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Wylie Nagler and the Future of Yellowfin Yachts

Yellowfin’s new Custom 40 RHIB. Photo courtesy of Yellowfin Yachts
Yellowfin’s new Custom 40 RHIB. Photo courtesy of Yellowfin Yachts

Boat builders in particular, have had many challenges in our current economy. There has been attrition within the ranks, but some companies have emerged more efficient, stronger and even thrived despite the economy. Yellowfin Yachts is just such a company and Wylie Nagler, the owner and founder, attributes his success to the quality and design of his boats.

Yellowfin offers 11 models from a 17-foot technical poling skiff up to a 42-foot offshore center console that can top out at 70 miles per hour. Their boats have a reputation for quality of build and design, and their distinctive looks turn heads on the water and at the dock.

As Nagler commented, if a customer is shopping on price alone he or she will probably not be getting a Yellowfin, but if quality of build and performance along with an exceptional resale value is more important, a Yellowfin will be at the top of his or her list.

Nagler started modestly tinkering with designs that improved on what was currently available, knowing that he could produce a better product. With a background in offshore racing, he started Back Country Boats, building cutting-edge inshore vessels. After selling that company to Champion Boats, he decided he wanted to venture into the offshore market.

At the time there were some companies putting center consoles into their racing hulls in an attempt to capture some of the increasing market share that offshore fishing was producing. Those boats were fast, they were narrow, had poor live-well systems and were not truly designed for the job at hand. Nagler knew he could capture market share by “building a fish boat first, then make it go fast, instead of making a go fast and make it fish.”

This core principle is responsible for the huge success his company has enjoyed since it introduced its first offshore boat, a 31-foot center console.

Bradenton, Fla.-based Yellowfin has designed its boats with cutting edge technology and specific customers in mind. They are boats designed for the hard-core fishermen who want to fully enjoy their time on the water. Their boats are designed for serious live bait fishermen who want a boat that will run well in rough water, can take a beating, and has a dry and comfortable ride.

As Nagler puts it, “we are not concerned with flat water speed. It’s not how fast you go, it’s how long you go fast. We can go faster than anybody for a longer period of time.

All of this is accomplished while also being a practical and fishable boat. Nagler can be found in Yellowfin’s prototype shop almost every day. Each of the company’s models receives a “facelift” every five years.

Currently the 24-foot bay boat and 36-foot offshore model are Yellowfin’s best selling models. Their popularity has created a backlog of orders that peaked at eight months. Restructuring of the production facilities with a new dedicated small boat facility in Sarasota, Fla., has reduced the backlog to a maximum of six months.

Nagler constantly has his eye on the future for Yellowfin. He is content with the size of the company, and it’s clear that his goal is not to increase gross sales and to dominate the market. His desire is instead to “be smarter at what we do” by increasing efficiency rather than expanding production.

That’s not to say that he isn’t willing to develop in new directions. As was demonstrated at the Miami Boat Show last year, Yellowfin is capable of taking one of its designs and applying it to commercial or military applications. They displayed a formidable 34-foot border patrol vessel built on of their popular fishing hull designs with Kevlar hull reinforcement and retractable protective ballistic panels. The boat was outfitted for the Texas Highway Patrol with multiple deck guns and triple 300 HP Mercury Verados capable of over 60 knots.

This year at the Fort Lauderdale Show Yellowfin took the concept one step further by introducing the Custom 40 rigid-hulled inflatable boat. The model could have military or commercial applications, but was set up as the ultimate super yacht tender. With a beam of about 13 feet, the RHIB has plenty of room for passengers to move about or lounge, while providing the ultimate comfortable ride at speed, even offshore.

Seeing an opportunity in these markets, Nagler plans on developing a four-model line of these vessels, including 24, something in the 28-30 range and an offering in the mid 30s.

With a constant eye on development, quality, customer service and market needs Naglar appears to know exactly what his customers require. He has had great success in providing it to them and as a result Yellowfin has enjoyed a great reputation for quality and service. Comfortable in their market position and by taking a good product and constantly improving and adapting it, the future of Yellowfin Yachts looks bright despite a difficult economy.

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