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Bump's World - June 2021
June 7, 2021

WHY SAILBOATS ARE SO INEXPENSIVE

I know the first thing you are thinking is that sailboats are not inexpensive. For what you get they are actually excellent values.

In 2011 Sabre Yachts, an extremely well run, boat builder stopped making sailboats, why?? Not because no one wanted to buy them, but rather because they were making little or no money building them.

In 2011 a Sabre 386 sailboat sold for about $420,000 and a Sabre 38 powerboat sold for about $650,000. The Sabre 42 sailboat sold for about $625,000 and the Sabre 42 powerboat about 1 million.

Your first thought is that powerboats should cost more because of the 2 big engines. Those 2 big engine cost Sabre about $50,000.00, but that boat does not have a keel, mast, rigging, and an engine, which all together equals about $50,000.00. About 1/4 of the powerboat boat space is engine room which is finished in insulation. The powerboat hull has way less shape and is very open. Every inch of a sailboat is finished off and usable.

Sabre figured out that sailboats cost the same to build as powerboats but at their prices they where way above the rest of the sailboat markets. For example in 2011 a 38 foot Beneteau sold for under 200,000.

Even though powerboats were twice the price people were lined up to buy them. So people are lined up to buy them and you make way more money. Sabre stopping sailboat production was an easy decision.

Most boat builders build boats the same way today they did 50 years ago. In the late 1980s Beneteau and Jeanneau decided that like the car industry boats could be built on a production line and efficiency goes way up and pricing goes way down. In spite of having to ocean freight the boats to the US market they crushed the North American builders with low prices for big boats, sailboats. Back then in Europe the sailboat market was much bigger than the powerboat market.

In the late 1990s Germany decided to ramp up boat building and the German government supported the development of Bavaria and Hanse Yachts with modern large factories capable of building thousands of boats. As a worker you work on an assembly line and did one job, like install engines on 34s. They also spent a lot of money on robotics. Like the auto industry they wanted to offer modern building techniques to make better boats at lower prices. This seemed to have worked since over 90% of all sailboats built in the world come from these factories.

Bavaria did fail several times and is reorganized.

Once Germany jumped in then the French and Germans went at it to dominate sailboat production worldwide. This put big downward pressure on pricing. Nothing better than competition to create good pricing. Meanwhile the powerboat guys continue to up their pricing. MJM, Eastbay, Sabre and Hinckely powerboats are all well over 1 million for a 40 footer. Boston Whaler even has a 42 at 1.2 million.

Beneteau got frustrated after the financial crash of 2009 and wanted more boat business. Where could they find a healthy growing boat business. They decided to jump into the powerboat business in the US. They bought 4 US powerboat builders and came out with many Beneteau powerboat models. Today Beneteau and Jeanneau have greatly expanded their powerboat business to the point where their powerboat business is bigger than their sailboat business. About 35 percent sail and 65 percent power. They are going where the money is.

I think we will be seeing price increases in sailboats due to the big builders wanting to make money. They have grown tired of the battle and they are selling lots of power so they are not dependent on just sail. The focus of the boat building war is going away.

The combination of a boat building war and Henry Ford style building techniques, have made sailboats a great value. Remember, your boat has to do everything your car does and your house does while fighting thru 20 foot seas.

Please mail comments to me at Bump@newwaveyachts.com

Bump Wilcox