Mayo Boat Builders Floating High While Others Sink

SAILING

January 05, 1992|By Nancy Noyes

Tony and Sue Smith of Performance Cruising in Mayo are boat builderswho are singing anything but the blues these days.

Over the past 10 years, their company has built more than 300 Gemini 3200 and 3400 cruising catamarans. It has received advance orders for 1992 that farexceed the company's 1986's peak-year figures, as well as inquiries about its product at a rate of five times greater than last year.

And while other marine industry professionals around the country are tightening their belts, the Smiths are expanding and establishinga nationwide dealer network.

"We have reached a point where national dealer distribution is logical for us," Tony Smith said. "Catamarans are coming into their own in general, and the Gemini has an enormous following, an enthusiastic owners' association, and regular rendezvous around the country."

In addition to their corporate headquarters in Mayo, Gemini dealers now include Transit Yacht Sales in Long Beach, Calif.; HCH Yachts in Seattle; Helms Yacht Sales in San Francisco; and Luke Brown & Associates in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Smith said his company had invested time and money in retooling and redefining the Gemini over the past year or so. This has been in response to steady sales of the boats even through tough economic times and to what he perceives as a growing interest in boats that provide a good combination of features for cruising, racing and living aboard.

"Essentially, the monohull industry shot itself in the foot," Smith said. "When it saw sales drop in the early '80s and continued to increase prices . . . monohulls became quite expensive. Multihulls maintained their price levels and produced extremely good value for the money."

Smith, clearly a believer in catamarans, started his first boat-building firm in his native England in 1971 and was the first Lloyds-approved 100 A1 builder using PVC foam sandwich construction in the world.

His own Telstar trimaran design went on to become the most successful trimaran of all time, and the Smiths came to Anne Arundel County in search of new markets and founded Performance Cruising.

"We've been building over 25 boats a year and selling them out of our plant, despite the depression in the boating industry," Smith said. "With aging baby-boomers searching for affordable recreation, the catamaran is the perfect solution at the right price. With the industry feeling a tremendous slowdown, to the point of a depression, we are hoping that the Gemini, and catamarans in general, will help act as a new catalyst for the sailing industry."

In addition to his long experience of designing and building boats, Smith also is a successful veteran of three double-handed Round-Britain Races, each of which he entered to test boats of his own design.

At 2,000 miles in length and passing over some of the roughest, coldest and nastiest water on the planet, the Round-Britain Race is considered one of the toughest sailing events in the world.

For more information on Gemini catamarans, call 798-5150.

*

Light air and a short 2.8-mile course made interesting sailing for Wednesday's annual Annapolis Yacht Club Hangover Bowl.

A New Year's Day tradition of long standing, the HangoverBowl had been canceled the previous two years due to a total absenceof wind. But it returned in force to greet 1992 with a surprisingly large number of contestants and a lot of fun for all.

When just under a dozen of the PHRF-division skippers appeared at the pre-race skippers' meeting, AYC's Special Events Race Committee Chairman Dan Spadone decided to start all of them as a single class, with a second start for the eight-boat J/22 class.

But when his Race Committee arrived at the starting area, a full contingent of 25 PHRF boats was waiting. That resulted in some interesting machinations on the relatively short starting line and produced a fair amount of gratitude from all concerned that the wind wasn't appreciably stronger.

The gentle but spotty breeze persisted long enough for the fleet to finish the race, although many sailors characterized the day's experience as a race from hole to hole.

Taking the gun in the PHRF class by a seemingly huge margin of more than three minutes were Don Zinn and the teamon his new Capri 37 Infringer.

After the corrections came in, however, Zinn's scratch-boat team managed to hold its lead by only 18 seconds over the second-place finishers, Al Graf and crew on his J/27 Fast Forward, demonstrating that the race was actually much closer than it first had appeared.

Some of the most exciting finish-line action of the day was a tight three-way contest for the lead of the J/22class.

Although Art Libby and the crew on No Problem had a huge lead at the final turning mark in the Annapolis Harbor channel, holey air slowed them while a breeze puffing up from behind propelled firstKathy Coxe and her crew on Pink Cadillac and then the team of Jim Hayes and Bob and Judi McKay into striking distance.

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