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Ovington Boats 2014

Growing classes and exports at Ovington Boats

by Mark Jardine on 19 Oct 19 October 2017
VX One racing at Lake Garda © Ovington Boats

Ovington Boats has had a great season, supporting the classes they build, while adding a couple of new ones to their roster. We spoke to Ovington's Nathan Batchelor to find out more...

Mark: In the youth classes, the 29er seems to go from strength to strength. How has the season been for the class and what changes were made to the boats in 2017?

Nathan: I think it has been our busiest year ever, building over 150 boats. We've been building five boats a week for the past few months. The deck mould has been slightly altered by the designer, Julian Bethwaite, to reduce a couple of pressure points which has made the boat stronger, more durable and easier to manufacture. This has led to a refinement in the rudder stock attachment.

Mark: The 29er is a true export success for Ovington Boats. Where are you getting orders from?

Nathan: Over 75% of our business is export, we have sent 29ers all over the world, including 12 this year to New Caledonia, 30 to China, over 20 to North America and others to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Dubai – they really have gone everywhere.

Mark: Going back to a couple of more traditional classes with an international following, you've had a good season in the International OK and Albacore.

Nathan: We've been building Albacores for eight years now, these we build under licence from the class. I think is a great way of doing things as the class generates income from every boat that we build to re-invest. It also means if the Class Association want to make changes, such as a new deck mould, they make the decision, not the builder.

The International OK is a bit different as there are numerous builders around the world, and we're one of the few production boat builders making hulls in the class. The class is growing in mainland Europe and our MD, Chris Turner, is sailing one, as is his brother Jim in New Zealand. Chris went to Phil Morrison to draw up a new design and we had the mould manufactured from the CAD drawings. It's an extremely fair, symmetric hull where all the components fit together well to make a strong, solid dinghy. We've invested a lot into it, but I'm sure we'll see a return on that over the years, sending them to Europe, Australia and also a few new British boats, which will mean a few good second-hand boats going onto the market, bringing more people into the UK fleet.

Mark: One of the issues the Musto Skiff has had is the lack of cheaper second-hand boats, due to the boats retaining their value so well. How has this affected the growth in the class?

Nathan: It's a double-edged sword. On one hand the boat owners' investment value stays high, on the other hand it can stifle the growth of the class as even the original boats are still fetching £4000. We are building a steady number of new boats, which has fuelled the class growth as nearly all existing boats are currently active on the racing circuit.

Mark: So, while the initial investment is quite high, you have an asset that doesn't devalue much over the time you own the boat?

Nathan: The initial investment is similar to other boats of similar ilk, the real cost of ownership over the lifetime of the boat is low, you do not see any Musto Skiffs on the scrap heap! We have, this week, loaded some of the owner's boats going to the Worlds in Melbourne; it should be a great event as there are nearly 50 boats racing over in Australia now.

Mark: Another class you've been actively working in, and also sailing yourself, is the 505. How has the 2017 season gone for Ovington in the class?

Nathan: It's gone really well. Personally, we were second in the Europeans with a new Ovington boat winning, sailed by Jorgen and Jacob Bojsen-Moller. It's a great fleet, the standard is high, and there's a lot of enthusiasm for the Ovington hull in the class. The Worlds next year in Poland will be huge.

Mark: Moving onto a couple of your new boats, the Brian Bennett-designed VX One and VX Evo. The VX One has seen growth overseas, especially in North America; how is the class developing?

Nathan: It's pretty healthy. We're just finalising a deal to send twelve boats to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto which will make a superb club fleet. The class has a strong following amongst ex-International 14 sailors, who want to continue high performance sailing, but aren't so keen on wetsuits and capsizes anymore.

Mark: It would be great to see the VX One grow more in the UK. Do you think the class could be like the Musto Skiff, where there's a steady growth as more people find out just how good the boat is?

Nathan: That's a good point. When the Musto Skiff initially came out it was a slow-burner for a couple of years where people thought the boat was too hard to sail, with its fully-battened main. But over the years people have learned how to sail it well, especially after Richard Stenhouse made his famous video where he sailed the boat rudderless and I do believe the VX One class will grow steadily in the UK, especially as a couple of new fleets develop around the country.

Mark: I talked with Brian [the designer] about the VX Evo during the RYA Dinghy Show in March. How have things gone since then?

Nathan: We've been exporting all the boats we've been building to date and have just sent off another container-load. There are several now racing in mainland Europe and in North America. We have been busy fulfilling these orders we have not had time to build ourselves a demo boat until now. We managed to slip a boat in on the end of this last production run which is now available to sail.

Mark: Many thanks for your time Nathan. It's great to hear about the company's continued growth and a UK company successfully exporting.

Nathan: Thanks Mark.

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