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Knit Wits, the 41-foot prototype for the first production-line fiberglass-built boat, was restored in 2013, making her grand debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Photos Courtesy of Hatteras Yachts
Knit Wits, the 41-foot prototype for the first production-line fiberglass-built boat, was restored in 2013, making her grand debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Photos Courtesy of Hatteras Yachts

The NEW Hatteras Yachts

The Hatteras name is 53-year old brand synonymous with unmatched seaworthiness, durability, performance and luxury. In August 2013 Hatteras Yachts and Cabo Yachts were purchased by Philadelphia based Versa Capital Management, LLC, a private equity investment firm, from the Brunswick Corporation. John Ward, President and CEO of both boat building companies at their 95-acre waterfront facility in New Bern, N.C., said “We are very excited to be a part of the Versa team, given their financial and operational expertise. We are proud Versa put their confidence into our iconic brands and that it shares our belief in American manufacturing.”

We are a brand new company, debt-free and have a clear vision for the future

Versa invests in middle market, name-brand companies which have been divested, mismanaged and/or underfunded where value and growth can be achieved through enhanced management. Hatteras Yachts and Cabo Yachts are now out of debt, have new manufacturing tooling and new product development in place to succeed.

“We are a brand new company, debt-free and have a clear vision for the future,” said Karl Kemppainen, Vice President of Sales at Hatteras.

The Brunswick Corporation brought Hatteras and its more than 1,000 employees under their umbrella of companies in 2001, but was forced to partake in several rounds of layoffs which began after September 11, 2001. In 2008, one-third of the New Bern based staff were let go, and two regional plants were closed or sold. Cutbacks affected more than half the remaining employees in 2009, and a final round of 105 pink slips was issued in January 2013.

Still, Brunswick  had an “emotional commitment to the brand,” and was very much a part of Hatteras’ stability during the economic downturns. “I respect the way Brunswick and Hatteras worked together during this transition,” said Kemppainen.

“We lost some very talented employees,” said Kemppainen. “Working at Hatteras gets in your blood so I am hoping to see many of my former colleagues return.” Kemppainen said Hatteras and Cabo are “looking to bring people back” in 2014.

It looks like under Versa’s management, the Hatteras team will be able to react quickly to industry and market changes.At the 2013 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Hatteras unveiled its 100-foot raised pilothouse motor yacht, which took 16 months to build. Hull number two is in production with hull number three scheduled for a mid-2015 delivery. The new GT70, a high-performance convertible sport fisher will be introduced later this year and the 70 Motor Yacht is slated to launch in 2015.

“The trend is for bigger convertibles,” said Kemppainen. “Our customers are younger and they want to sport fish by day and enjoy the luxury of a motor yacht by night.”

International sales have also increased, now representing 50 percent of Hatteras’ business, up from 10 to 12 percent in the ‘90s, according to Kemppainen.

“Being a semi-custom builder, we can accommodate needs and lifestyles on a global basis,” said Kemppainen. “In China for instance, large, luxury yachts are purchased mostly for business and personal entertainment and might not ever leave the dock.”

Take the galley. It is the social gathering spot in our homes and on our boats. Overseas however, it is part of the servants quarters, located where no cooking odors waft to the noses of onboard guests.

“No matter the design changes, at the end of the day, each and every boat is built to exceed our customers’ highest  expectations,” said Kemppainen. “We have built with the same integrity for the past 53 years and that will not change.”

“The heart and soul of Hatteras is still here,” said Kemppainen.

 

Photos Courtesy of Hatteras Yachts
Hatteras 41 “Knit Wits” (Vintage)
Photos Courtesy of Hatteras Yachts

A LEGEND IS BORN
No longer willing to be deterred by wind and weather, avid Marlin fisherman Willis Slane envisioned building a boat which could conquer the turbulent, frigid and untamed waters off Cape Hatteras, home to some of the best sport fishing in the world. Breaking tradition in 1959, Slane chose the then new material, fiberglass, to build this pioneering yacht with naval architect Jack Hargrave. Hatteras Yachts was born.

Beginning what would be a 25-year-long partnership, Hargrave and Slane produced their first fiberglass sport fishing yacht Knit Wits, which launched March 22, 1960. She was a 41-foot twin cabin sport fisherman with a 14-foot beam and two 275hp Lincoln V-8s.

With Knit Wits, the iconic logo, known in the world of horizon-chasing sport fishing and motor yacht design was born. Hatteras was the first production-line builder of fiberglass yachts greater than 40 feet in length. Together, Slane and Hargrave set the standard for ruggedness and high performance in all waters with their signature solid fiberglass hull. Many consider a Hargrave-designed Hatteras to be an American classic.

Knit Wits is in service today, celebrating a fishing career which includes service in the Gulf of Mexico and Piñas Bay, Panama.

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