by Jeni Bone
Fresh off the back of a sensational Melbourne International Boat & Lifestyle Show, Seawind Catamarans is looking ahead to a hectic year of boat shows and steady exports.
The world’s ’Most Innovative Sailboat’... the Australian-made Seawind 1160
This week in Miami, the team from Seawind is exceptionally optimistic about 2009 so far, counting healthy sales and prospects in just the first two months.
'It’s been a great start to the year,' confirms Brent Vaughan, sales and marketing manager for the Wollongong-made brand, confirming that the company has sold four boats to date – two to the US, one to Hong Kong and a charter boat to the British Virgin Islands.
'That’s a real coup for us. It’s very hard to get in to the region. We’re very excited about expanding sales there.'
Then there’s the paperwork prepared for another sale in Sydney. 'We are finding that despite the tough times, our boats are extremely competitively priced now, particularly for export markets. There are fewer buyers out there, but those who are buying, love our product. We are in exciting times.'
Seawind recently took out the award for NSW Exporter of the Year for the small to medium manufacturer category.
The Seawind team receiving their NSW Export Award.
Also a welcome surprise was the company’s success at MIBLS. Says Vaughan: 'We were rushed off our feet. Our sales team was flat out doing demonstrations and booking tests – at least 20 people. That’s way more than ever before and we’re expecting a couple of sales from that.'
According to Vaughan, MIBLS was a supremely positive show. 'If Australia is in a recession, nobody’s told the Melbourne people. They were all actively looking with the intention to buy. It was the biggest show we’ve seen in Melbourne.'
The key to Seawind’s popularity at MIBLS was the proactive direct marketing approach the company takes. 'We spend a long time leading up to the show involved in direct marketing – emailing, phoning and organizing demos.'
Next on the list, 15 more shows this year! 'After Miami, there’s Auckland, then Dubai, Fremantle, China, Hong Kong, Sanctuary Cove, Whitsundays, the British Virgin Island Charter Boat Show, which is a first for us, and Phuket – among others.'
But Miami is 'the big one'. 'It’s probably the biggest for us,' says Vaughan. 'This year, we are conducting the Seawind seminars with our tent and pontoon. We’re also holding talks on Charter boat ownership, Sailing Downunder and sailing from a woman’s perspective.'
The Sailing Downunder concept is a new addition to the program, explains Vaughan. In cooperation with Tourism Australia, Seawind is opening up American eyes to the delights of cruising Australian waters. 'We’re showing them how easy it can be to take delivery of their boats in Australia and spending a couple of months or a couple of years cruising around.'
On display this year are two brand new models – the new 1160 and the 1000XL.
Made at its state-of-the-art, newly refurbished premises in Wollongong, the Seawind 1160 is the brand’s 38’ flagship production boat and winner of the ‘Most Innovative Sailboat’ and ‘Best Cruising Multihull’ in the USA in 2007, which is huge praise for an Australian-made boat.
Seawind 1160 low angle side - Miami Boat Show
The superb combined saloon and cockpit of the 1160 creates a huge living space under the hardtop where a dozen or more guests can enjoy the 360-degree visibility while the skipper easily controls the boat from the dual helm. One of the vessel’s key features, it has been advanced in the new model with the added security of a tri-folding door that disappears into the Targa, closing the saloon off for warmth and comfort.
The Seawind 1160 also features superior accommodation with two forward queen-sized beds with the option for a three or four cabin layout. For the first time, Seawind is now also offering an ‘island bed’ layout for one of the queen-sized beds for additional nocturnal comfort and ease of access.
The vessel boasts a self-tacking jib system, making the boat super easy to sail for the shorthanded plus single line reefing, Targa traveller and a walk-through transom with large steps for comfortable, easy boarding. The new methods of construction, as engineered by High Modulus of New Zealand, means the design is stronger yet lighter and will be built quicker and more economically.
According to Vaughan, the Seawind 1160 suits several different markets as it’s a very versatile boat.
'It has a large indoor/outdoor area which appeals to people looking for a boat they can entertain on or head out on weekends with friends, through to liveaboard sailing and bluewater cruising. One owner recently took his 1160 from Sydney to San Francisco, taking around six months to complete the trip.
'It’s also a great charter boat. We have just confirmed the sale of a boat to the British Virgin Islands, the premier cruising destination in the Caribbean.'
Then there’s the new 35ft Seawind 1000XL, featuring the latest development to Australia’s most popular cruising catamaran.
The new Seawind 1000XL, has a reconfigured transom, extending the waterline length by another 850mm. This has an array of benefits compared to the original arrangement, providing increased performance by minimizing the turbulence from the transom when under sail, plus with more buoyancy in the stern. Not only does the transom extension provide increased performance, it also allows for easier boarding with larger steps and an open bottom step on the inboard side allowing easy boarding from a dinghy.
About 25 Seawind 1000XLs have been ordered since its launch last year, taking the total Seawind 1000s ordered to almost 200 making it Australia’s most successful cruising sailboat.
Opened late last year, the newly extended factory boasts an additional 30,000sqft to its original 65,000sqft shop.
'We now have two huge gantry cranes that run the length of the factory and an air-conditioned laminating bay for fibreglassing.'
Costing 'a couple of million', the renovations were assisted by funds from a State and Regional Development Grant. 'The government is very active in Wollongong and we have been a lucky recipient of that support,' says Vaughan.
The Wollongong premises is responsible for launching a new 1160 every three weeks and a 1000XL every six weeks. 'We also produce a 1050 resort model to order and make two or three of those per year,' adds Vaughan.
In Sydney, Seawind has just received DA approval for a new facility at Rozelle Bay, adjacent to the new marine precinct. 'It’s a multihull service centre with a marina berth for wide berth multihulls and a wide slip way for cats and trimarans. We’ll be able to offer services and refits, as well as offices, workshops and a café on the park.
'All this and it’s just the beginning of the year!'
More at www.seawindcats.com