Lionel Sands has been a member of the New Zealand marine industry for literally his entire life.
In that time, he has been an integral part of the switch from the well-built, solid timber boats of the 1960s to the gleaming well built solid GRP boats of today. He has helped lead the industry through some tough times and has been an inspiration to generations of young boatbuilders.
It is hard to imagine anyone more suited to a career in the New Zealand marine industry. Lionel was literally born into the industry, appearing in this world in his father’s Cawley St premises, where Seacraft and Miller Moyes stood for over 60 years. (Even his grandfather was a boatbuilder, building wooden dories in Dover).
Under the guidance of his legendary father, 'Sandy', apprentice boatbuilder Lionel built his first boat, a 12ft Seacraft clinker dinghy.
He worked in all facets of the business before gradually taking over from his illustrious father, becoming an accomplished boatbuilder, designer and salesman for the company’s quality range of boats.
Lionel also spent a couple of years working for Jim Young in the early 1970s, building wooden Vindexs and NZ37s and 43s. He had a huge respect for the designer and boat builder and remembers learning a lot about himself while working for him.
Lionel oversaw the purchase of the Haines Hunter franchise in the 1980s and the later acquisition of the brand. Over the following years, he quickly built Haines Hunter into one of New Zealand’s top GRP boat brands, a position it still holds today.
One of Lionel’s most successful designs was his SS700. Launched in 1989, the SS700 quickly gained a reputation for great handling in rough water, a reputation his designs still enjoy today.
The SS700 sold over 50 boats in its first year, a remarkable achievement for a 7-metre boat at that time. It also generated $4 million in retail sales, an incredible sum in 1989 for just one model.
In 1993 and ‘94, Lionel again followed in his father’s footsteps and became president of the New Zealand Boating Industry Association, now New Zealand Marine.
Apart from the time he spent with Jim Young and a short sojourn building boats in Fiji, Lionel has spent his entire working life with his company, now Seacraft Miller Moyes.
In that time, he has helped thousands of Kiwis get onto the water, done his bit to reduce the North Island’s various fish populations, sponsored numerous events and steered dozens of young apprentices into a life building the world’s best trailer power boats.
In 2003, Lionel’s father Sandy was an inaugural inductee into the New Zealand Boat Show Hall of Fame. His son is an equally worthy inductee.