You're a third generation boat builder from Denmark. Can you tell us a little bit more about your family's history in the boating industry?
My father was cooperating with Knud Olsen (The OK dinghy, and the Folkboat a.o.), building the Bandholm cruising boats since 1969. Later my grandfather, a skilled carpenter and furniture maker, joined as well. At some point in the 70’s and 80’s all my dad’s six children were involved in some way in the boat building business. You can still see hundreds of Bandholm boats on the waters in Scandinavia and Northern Germany. They last “forever”.
How did you get started in the boating industry? Did you help out in the boatyard when you were young?
Yes, I remember working after school, weekends and holidays at the boatyard since I was very young. In the early years it mostly involved cleaning boats before delivery, but gradually it included tasks such as fiberglass lamination, installation of deck hardware, rigging and commissioning, etc. Later I focused on racing to help promote the Bandholm boats, which are considered cruising boats, but they are actually reasonably fast in club racing.
Nis in his Bandholm 35 with friends - late 1980’s.
The first 20 years or so of your career we're spent outside of the boating industry. Can you tell us a little bit about that period?
When I was 19 years old I worked for a year in Alameda Marina in San Francisco, restoring Lowell North’s Olympic Gold winner “North Star”. It was this opportunity that convinced me that I had to explore the world outside Denmark permanently, and I applied for a job with The East Asiatic Company, which at the time was the largest Danish international marketing services, distribution and trading company. I spent 16 years with this great company in New York, Taiwan and China.
What made you return to the boating industry? Did your Skerry restoration project have anything to do with this?
Like many sailors I always had a dream of somehow combining my boating passion with business. Nearly 10 years ago I had a stint working for Neil Pryde in Hong Kong. This did not last very long, but a fresh seed had been sown. Then in 2007 we purchased a wooden 30 sqm Skerry Cruiser, designed in 1933 and built in 1954 in Sweden. As you hinted in your question, this beautiful boat was the inspiration, which led to the founding of Scandinavian Cruisers.
The boating industry in general has been facing really tough times lately. Why return now and what do you think it takes to build a successful yachting brand in today’s challenging market?
When we decided to re-enter the boating industry we looked at all the changes which has taken place in the industry in the past 50 years, including trends such as more competition for family leisure time, and the “baby boomer” generation of skilled sailors who still want performance boats, but also want beautiful boats that can be managed easily by one or two people for day-sailing. Once we had decided on this target market segment, we looked at how we could radically challenge all the conventions regarding how to design, manufacture, distribute and market boats. Being a relative newcomer, or “returnee”, we knew we could only be successful by going in the opposite direction of the established boat brands. We knew that this would lead us to a niche position, but a growing global niche, which we are very comfortable with.
Our design strategy is to combine the most beautiful classic designs with the latest technology and day sailing functionality. Most established brands do either one or the other, but very few combine it.
Concerning manufacturing, we knew that we had to fully embrace global collaboration to be successful, including combining hardware and boating materials from the US and Europe with production and assembly in Asia.
When it comes to distribution we are very proud of our global network of enthusiastic and entrepreneurial distributors, who provides excellent service, and are creating a Scandinavian Cruisers community in their own country or region. Our marketing consists of a combination of traditional boat shows and print magazines, and the latest global Internet based media and social networks, much of which is spearheaded by your Internet marketing company in New York.
Your original plan was to launch the Scandinavian Cruiser 40. Can we still expect this beautiful yacht?
The Eric W. Sponberg designed SC 40 is fundamentally the design template for the entire Scandinavian Cruisers range. It is virtually the same size as the original 1933 Skerry Cruiser mentioned above, yet it includes all the latest technology and design innovations such as the lifting high-aspect carbon fiber rudder and keel, the rotating semi-unstayed carbon fiber wing mast, and the day-sailing functionality. When the SC 40 design was finalized in late 2008, and the global financial “panic” was in full swing, we decided to first manufacture and launch our smallest model, which is the Scandinavian Cruiser 20, because it is the most affordable yacht in our keelboat range. The first SC 20 was test sailed in October 2009, and introduced in Dusseldorf in January 2010, and with twenty boats sold by May, 2010, this was clearly the correct decision.
We are currently finalizing the design of the SC 30, which will be a spectacular yacht, sized and priced precisely between the SC 20 and SC 40. We will start the process of introducing and signing up new owners for both the SC 30 and SC 40 when the global economy and the boating market improves, as it inevitably will.
The Scandinavian Cruiser 40 day-sailing cockpit.
Ok - so you decided to launch the SC20 instead. What makes this "mini yacht" so unique? Can you tell us about that?
Mini yacht is the right word. The SC 20 is among the smallest keelboats in the world, comparable in size to the Flying Fifteen and the RS K6. The lines are the same as the larger Scandinavian Cruisers, but because of the small size and light weight, the SC 20 has the stability of a keel boat, but the responsiveness and planing speed of a dinghy. The SC20 has a very high aspect rudder and keel, which provides great stability, maximum lift and minimal drag. Combined with her narrow hull, light weight and large mainsail roach, she is very fast on a reach, with the furling asymmetrical spinnaker, and points exceptionally high going upwind. Because of her small size she is very sensitive to crew weight in light air, and as is the case with all Scandinavian Cruisers, she can be sailed easily by only one or two people, but she can accommodate more people for relaxed day sailing.
What can prospective owners expect from the Scandinavian Cruisers brand in the future. Will we be able to race for instance?
The Scandinavian Cruisers brand will be developed not only through its range of unique boats but also through community events. All our models are one-design classes, because we believe that this is what owners expect from our brand, as it improves re-sale value, and provides fair racing as soon as fleets develop around the world.
We plan to host Scandinavian Cruisers Cup sailing events in beautiful international sailing locations, where we will invite owners, crew and friends, provide charter boats, and organize a mix of racing and social events, including food, culture and history. Some locations under consideration for such events, hosted in cooperation with prestigious yacht clubs or resorts, are: Newport RI, Martha's Vineyard RI, South Beach Miami, Carmel CA, La Jolla CA, San Francisco, Phuket Thailand, Hong Kong, Sydney Harbor, Marstrand Sweden, Stockholm, Oslo, Skagen Denmark, Copenhagen, Thames River London, Yarmouth England, Lake Lugano, Geneva, Zurich, Costa Smeralda Sardinia and others.
Last week you launched a new boat, the Scandinavian Dory 18. What's the story behind this versatile boat?
The Scandinavian Dory 18 has an unusual story, which I expect to see repeated for other new boats, which we will introduce in the future. Our partner in Australia, Philip Schoeffel, came to us with a proposal to jointly create a classic styled high performance rowing and sailing boat. More and more people enjoy the exercise benefits of rowing, and we all recognize the frustration of wanting to going sailing, only to discover that the wind has died down when we finally make it to the marina or beach.
As our friends at Sailing Anarchy said, this is no ordinary dory. The Scandinavian Dory 18 is co-designed by renowned Naval Architects Roger Long and Eric W. Sponberg. This beautiful high-quality classic lapstrake/clinker boat, produced with carbon fiber, will turn heads at the mooring, on the trailer, and when it overtakes much larger boats from the same yacht club. She is a real “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
Scandinavian Dory 18
Where can people see and try these new and exciting boats?
The first steps to “seeing and trying” is to look at the pictures and videos on www.scandinaviancruisers.com. A second option would be to visit us at some of the upcoming boat shows, such as the shows in Newport and Annapolis later this year.
As of May 2010, our boats are available, or arriving shortly, in the following countries: United Sates, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy and Greece, and we will soon have representation in many more countries.
We are pleased to deliver any of our boats to new owners anywhere in the world. Our boats are shipped inside a plywood crate on a steel frame with wheels, which fit inside standard ocean shipping containers, and we can therefore reach any corner of the world in a safe and economical manner.
You just turned 50. Congratulations. Where would you like to be with the Scandinavian Cruisers brand when you turn 60?
One truism is that sailing and boating is a sport and lifestyle for life. The Scandinavian Cruisers will hopefully develop along the lines I mentioned, and become a globally recognized brand of beautiful, high performance day-boats, admired equally by experienced sailors and landlubbers, giving the owner true pride of ownership.
Thank you, Nis for your time today. As you know I'm excited to be part of your team and to introduce the Scandinavian Cruisers brand to the US sailing community. Good luck with building the Scandinavian Cruisers organization. I think you will do well.
Nis sailing the first Scandinavian Cruiser 20 in October 2009 in Xiamen, China.