Seawind's Asian Resurgence
Seawind is now building catamarans in Vietnam. Kevin Green gives us a closer look.
My recent visit to the Vietnam boatyard run by the Australian catamaran builder, Seawind, was a fascinating experience. Seawind had been building cats for 30 years in New South Wales and owner Richard Ward wanted it to continue that way until his retirement but the global economy had other ideas. A soaring Aussie dollar and slumped market pushed the company to the wall in 2011. To extricate itself from what the Aussie government refers to as “administration” required a business plan that drastically cut costs and had a long-term strategy of creating a leaner supply chain. The inception for this came in 2010 when Seawind acquired the trimaran company Corsair Marine, which had followed a similar trajectory by moving from the United States to Vietnam in a bid for survival.
Arriving in the former Saigon—renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975—a hectic taxi ride through the busy sprawling metropolis of nine million people brought me to a bend on the Saigon River where the Seawind-Corsair yard is situated. It’s a modern 12,000 square meter facility with three enormous factory units. Operations Manager Mike Rees showed Kurt Jerman (the company’s U.S. West Coast distributor) and I around while introducing us to the 15 strong Australian management team. Along with185 local staff, including CAD designers, they run a busy enterprise.
Seawind's Vietnam yard has full order books and 200 staff to complete both Corsairs and Seawinds. Photo by Kevin Green.
“Corsair is a technically advanced brand, with lightweight building techniques and a highly efficient manufacturing process which we have learned a great deal from in the establishment of Seawind over here,” explained Rees. Corsair is currently releasing two new models, the 32 foot Cruze 970 and an upgraded version of the popular Dash 970.
|The author sailed a Seawind 1250 2000nm around the north of Australia last year and found it to be a fast passage maker. Photo by Kevin Green.
Seawind has used the move to upgrade many of its processes. Hulls are now foam cored while the vacuum bagging build has also been refined to include triaxial fibreglass cloth in key structural areas. The two lines of production for the Seawind 1000XL2 and the 1160 will shortly be joined by the company's newest model, the 1250. Maintaining the brand's quality was a question foremost on my mind as we looked over the two 1160s being assembled.
“The 1160 is our first Seawind model that is now CE approved and soon the Seawind 1000XL2 and 1250 will follow suit,” said Rees.
Seawind now deals directly with component suppliers such as Lewmar, North Sails in Sri Lanka, and All Yacht Spars in Australia.
|The Saigon River flows out near the famed Mekong Delta and allows large shipping access to the South China Sea. Photo by Mike Ree.
Standardizing components has been a priority so Lewmar steering gear is now employed on the 1160. Raymarine's linear drive units are used as the autopilot on the latest version of the 1000XL2. Walking along the 1000XL2 assembly line, where four boats were in various stages of completion with uniformed workers (both men and women) busily assembling components showed a highly professional work process.
I noted a detailed project schedule for each boat in English and Vietnamese; an average build is 28 weeks. Doing business in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam requires that a union control staff salaries and conditions. According to boss Richard Ward, production is still gearing up but the company has already been able to achieve a $77,595 price cut on the 1160, making this award- winning design very competitive in the U.S. and global markets.
For more information, visit the company’s website: seawindcats.com