YARD UPDATE '07: Sealine International

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Yard Updates

September 2007... New direction; innovative new models...

Since ’01 part of the Brunswick Corporation, the world’s largest boat and engine-building conglomerate, Sealine International remains Britain’s fourth-largest production boatbuilding operation, although a couple of years ago saw it lose a bit of ground to the top three players. Having peaked in ’04/05 when it employed getting on for 700 people and delivered around 360/370 boats to a value of around €65 million, it currently employs around 580 people directly, builds some 300 boats a year and turns over something approaching £60 million and happily is back on track.
“Yes the company had some problems,” says managing director Steve Coultate, who joined the company with a restructuring brief some 18 months or so earlier; he was previously one of the senior management at Land Rover, so has plenty of experience of volume production and premium branding. “It had rather lost its way… However, we’re now busy getting back on track and we’ve moved faster in reality than we could have hoped…”
Pretty much the whole company has come in for a shake up. For instance, much of the Sealine management team is new and a ‘right first time’ lean culture is being phased in. “There was a lot to do and a lot that still needs to be done, but obviously we couldn’t tackle everything at once… We’re tried to be intelligent choices as to where we spend our money, so we’ve prioritized some areas — we’ve spent rigorously to improve things that affect what our customers want directly, but have been more judicious elsewhere. Without doubt our new products are having a huge impact on our results… Our 2006 and 2007 years actually ended up much the same, down a bit from previous years. But we’re looking at a better 2008.”
These days the Sealine range includes just a dozen or so models from 7.6-18.3m (25-60ft). The smallest is the S25, S29, SC29, F34, new SC35, F37, new SC38, SC39, S42, F42/5, T50 and T60. In the past it has mode models, but as the company redefines itself, the focus is being placed on what is perceived as the core range. The ‘S’ and ‘SC’ designations denote open, ‘coupé’ and hardtop sportscruisers, the ‘F’ flybridges motorcruisers, and the ‘T’ flybridge motoryachts.

“These latest Sealine designs, and what will be following them, really reflect where we’re aiming,” says managing director Steve Coultate. "They may be relatively small boats, but they’re designed to have a big impact — more up market..." 

As for new models, 2007 saw two new models join the line-up. The first, the 38SC, unveiled at the London International Boat Show in January. And then Cannes ’07 saw the unveiling of the SC35, which boasts an exceptionally wide beam for size and consequently a remarkable interior volume. Indeed the beams of the two models are virtually the same. Certainly both models benefit from some particularly innovative design inputs, not least their sharp modern styling outside and some equally contemporary work on the interiors, which has been handled by Sealine’s in-house stylist Carsten Astheiher, ex-Pininfarina industrial designer. Thanks to in-house naval architect Richard Crocker and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) work by external specialist Ocke Mannerfelt, both are also said to perform extremely well too.
“These latest Sealine designs, and what will be following them, really reflect where we’re aiming,” says Steve Coultate. "They may be relatively small boats, but they’re designed to have a big impact — more up market yes… They’ve got bolder lines inside and out. The management of light aboard has been taken very seriously with them, not only down below but also in the cockpit… They have a bigger boat feel, bigger boat presence… Yet they’re still real value propositions.”
Exports account for around 50 per cent of Sealine’s sales, which means this yard is a lot more reliant on UK market health than the other three big powerboat players — Sunseeker, Princess and Fairline. Amid all sorts of restructuring at the company, UK distribution arrangements have been adjusted. Now Sealine has six dealers that look after the UK and Ireland. A major coup was the September 1 appointment of Ancasta, one of the UK’s biggest new-build and brokerage boat sales operations. Ancasta looks after Sealine’s prime South Coast region. Another shake-up came this summer when it brought to an end a short flirtation with Brian Peters and his Peters PLC, once one of Europe’s biggest boat distributors.
As for non-UK markets, things are generally healthy throughout Europe, with the odd exception, according to international sales manager Doug Culverwell. As for the US, Sealine is not currently represented there, which is a shame considering its parent companies dominance of that continent, but then of course the weakness of the US dollar would virtually preclude Sealine with its size of boats doing well there anyway.
“Of course, we hope the North American market will eventually be very important to us,” says Coultate. “But our strategy there needs to be done properly… We should be able to tap into the Brunswick expertise over there, but getting our positioning absolutely right will be crucial.”
In terms of units, approximately 60 per cent of Sealines are actually sportscruisers but, when it comes to value, the situation is reversed with around 60 per cent of the company’s sales being earned from the bigger flybridge models.
Overall, the operation now boasts around 40,000 square-metres (430,000 square-feet) of covered area. Everything is on the one Worcester Road, Kidderminster site, save for its Fibratrim upholstery subsidiary in Burntwood, Staffordshire, and its Hartlebury lamination centre, which is busy introducing closed mould techniques to the company’s activities.

© Phil Draper