, giving it a boat park in the region of 740,000. It's little wonder, then, that the boatbuilding industry in Finland is well developed. The country is home to around 150 boat manufacturers, with an estimated output of 26,000 boats per year.

There is one region, however, that is particularly well known for its contribution to the Finnish boatbuilding economy. Ostrobothnia, which covers a 150km stretch of coast that is bordered by the Gulf of Bothnia to the west, is home to around 30 boat producers, all with their own brands. It is estimated that two-thirds of the total turnover generated from the Finnish boatbuilding industry stems from this region, which employs some 1,000 people. "Ostrobothnia has always been an active area in the boatbuilding industry," says Jouko Huju, managing director of Finnish marine industry association Finnboat. "The local communities there contribute to the growth and the local industry has organised itself well to form a functioning subcontractor network.

Ostrobothnia's 'marine cluster', as it is often called, is a good example of how companies are working together to sccure the future of boatbuilding in the area.

Heavy use of local subcontractors ensures that money is pumped back into the local economy, while at the same time educating a future generation of boatbuilders. Renowned builders like Nautor and Baltic Yachts have helped put the Ostrobothnia region on the global map. "It is difficult to say what an individual company can do to secure regional boatbuilding," says PG Johanson, a founding member of Baltic Yachts.

"Success always tends to rub off to companies around you, hence the main thing always is to make sure that your own products and marketing are competitive and successful. This, in our case, naturally also means that you need a number of really good subcontractors that work with us. The positive development of these subcontractors' capabilities, qualities and general availability plays a substantial role in the possibility of improving our own activities."

Nautor

Founded by Pekka Koskenkyla in 1966, Nautor is Finland's biggest boat producer, with sales last year of around €61.6 million. The company, which builds the Swan range of high performance sailing yachts from 13.8m-40.0m (45ft-131 ft) in length, has four production plants scattered throughout the Ostrobothnian region, providing jobs for around 470 locals. Nautor's main plant is in the village of Kolppi, some 15km east of Pietarsaari, where it concentrates on the production of semi-custom cruisers/racing yachts of up to 21.3m (70ft) in length. With around 18,400m2 of floor space, the site boasts a lamination shop for the entire Swan range, as well as three separate assembly halls, a mould shop, deck shop, metal shop, paint shop, test basin and main storeroom. In 1998, Nautor was purchased by a team of investors led by Leonardo Ferragamo, son of Italian fashion mogul Salvatore Ferragamo. Since then, the company has invested heavily in new machinery and technology in order to ensure that Nautor remains at the forefront of Finnish yacht design. Under the direction of Ferragamo, Nautor installed a high-tech curing oven at its Kolppi plant for the polymerisation of large pre-pregs for hulls and decks. Covering around 260m2 of space, the oven ensures an even temperature throughout the entire curing process.

Then, in February this year, Nautor purchased a robotic 8-axis CNC milling machine with a 30m (98ft) length of track. The el million investment will allow Nautor to construct a one-piece mould within a 1mm degree of accuracy. It also allows the company and its designers to express their ideas with greater freedom. One of the most important investments in recent years, however, was the construction of a 10,000m2 facility on the coast of Pietarsaari for the production of one-off custom yachts of up to 48.8in (160ft) in length.

At 46.3m (152ft), Pink Gin from Baltic Yachts is said to be the largest prepreg laminated boat ever made.

Key facts

- With a boat park of 740.000, Finland boasts one of the largest boat ownership rates per capita in the world. One in every seven Finns is said to own a boat.

- The boatbuilding industry in Finland is well developed. Around 150 companies currently operate in the country, contributing around €450 million to the Finnish national economy each year.

- Finland is a small player on the world market, accounting for less than 1 per cent of total production worldwide. Around 26,000 boats were built in Finland in 2005.

- Over the last 15 years, the share of Finnish boat exports has grown from 55 per cent in 1990 to around 80 per cent today. In the sailboat market, the share of exports is very near 100 per cent.

- Sweden is the leading export destination for Finnish-made boats, with a 25 per cent share of the market. This is closely followed by Norway at 24 per cent.

The new Boatbuilding Technology Centre (BTC), which opened for business in 2002, houses the group's newly created Custom Yachts Division, with a private harbour for testing the boats prior to launch. When IBI visited the yard in September, a 40m Swan 131 was in development. Designed by Argentinean German Frers, the new yacht is the largest in the Swan range, and is due for launch in July 2006. In the marina itself, a newly built Swan 70 was awaiting delivery to its owner after successfully completing sea trials. Built to customer specification, it has a 45mm raised deck for increased headroom and a light displacement of just 30 tonnes under full load. The German Frers-designed Swan 70 has a racing style design with a carbon fibre sandwich deck. In total, it took around 10 months to build and represents the seventh Swan 70 to be constructed at the BTC yard. Also awaiting delivery in the marina was hull number 16 of the Swan 82. This one had a semi-raised deck, and took around 9-10 months to build. Around 40 boats are delivered from the BTC yard each year. Together with the original site, the new facility has significantly increased the group's production capacity.

Nautor has produced more than 1,800 Swans during the course of its 40-year history - most of which are still on the water today. These include semi-custom and one-off custom models designed by some of the world's most renowned naval architects, including Sparkman & Stephens, German Frers and Ron Holland Design.

Baltic Yachts

Based in the small village of Bosund on Finland's west coast, Baltic Yachts was formed by five ex-members of Nautor back in 1973 with the idea of building high performance sailing yachts with a medium-to-light displacement. The first serial production boat to leave the yard was a 14m (46ft) model, which, at that time, was said to be colossal. Today it is not, and Baltic's range has continued to grow alongside the strength of the company. Baltic has built around 550 boats since its humble beginnings back in 1973, and today boasts an annual turnover in the region of €17.5 million. The yard may not be the largest in terms of overall output, but the sheer quality and attention to detail that goes into every Baltic yacht has made the marque synonymous with quality. The largest model currently in production spans 46.3m (152ft) in length. Pink Gin, which is due to be delivered to an unnamed client in around 12 months' time, is said to be one of the largest prepreg laminated boats ever made, with a displacement of around 175 tonnes under full load. Designed by Baltic Yachts in conjunction with German naval architects Judel/Vrolijk, the Baltic 152 has a sandwich construction hull that was cured under vacuum at 85°C. Around 3,500kg of insulation will be used to dampen noise levels onboard the yacht, ensuring that it is completely soundproof when completed.

Baltic believes in the philosophy of building lighter boats by using higher technology and for this reason prides itself in being one of the most progressive boatyards in Finland. The yard itself, which has the capacity to build yachts of up to 61m (200ft), has a modular oven for curing hulls and decks, as well as a unique press with integrated oven for laminating bulkheads. All models are designed using 3D software, which gives the company complete control of the build process and ensures a unique, tailor-made service. Most of Baltic's clients are repeat customers, intent on buying their third, fourth or even fifth yacht.

"Our market segment is first of all very small and very demanding when it comes to quality, technology and flexibility," says PG Johanson, marketing manager and founding member of the company. "This means that growing and still keeping things under control is not as easy. We plan to grow but slowly and under control. Growing is not the main object for us. Keeping our company in a good financial condition by living up to our commitments and our clients' expectations is the main tool for doing this. Don't get me wrong, we have grown, we intend to grow in the future but it's not the main goal. It must happen under control."

When IBI visited the Baltic boatyard in September, there were three boats in production - Pink Gin, which, when completed, will have taken more than 200,000 man hours to build, as well as a Baltic 61 and hull #4 of the Baltic 56 - the first 17.1m yacht from Baltic to feature a lifting keel. The last

two models are due for delivery in the spring of 2006. Like most companies within the Ostrobothnian boat cluster Baltic employs a number of small, local subcontractors for various tasks, including the supply of metals, textiles, electrical installations, woodwork and engineering. Some of these companies offer parts and service on a fairly continuous basis, while others are there to step in when Baltic's in-house capacity is overloaded. The use of local subcontractors makes it easier for Baltic to communicate and control the build process, which is important considering the individual nature of the yachts it produces. Headed by managing director Lisbeth Staffans, today Baltic is owned by 34 equal shareholders working within the company. Around 120 people are employed full-time at the Baltic yard. With subcontractors, the number rises to around 150.

Maestro Boats

Located in the village of Oja, not far from Baltic Yachts, is Maestro Boats - a small, family-run business that began by building rowboais on the Finnish west coast. Today the company is responsible for a four-model range of ocean-going sailing yachts from 9.8m-12.ini (32ft- 40ft) in length. Models include the Maestro 35. Maestro 38, Maestro 95 and the best-selling Maestro 40 - all of which can be customised to suit the client's needs. Working from a 1,000m2 site that employs 12 staff. Maestro first began producing GRP sailboats back in 1975 when Boris Bjorkskog and his wife's brother. Ben-Ole Asplund, decided to construct a mould for the Finn 26. In order to finance the project, the two friends rented the moulds to various boatbuilders. Within two years, the mould had produced some 56 boats. Today Maestro is a small but significant player in the Ostrobothnian boat cluster, having delivered around 200 boats over the course of 30 years. During IBl's September visit, the company was in the process of customising the interior of a Maestro 40 (hull #6) for a Japanese client. Construction began in early August, and the boat will be delivered to its new owner in December. Designed by Finnish naval architect Eivind Still, the 12.1m Maestro 40 has a sandwich hull construction and is entirely hand laminated. Like all Maestro models, it was manufactured using high-tech vacuum technology for optimum weight savings. In February this year, the Maestro 40 was named 2005 Sailboat of the Year at Vene 05 Bat, otherwise known as the Helsinki International Boat Show. The accolade spawned strong interest from clients both at home and abroad - particularly in the US and Japan, where a number of favourable reviews have appeared in the local press. Based on this success. Maestro now plans to develop a larger 13.7m (45ft) model, perhaps as early as next year. According to Bjorkskog, sailboats in the 12.2m (40ft) range have become the norm in central Europe and Scandinavia, where new models are said to be "coming like mushrooms after rain." Like most companies in the Ostrobothnian boat cluster. Maestro relies heavily on local subcontractors. Wibo Metall, for example, supplies all stainless steel parts, while Olle Karlstrom is used for laminating doorway entrances and hatches in the cockpit. Other local subcontractors include Pertti Saariaho, which laminates small components and hull reinforcements on the entire Maestro range, as well as Oja-Alutank for fuel tanks and Rosteria for water tanks. Maestro also builds Jonmeri sailing yachts under a long-term licensing agreement with the Finnish boatyard. Models include the Jonmeri 33, 40 and the 48.

Bella-Veneet / Bella Boats

Another Finnish success story is that of Bella-Veneet, also known as Bella Boats. Founded by Raimo Sonninen more than three decades ago, the company claims to be the largest producer of fibreglass motorboats in Finland, responsible for the Bella, Flipper and Aquador range from 5.5m-10.0m (16ft-33ft) in length. Today the company employs around 250 people at six locations throughout Finland - four in Kuopio, one in Larsmo and another in Kokkola. The Larsmo plant is used for the production of the Aquador 26, 28 and Bella 850, while the one in Kokkola produces the Aquador 32. All other boat models, including the Flipper range of family cruisers, are constructed at the company's four facilities in Kuopio. Like many of its contemporaries, Bella is in the throes of expansion. At the close of the last financial year, turnover grew by 24 per cent to around € 43.5 million on the sale of 1,850 boats. For the 2005/2006 season, the group is forecasting sales of more than euro 50 million, with total output expected to jump to 2,000 boats in 2005 and 2,200 in 2006. Success is mostly attributed to the best-selling Aquador range, which is said to be one of the fastest growing boat brands outside of Finland. In August this year, Bella opened a 5,700m- production facility in Kuopio in order to focus on the production of Aquador boats between 6.4m-7.6m (21ft-25ft) in length. The €8 million investment is expected to boost capacity by 600 boats per year, and will generate employment for another 100 people, bringing the total number of Bella employees to around 300. Construction of the new building, which boasts four modern production lines over two floors, began in December 2004 and was completed in August. The lamination of large parts and all assembly work will take place on the main floor, while the second floor will be used for small parts lamination, cutting and painting. The working conditions in the new factory are very advanced, says Bella, with a state-of-the-art ventilation system, cutting boxes and space for closed moulding and robotised cutting. "Our objective is to grow, but more over we want to introduce new safe and high quality boat models," says Sonninen. "We think that focus on quality and safety will bring us the growth. Our objective is to be #1 in Scandinavia in the future." Bella Boats exports to around 22 countries worldwide, representing some 80 per cent of its total output. While the majority of boats are shipped to northern Europe[…]

Baltic Yachts

publications - CW | Baltic 58

Boat Reviews

Baltic 58

Sea Trials by Jack Somer

CRUISING WORLD | Dec. 1992

Since its creation in 1973, Baltic Yachts has withstood northern Finland's sometimeshostile environment and an often-perplexing sailboat marketplace to stay at the forefront of compos- ite construction. Beginning with designs by Canada's C&C Group, Baltic's management team has remained willing to experiment, to absorb new technology and to commission fresh ideas from a variety of designers, including Doug Peterson, Judel & Vrolijk and now Sparkman & Stephens. Still they retain in-house control over interiors and styling to assure their image continuity. Today, the company uses end-grain aircraft balsa, unidirectional hybrid Kevlar/glass roving and isoph- thalic resins to produce a handsome line of cruiser/racers (and occasional one-offs) between 35 and 83 feet.

Baltic

has become leaner and more efficient, leading its classic line through subtle change. Deck structures are evolving from yesterday's angular, faceted appearance to a more rounded shaping, and the black-anodized Baltic "look" is being enhanced by white-painted spars and added wood. The new Baltic 58 Is a case in point. It was conceived by Baltic and S&S to fill the gap between the 52 and 64 after Baltic had phased out their 55. It is, however, a pivotal boat in the Baltic line, designed around a new interior concept that includes a captain's cabin aft. Otherwise, the designers happily resisted cramming in more berths — there are just two guest cabins, as in the 52 - but there is greater breathing room and stowage everywhere.

The major conceptional change in the Baltic 58

is the optional midship owner's cabin. Baltic, moved the main cabin forward, under the center cockpit, where there is less hull motion, greater headroom, wider beam and surely more creature comfort. This change, however, led S&S to a typical design juggling act: The engine had to be moved aft, requiring a V drive. But with engine weight so far aft, the hull shape needed adjustment to maintain trim, so S&S narrowed the waterline forward, thus moving the center of buoyancy back to accommodate the machinery weight. The resulting hull form is balanced and easily driven. Another premise in the 58 de- sign program was to push weight reduction to safe, reasonable limits so the boat could be called justifiably a "performance cruiser." In facing that goal, Bill Langan of S&S matched Baltic's lightweight construction with a highlift, low-drag elliptical keel sporting an overhanging bulb, all molded in antimony-lead and still satisfying IMS strictures. The program has given the 58 a dis- placement of about 43,000 pounds light-ship, a Displacement/Length ratio of 174, and a Sail Area/Displacement of 21.2; she is ready to cross oceans at a good clip, under sail or power. I had a two-day opportunity to shake down Aledoa 3 with Langan and the factory crew out of Pietarsaari, Finland, on the Gulf of Both- nia last July. She was equipped with a full-batten main and 135 percent genoa. One of those two days the breeze blew about six to eight knots and the new owners — a buoyant Italian family from Verona-joined us. In light air and a smooth Bothnian sea, she accelerated quickly and handled like a smaller boat. Despite her light weight, she carried easily through each tack, losing relatively little speed even when the crew came on a bit slow in trimming the genoa. (.Aledoa has Barient coffeegrinder primaries, but electrics are available.) On the heavier day it piped up to about 16 knots, and we often had 25 knots apparent heading upwind. The 58 easily carried her full main and a highclewed yankee (borrowed from another boat). Under these conditions her performance was even more revealing. Her helm remained light and responsive, even when heeled.

Apparently, Langan's buoyant after-sections don't lift her stern and dig her bow down; her center of later- al resistance stays put and she does not develop heel-generated helm. And she seemed unfazed by a lumpy sea that kicked up after a time, slicing through the waves rather than allowing herself to be stopped by them. When we eased her off to a power reach, her big balanced spade rudder let her track effortlessly, and she brought us back to Pietarsaari much too soon for my taste it was a mild July in Finland, and the sun had a long way to go before its brief midsummer night's disappearing act.

Up Close

General Inipnessioas:

Aledoa 3 was in light-ship condition, riding an inch or two high, which ever so slightly compromised her obvious visual sleekness. Even so, her straightedge stem, perfectly balanced overhangs, moderate sheer and tapered trunk cabin were in harmony, disguising the fact that she is a spacious, twocockpit offshore cruising yacht. While she has brawny Frederiksen sheeting tracks serving as toe rails aft, about 25 feet of teak toe rail forward give her a less mechanical overall look. Molding and gel coat are solid looking and fair.

The Deck:

Beginning well for- ward, the trunk rises gently aft, its line broken only by companionway moldings, its sides punctuated by two tinted-glass portlight panels pre-curved to fit. There is plenty of teak on side decks, soles, seats, coamings and Baltic's signature mast platform. The big wheel is accommodated in a well; coaming indents and a big gull-wing seat (with a huge lazarette beneath it) give the helmsman choice of several parking spots.

The U-shaped center cockpit, split by the grinder bridge, is an inviting place for lounging under sail, but with the optional electric primaries (and no bridge), loungers would be more mobile. Double stainless chain plates, which sandwich the main structural bulkhead, are well inboard for close headsail sheeting and easily negotiated side decks. The inner stay is hydraulically tensioned (as are vang, main outhaul and flattener) and attached by quick connector to a recessed ram, or neatly bent aft around a mast fairlead by a six -part tackle on deck when stowed. There are four bow chocks forward for easy line handling and 12 hatches plus Dorades for ventilation. Four Barient 32s (three of them electric) serve all mast functions and the panoply of splendid deck gear blocks, tracks, fairleads and cars -is from Frederiksen, in Denmark.

The main cabin aboard the Baltic 58 is modern, spacious and sculptural.

The three-spreader Sparcraft mast, with a stiff enough section to reduce the cruising family's need for runners, has Navtec discontinuous rod; but Aledods Riggama Kevlar runners remind one that her owners might be keen for some IMS round-thebuoys fun in the big Mediterranean Baltic fleet. The two-part mainsheet is controlled by a Barient 37 to port, and a Barient 27 serves the traveler. Most important, all winches are placed well for leverage, easy tailing and observing results without stooping or craning.

The Interior:

The crew cabin, with upper/lower berths, is under the starboard aft-cockpit coaming; to port is a handy util- ity room. Both provide easy access to secondary-winch electric motors mounted in the overhead. Between the two sits the engine room — minimalist beyond compare. But the Yanmar four-cylinder, 88-horsepower diesel has two alternators, for starting and service batteries, and little else as this particular client required no genset. Maintenance may test a crew's will to crouch, yet the boat gains immeasurably in livable volume elsewhere. Aledoa's spacious owner's cabin is forward of the engine, but that space came at some small cost. Anyone coming down from aft and walking forward must pass through the owner's area. In other optional layouts, the owner's cabin is aft, as in the old days, and the engine with direct drive shifts forward under the main companionway. One layout, which I prefer, closes the bulkhead between crew and owner and opens a walkway with galley and nav station to starboard.

The remaining space allocation forward is efficient. Aledoa has a safe, sea-oriented working galley with three-burner gas stove, microwave, refrigerator and freezer, and to port a proper forward-facing nav comer. It is in the central saloon, however, that one can best see the benefits of another new Baltic practice: "bending" structural bulkheads. Baltic molds them when needed with offsetting "S" bends to open interior spaces and at the same time to produce a new softness in their fine teak joinery. The mast bulkhead curves to accommodate an expanded settee and to extend usable saloon volume. Forward, two twin cabins with upper/lower berths, separated by a centerline bulkhead, share a head to port and a shower in the forepeak walkway. The forepeak is a good, light working area, with pipe berths, sail stowage and a convenient rubber-padded nook for stowing the main anchor.