Aquasport stops building boats - Soundings Online

Aquasport stops building boats

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Parent company Genmar Holdings is ‘positioning’ its saltwater brands

Boatbuilding giant Genmar Holdings is suspending production of its Aquasport fishing boats for 2006, and the future is unclear for the brand, which has been in existence for four decades.

“It will be revisited next year,” says Genmar chairman Irwin Jacobs. He says everything is in place to continue serving Aquasport customers and honor warranties, adding that the Aquasport name is not for sale.

Genmar (www.genmar.com) is trying to find a niche for each of its saltwater companies, which also include such brands as Wellcraft, Hydra-Sports and Seaswirl. “We are positioning each one of these brands,” says Jacobs. “What we’re attempting to do is not confuse people.”

Jacobs says Genmar also is working with Aquasport dealers to find a replacement line of saltwater fishing boats that is the right fit for their customers. “A lot of them have already taken on Wellcraft,” he says.

Aquasport was founded in the 1960s and has “always been a big name,” says Curt Jarson, who was with Aquasport starting in 1988 and left as director of sales in 2004. “There have been people that haven’t owned anything but Aquasport [boats]. It’s like Kleenex when you’re talking about a boat.”

Although the company’s early history is a bit foggy, co-founder Fred Coburn is said to have built the first Aquasport, a 22-footer, in 1964, according to published reports. (According to some reports, the earliest Aquasports were built on Long Island, N.Y.) He sold the company in 1969, and the new owners brought in designer Walt Walters, who came up with a new 17-foot model, and a 24-footer with an optional tuna tower. Walters also redesigned the company’s 22-foot and 19-foot models, according to reports.

The company at times ran into choppy financial waters. In fact, Genmar bought Aquasport in 1989 from an investor who had purchased it out of bankruptcy in 1988, according to Jarson. Genmar moved the company from the Miami area to North Carolina before moving it to the Wellcraft facility in Sarasota, Fla.

“They had an awesome boat, just a beautiful boat,” says Lee Taylor, who was a sales manager for Aquasport in the mid-1980s.

Aquasport is considered an early innovator of the use of aluminum in boats, and of prerigged boats. The company claims to have built the first center console, the first walkaround cuddy, and the first production boat with a tuna tower, although others also lay claim to those firsts.