Hinckley Yachts, founded in 1928, is a manufacturer of luxury sailing yachts and jet-powered picnic boats based in Southwest Harbor, Maine. The company has developed yacht technologies including JetStick and Dual Guard composite material, and was an early developer of the fiberglass hull. Currently, Hinckley is operating in seven locations across the United States, making it one of the largest manufacturers of custom, luxury yachts in the United States. Hinckley’s present yacht line includes seven powerboats ranging in size from 29 to 55 feet and seven sailing vessels offered in lengths from 42 to 70 feet. Similar to yachts built by Sabre Yachts, Ellis Boat Company, and Lyman Morse Boatbuilding, all of Hinckley’s yachts are handcrafted and semi-custom built. Semi-custom yachts use a production hull with customization of the interior, deck and rig as required by the purchaser.
In mid-2008 over 300 of the company’s employees were laid off., Hinckley has recovered from the economic struggle faced by the industry after the '08 crisis. In 2012 the company launched two new designs: the Talaria 48 and Hinckley T34.
Hinckley relies on a manual assembly line process to create its yachts, meaning widespread automation is nearly impossible. Due to the custom format of the yachts, Hinckley does not go through model years, rather it attempts to make “two major changes per year” to its line of vessels. The Hinckley Company (the mother company of Hinckley Yachts) also provides such services as yacht service, yacht brokerage, charters, and boat insurance.
Hinckley was founded in 1928 by Benjamin B. Hinckley after he purchased a small boatyard in Southwest Harbor, ME. In 1932 Benjamin’s son, Henry R. Hinckley, an engineering graduate from Cornell, took control of the company. A 36 foot “fisherman motorboat” dubbed “Ruthyeolyn” built in 1933 was Hinckley’s first boat. Five years later, in 1938, Hinckley came out with its first sailing vessel, a 28 foot Sparkman & Stephens sloop. Hinckley would go on to produce 20 of these sloops, making them the company’s first mass production line. Straying away from boatbuilding, Hinckley opened Manset Marine Supply Company in 1940 for which he designed many fittings for fuel tanks, stanchions, deck plates, and the like that are still utilized today.
At the start of World War II, Hinckley turned to manufacturing war-designed boats. At the end of the war Hinckley’s contributions totaled nearly 40% of all war boats built in Maine, for which the company was awarded two Army-Navy “E’s” for excellence in 1942 and 1943. Hinckley’s production of pleasure boats began soon after the war.
In 1945 the Sou’wester sailboat was created. 62 original Sou’Westers were built, making it the largest fleet of single design cruising boats of its time. During the 1950s, Hinckley began experimenting with the use of fiberglass to construct his yachts’ hulls. His first fiberglass boat, the Bermuda 40 sailing ship, was released in 1959. The last Hinckley-built wooden boat was the 1960 “Osprey.” Throughout the 1960s the company provided navigation systems along with auto-pilot and electric-powered furling mainsails.
In 1979 Henry Hinckley sold the company to Richard Tucker, but after Tucker’s death in 1980 Henry Henry’s son Bob bought the company back with the help of his business partner Shepard McKenney. The two released Hinckley’s first fiberglass powerboat christened “Talaria” in 1989. The last of the Bermuda 40’s was produced in 1991, bringing the total number of B40’s produced to 203 over its 32 year lifespan.
Hinckley became the first American boat company to use SCRIMP technology (a method of making composite material with nearly no volatile organic compound emissions) in its yachts, for which Hinckley was awarded the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Merit Award in 1994. Also in 1994, the company first used its jet propulsion technology.
The company again fell under new ownership in 1997 when it was purchased by The Bain, Willard Companies for approximately $20 million. William Bain, Ralph Willard, and Alexander Spaulding took over operations. Under the new ownership, Hinckley began to market power boats equipped with jet drives. The company also developed more advanced fiberglass construction techniques dubbed "Dual Guard", which aimed to create a stronger hull.
Hinckley currently conducts operations in seven locations across the North East and South East regions of the United States. Due to economic struggles the company reduced its workforce from 625 employees in mid-2008 to just 305 at the end of August 2009.
William W. Bain, Jr. is the company’s director: the Vanderbilt graduate also serves as chairman of the board for Bain, Willard Companies, L.D. and on the board of trust at Vanderbilt. Bain was also named “One of Greater Boston’s 100 most influential business people of the 20th century” by the Boston Business Journal; James McManus- President and CEO since 2007 is a graduate of Yale University with a masters in Business Administration from Harvard University. McManus is also the director of Casella Waste Systems, Inc.; Ralph Willard- Hinckley’s Chairman of the Board, along with Bain and Alexander Spaulding, helped grow the company from a $25 million outfit with 175 employees to a $100 million operation with 700-plus employees in three years; Alexander H. Spaulding- no longer with the company, but played an instrumental role in Hinckley’s recent development as President, a graduate of Georgetown University. He is now the President and Managing General partner of Sea Glass Capital; and Chairman of the Barton & Gray Mariners Club Ed Roberts- Vice President of Sales and Product Development, a graduate of the University of Connecticut; Michael Arieta- Hinckley’s General Manager, works with the Great Lakes Boat Building School as a technical advisor to boatbuilding students who will be hired as company craftsmen.
Hinckley’s current line of yachts includes seven powerboats ranging in length from 29 to 55 feet and seven sailing vessels from 42 to 70 feet (each boat’s length is represented by the number preceded by its name). The powerboats are made up of six Talarias and one Picnic Boat. The Talaria fleet was first built in 1989. The present line includes: Talaria 29 C (T 29 C), T 29 R, T34 T 38 R, T 40, T 44, T 44 FB/MY, T 55, and Picnic Boat Mk III. The T 38 R includes a “hydraulically operated convertible top” and is “all about curves, shadows, highlights, and reflections”. Combining speed and comfort, the T 40 features the speed and handling of Hinckley’s smaller boats along with an interior that “feels like it comes from a 50-footer”.
The Hinckley sailing fleet includes six Sou’wester vessels and the DS 42. Since 1945 the Sou’wester line has been Hinckley’s best selling sailing ship. The DS 42 was nominated one of the best boats of 2005 by Sail Magazine for its “innovative use of roller furling in a carbon-fiber mast”. Currently Hinckley’s sailing line consists of the SW 42, SW 51, SW 52, SW 59, SW 61, SW 70, and DS 42.
The Bermuda 40 and other models
The Bermuda 40, designed by William H. Tripp, Jr., was introduced in 1959 as Hinckley’s first fiberglass boat. According to Jack Humor of spinsheet.com “the B-40 was to become the bellwether for future production and established Hinckley as the premier North American Yacht builder of exceptional quality sailing yachts”. The last B40 was built in 1991, ending its 40th year of production with the 203rd rendition of the trendsetting yacht. Another original Hinckley design is the Sou’Wester line, first built in 1945.
Younger than the Sou’Wester line, the picnic boat style was created by Hinckley. Originally designed with jet propulsion, the picnic boat led to the development of the JetStick.
Research and development
Hinckley introduced the JetStick, Dual Guard composite material, and the use of fiberglass. The first experiments with fiberglas began during the 1950s and concluded with the creation of the B40 in 1959. Despite much criticism such as the comparison of fiberglass to “frozen snot,” Hinckley used the material in boatbuilding . Hinckley created Dual Guard technology in 1999, a composite composed of a Kevlar center encompassed by carbon fiber, aimed at creating a stronger and more efficient hull.
The JetStick, designed by Control Engineering, Inc., was first used in 1998. The computer-integrated design allows the skipper to control and dock the boat through the use of a joystick. To use the JetStick the driver pushes a button to engage docking mode, this in turn disengages the wheel while a computer determines the amount of bow thruster and jet needed to move the boat sideways.
- Caprio, Dennis (November 2012). "Above and Beyond". Yachting Magazine. 212#5 (November): 40–47.
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