I started at Island Packet in March 1987, a few days past my 31st birthday, and the company had been producing their own sailboats for just over four years. Although Traditional Watercraft, Inc. (the corporate name for IPY) had been created in the summer of 1979, the early boats were built by Marine Innovators, a Clearwater, FL company owned, in part, by Pete Pastor (who later would come to work with us,
first as head of the tooling department, then plant manager and ultimately as our VP of Production). It wasn’t until 1983 that Bob purchased a small manufacturing building in Largo, hired his first employees and began producing Island Packet Yachts of his own doing. But more on these early days in another Newsletter.
By 1987 Bob and company had produced almost 400 sailboats, from the first 26, followed by the 26 Mark II, the 31, the 27 and introduced the prior year, the 38. The three most recent models were all in production at the time of my hiring and thus I was directly involved with every model from there on out, only missing the two versions of the Island Packet 26 from my repertoire. But the first model that I was involved in, from concept to creation, was the venerable Island Packet 35, and it remains a favorite of mine to this day.
Realizing we had a large gap between the 31 and 38, the 35 was the first “Next Generation” model that included a tweaked and refined “Full Foil Keel”, promising to deliver better speed, pointing ability and all-around handling than previous models. The drawings showed a spritely sheer line, still preferred by IP owners of this generation, and accommodations to easily accommodate a cruising couple and their occasional guests aboard. With the highest ballast-to-displacement ratio of any IP model to date, the yacht promised great sail-carrying capacity and delivered a beautiful, sea-kindly motion that equated to less fatigue and greater safety for passages. The yacht quickly proved to be successful and I still distinctly remember the look of incredulity on the faces of the sales staff at the 1988 US Sailboat Show (Annapolis, MD) as deposit checks sprouted from every pocket and clipboard!
Part of the early success of the model was the aggressive introductory price: $89,950, with a 10% discount from that number for the first ten retail buyers. Bob had worked for a couple of other boat builders before starting Island Packet and did some consulting with another builder as they struggled to stay afloat. Each of them had been pricing their boats, not on what it cost to build, but what they felt the market would bear. In the case of the latter, the selling price didn’t even cover the cost of materials and labor to build the yacht, let alone cover overheads like facilities costs, marketing, customer service, and warranty. Bob’s careful analysis of the new IP35’s “BOM” (Bill of Materials), cost of labor and overheads went into a carefully executed pricing equation, and we came back from Annapolis with a stack of new orders and a dilemma on how to build enough boats to satiate the demand. It was at our weekly staff meeting some weeks later that our Purchasing Manager, a young, vivacious but efficient mother of two, sheepishly admitted she had forgotten to include the cost of the Yanmar diesel into the BOM. At several thousand dollars each the impact was felt in whole single-digit percentage points, but in this case, we did make it up with volume. A second set of molds was constructed by spring and, while it still took over eight weeks to construct one IP35 from start to finish, the production lines were soon able -- in addition to shipping one IP27 and one IP31 every week, and a one IP38 every ten days -- ship two IP35’s a week. We built 165 total hulls that next year (1989), a record, and the 100th IP35 shipped just 18 months after shipping hull number one.
The Island Packet 35 remains to this day a benchmark of Island Packet Yacht’s ability to compete in the marketplace by delivering high-quality materials, outstanding workmanship and unmatched safety and seakeeping to the cruising sailor.