- Created: Wednesday, 04 December 2013 16:35
- Written by Jason Johnson
As the 2013 boating season came to an end—at least for most of the country—we decided to spend the month of December talking to some of the influential, experienced, competitive and knowledgable people in the industry to find out their Highs and Lows from the past year.
Here are the people we interviewed. Click on the names to jump directly to that individual. More names will be added daily.
Stu Jones • John Cosker • Jeff Johnston • Peter Hledin • John Tomlinson • Craig Barrie • Mike D'Anniballe
Mike Livorsi • Brett Anderson • Alexi Sahagian • Marc Granet • Dave Hemmingson • Randy Scism • Rik Wimp
David Holley • Randy Davis • Fred Kiekhaefer • Scott Sjogren • Shaun Torrente • Terry Sobo • Dan Kleitz
Greg Harris • Erik Christiansen • Ed Champion
Although he says his travel schedule won't be as hectic at it was in 2013, we're sure we'll be seeing Ed Champion, sales manager for Lake Ozarks Marine and marketing director for MidwestBoatParty.com, at quite a few events in 2014. Among his highlights from 2013, the Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., resident counts trips to Arizona's Lake Havasu and Florida's Key West, which led to the sale of Lake Ozarks Marine's 34 CCX demo model from Sunsation Boats. He also includes the growth of MidwestBoatParty.com as the popular forum registered its 20,000th member in 2013.
High: This is general, but the growth of our business is my high for 2013. We sold more than 30 boats in just our second year and we became a dealer for Sunsation in February and recently picked up Chief Powerboats. We also opened a new retail location in August—the old Raymond's Boats in Osage Beach. I'm just real proud that we keep continuing to move forward.
Low: Almost everybody you've interviewed has touched on my low—the accident at Lake Cumberland. I knew Brad (Smith) really well and Jeff (Asbell), too. He was from the lake and Brad was only a couple of hours from here. We can't bring them back, but I hope everyone learns from the accident. I don't know what the answer is—I think speed limits are probably a good idea at events—but it would be nice to see some kind of self-regulating take place.
For Mercury Racing's Erik Christiansen 2013 has been a year of transition, excitement and demanding, yet rewarding, work. Not only did Christiansen take the reigns from Fred Kiekhaefer, the legendary Mercury Racing president, he also oversaw the roll out of the Fond du Lac, Wis., company's 1650 Race engine (read the story) and the introduction of the highly acclaimed concept automotive 1650 crate engine (read the story), which was showcased in a supercar at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas in November. After his final trip of the year to Dubai in mid-December, speedonthewater.com caught up with Christiansen to get his Highs and Lows from 2013.
High: My highs for 2013 include the success of the QC4v product at the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla. (Boats with Mercury 1350 and 1650 engines finished first, second and third in the premier Superboat Unlimited class.) I have to say that my new role has been a high as well. It's been very exciting to work closely with so many talented people here at Mercury Racing.
Lows: Certainly the boating accident (at the Lake Cumberland Poker Run) and the human loss that the sport has endured over the years is a low. We're a small community so these kind of shocking incidents affect us all.
For someone who doesn't work in the performance-boat business, South Florida specialty realtor Greg Harris was on hand for more events around the country this year than anyone we know (hence the inclusion in our series). Harris and his beautiful girlfriend, Yvonne Aleman, spent 40 nights on the road at boating events such as the Desert Storm Poker Run in Arizona, the Texas Outlaw Challenge, the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run in Georgia, the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Missouri and many in their home state.
"We traveled more than 19,000 miles and spent more than $25,000—and we don't even own a boat right now," laughed Harris, adding that Aleman is a catamaran girl after getting her "A-to-Z education" over the past 12 months. Currently shopping for another go-fast ride, Harris, who also is a moderator for OffShoreOnly.com, said he likes traveling to events to see friends, fellow boaters and clients on their home waterways to return the favor when they visit South Florida.
High: My highlight from the year has to be the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run on Lake Lanier. Between the amount of boats that turned out for the run, the organization of everything and the overall generosity, it was unlike any event we attended. It was cool to see a poker run held at a five-star resort that brings together pontoons, ski boats, personal watercraft, cruisers and 46-foot Skaters running the same course, and all for fun and a great cause. The fact that they raised almost $300,000 was unbelievable.
Low: My low point is that there were two similar accidents at Lake Havasu and Lake Cumberland with two completely different results, yet the boating community only wanted to argue about fault and blame and speed rather than discuss where we go from here and how we prevent accidents going forward. It's just frustrating that after all the hours spent tearing each apart that nothing beneficial came from it to make the sport safer.
Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats operations manager Dan Kleitz, which is why we decided to let company principal Mike Fiore off the hook and go to Kleitz for this year's highs and low from the Outerlimits perspective. From strong sales and new model introductions to strong performances at the Super Boat International Key West Offshore World Championships to the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, fortune shined on the Bristol, R.I., company in 2013.
High: I would say that we survived what we all hope was the worst of the worst and the shop is slammed with new boat orders. We are actually sold out for the 2014 model year between our cats and V-bottoms. Every boat but the one 36 will be capable of running 130-plus mph. We stuck to our roots of building purebred, high-performance boats and it has served us well. The introduction of the SV50 and SL36 would also be notable, as well as having the new 46 cat and a new SL50 V-bottom in tooling. And let's not forget the continued dominance of Dr. Michael Janssen and Brian Forehand on the race course taking another undisputed Super Vee Light championship in Key West.
Low: Thankfully, we don't have many lows for 2013. One would be in Key West with the SV43. On the last day we had a great shot of taking home the championship, but while leading with a 15-second lead we had a mechanical failure that knocked us out of the race. Joe (Sgro) and Brian (Forehand) put on a great show though. Also as most people have touched on their highs and lows this year, the tragedy that occurred at the Lake Cumberland Poker Run was just a terrible occurrence and terribly sad.
Between rolling out a few new models, attending dozens of poker runs across the country, racing in Puerto Rico, doing demo runs at Thunder Over Louisville—the official kick-off event for the Kentucky Derby Festival—and showcasing its models at various boat shows, Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats has had a busy and successful year. In fact, Terry Sobo, Nor-Tech’s director of sales and marketing, said the year has been one of the best he’s seen in his 20-plus years in the business. Much of that success has to do with the company’s center console lineup, which ranges from 29 to 50 feet, but the builder also has seen an uptick in performance boat sales.
High: It’s been a great year for sure, so we’ve had quite a few highs. I think my high is the fact that we recently topped the century mark in sales of center consoles since we started offering the models in 2010. That’s pretty impressive in my opinion, and it’s definitely helped keep Nor-Tech in business through the economic downturn.
Low: I guess the low would be not having enough capacity to meet the demand for our boats. I know that’s a good problem to have, but we’ve been working on some ideas of how to segregate our business into other buildings.
Our fourth driver in the Highs and Lows from 2013 series is accomplished tunnel boat driver Shaun Torrente. The multi-time national champion from Florida has spent the past two and a half seasons competing internationally in the F1 H2O series (minus a suspended license for the last two races of 2012), a dream he’s had since he started racing. Now we won’t say his ultimate dream came true this year, but the Qatar Team driver finished a remarkable season second in overall points behind teammate Alex Carella, who won the world championship for a third straight year (read the story).
High: Although I’m extremely proud of our team’s 1-2 finish, I’d have to say that Doha is definitely my high (read the story). Not only was it my first overseas win, I had my girls (wife, Flavia, and daughter, Isabella) there with me and I took the points lead with just a couple of races to go. It couldn’t have worked out any better.
Low: I’m not sure I really have a low. This year has been amazing—my family is great and I loved being part of such a professional organization in the Qatar Team. I guess the beginning of the year was my low as I was still dealing with my suspended UIM license from 2012 (read the story). I didn’t find out if my license was being reinstated until February so waiting on that was a lowpoint.
Between new and previously owned models, Pier 57 Marine in Gurnee, Ill., sold 118 boats in 2013. That's not a bad year, considering that the full-service high-performance powerboat dealer sold 128 boats in 2011—it's biggest year to date. Company owner Scott Sjogren told us he has been running flat-out since January, and he was still moving at the same pace when we caught up to him a few days ago.
High: The high this year is that used boat sales have been unbelievable. We are very happy with how our consignment business has grown, and very happy with the number of referrals we've gotten from clients who were pleased with our consignment business. Our service center and concierge services continue to expand. Most of all, we're happy to see that people still have what I call "the water gene."
Low: You know, I don't even know that we have a low to speak of. I think if anything, our biggest challenge is to sustain the high standards for service that we've set and continue to provide the value that people expect from us. That's not a low or even a problem. It's just a challenge for us, and it's a good one to have.
Since exiting stage right as the president of Mercury Racing in Fond du Lac, Wis., and moving to Colorado a year ago, Fred Kiekhaefer has been plenty busy. In addition to serving as a consultant for his former employer, he started a design-and-engineering consulting outfit of his own called K-Lab Design Works and he has been working on his own "secret little" project. Kiekhaefer wouldn't say anything more than about his concept, but he was happy to give us his highs and lows—in reverse order—for 2013.
Lows: Any loss of life is a tragedy when it occurs in our tight-knit boating community. I feel particularly sad about the terrible loss of Brad Smith and Jeffrey Asbell this year. On a much lighter note, the low for me was that I was not able to attend the Mercury Racing 1650 crate engine roll-out at the SEMA show (read the story), especially since I've never been to SEMA. I was at the (SBI) Offshore World Championships, but I could have found a way to do both—not all of both, but part of both. I would have liked to be there.
Highs: Remember, I don't work there anymore, so this is from my heart: Merc's 1650 crate engine winning SEMA's Global Media Award was quite an accomplishment for Mercury Racing. Another high was the success of that platform in Unlimited class at the Worlds—boats with 1650 or 1350s finished first, second and third in class. On a personal level, my high has been the launch of K-Lab. I walk 35 steps to my CAD station. I have three clients, and (at last) I take calls 18/6, not 24/7. I have almost no meetings and I live two hours from Vail. Plus, for the first time in 22 years, I live in the same house as my lovely wife—all week! It's all pretty neat.
In the nearly 10 years since Randy Davis took over as owner of Nordic Boats, he has seen the Lake Havasu City, Ariz., business build everything from a 43-foot offshore catamaran to a 21-foot ski race boat. He's also seen the company take a major hit due to the economic downturn and a flood of deck boats—Nordic's most popular line—entering the market after a builder went out of business. While scaling back was a given, Davis, who also runs a successful framing business in Southern California, continued to tool up new boats, which seems to have given Nordic a competitive advantage as 2013 was the company's best in several years.