Returning from a ski trip to New England, Carol and I took the opportunity to visit Starting Line Sailing’s manufacturing facility in Rhode Island, USA.
Starting Line Sailing (SLS) is the parent company of West Coast Sailing, Zim Sailing, Dwyer Mast and Rigging and now Hobie Sailboats. Starting Line Sailing entered into a long-term agreement with the Hobie Cat Company to take over the manufacturing of the Hobie sailboat line under license in November 2022. The last few months have involved transferring all the existing inventory of boats and parts as well all the tooling and moulds from Hobie Cat’s facilities to Bristol, RI. In addition to transferring all the tooling and moulds, before production could begin, SLS had to secure arrangements with all of the varied suppliers and subcontractors that supply the raw materials and parts used in building Hobie sailboats. With on-going supply chain challenges, this was no trivial task.
SLS has facilities in multiple locations in the USA and overseas, however their primary manufacturing facility is in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA. They occupy a three-building site that was the prior home of American Magic and where American Magic built their boat for the last America’s Cup.
During our visit, George Yioulos (CEO of SLS) gave us the full tour of their facility, showed us the status of Hobie manufacturing, and shared their plans.
Manufacturing of Waves and Getaways are now underway as are components such as comp tips for all the boats. They have a large inventory of parts, masts, crossbars, and booms. Fibreglass hull production will be starting soon. I was reminded how much heavy machine shop equipment, jigs, and metal components go into building these boats.
It is expected that 2023 will be a transitional year as SLS ramps up their manufacturing. Parts orders are strong and SLS has started shipping to dealers. Boat orders are also well above the forecast, showing strong interest from dealers. If you are interested in a new boat, I suggest you do not delay.
SLS plans to continue making the same line of boats that were previously available. In the short term, you should expect that boat models previously sold in your region will continue to be available through the Hobie dealer network. However, some specific boat models will continue to be made for specific markets and will not be available worldwide, None of this is set in stone. For example, currently, SLS is considering marketing the Catsy in North America, and previously this model was only sold in Europe.
During our visit, we talked about parts and accessories and the plan is to continue to offer the full line of parts and accessories that were listed in the Parts and Accessories catalog, however some specific details are to be determined. SLS would also like to continue to support parts for the discontinued boat models; items such as sails and trampolines will still be available.
George was not only super welcoming but also honest. Taking on the Hobie sailboat line is a huge project for them. Their company is expanding, they are taking on additional staff, and the staff are working hard to make this happen.
Change is never easy, but the IHCA continues to be very excited about this licensing agreement. SLS is a company dedicated to small boat / small boat one-design sailing. They embrace one-design classes and recognise the value of a strong class association. One of my final questions for George was “how can we help you?” George immediately responded by saying “you just have to believe”. “Believe” is one of the core values of their company along with Hustle, Care, and Grow.
The future is what we make of it, you just have to believe.