Details of the Finn Foundation’s US-Built Finn Initiative

Opportunity

Class leaders have been working with many entities to develop a strategy to reduce the cost of the Finn and improve our market presence.  Rodion and many others have invested heavily into our website, Facebook pages, and promotion of the class.

It is widely recognized the current market for new Finns is not large enough to justify the investment required to bring a new boat to market.  Being able to sell enough boats is one of the largest factors determining the success of a builder.  Their success is our success and vise versa.  Fortunately, state of the art engineering along with advanced manufacturing systems contribute to reducing costs for lower production volumes.  Cost analysis has been based upon individually building (5) boats per year.

The goal is to simultaneously increase the demand for Finns and help establish a boat-builder.  The entities involved include:

  1. The Builder is responsible for manufacturing the boat and establishing relations with Sales Channels.
  2. The Class is responsible for rules administration, overall marketing, promotion, supporting (but not financially) any builders, and sales channels. Interfacing with the IFA and U.S. Sailing and other relevant authorities.
  3. The Sales Channels are responsible for local promotion and sales of the Finn.
  4. The Finn Foundation is responsible for special projects, including technical development, special investments, etc.

Defining these roles in more depth:

1. Builders Responsibility (pictures are from the builder)

  • Building the boat and recognizing all revenue and costs related to that activity.
  • Ensuring the boat is shipped with an IFA number and complies with all measurement rules.
  • Developing the sales channels, selling, and contributing to marketing.
  • Resolving any warranty issues.
  • Parts sales etc.
  • The builder has agreed to provide a certain level of customization and will produce boats at different levels of completion to meet different needs and budgets.  The purchaser must be aware a boat cannot be measured unless it is complete and the purchaser of a “kit” must have a measurement plan.

Comments:

  • The builder has done cost projections based upon five boats per year
  • Is currently building other one-designs and larger custom boats
  • The shop is very clean and well lit.
  • The owner is very computer literate and can model certain aspects, including laminate weight and weight distribution. They have a CAD model of a Finn and can simulate the effects of various layups.
  • Equipment includes a 5-Axis CNC router with a 52” x 120” travel. Although it meant for softer material it can machine aluminum components efficiently, and in both low and high volumes.
  • An engineer is currently donating time to develop CAD Models and drawings of Finn specific components to improve quality and manufacturing efficiencies. (drawings are available and any input is helpful).

2. USAFA’s Responsibility

  • Marketing
  • Defining marketing and increasing overall awareness of the Finn activities in the U.S. and activities related to groups while selling/sales is related to the transaction between individuals.
  • Selling will need to be done on a local basis by distributors and individuals. Although establishing commercial arrangements is the responsibility of the builder, I believe the class can offer insight into various possibilities.
  • We do need to increase the number of clinics.
  • There is a discussion of bidding for either the World Masters or the Gold Cup to provide greater visibility.
  • Measurement:
    • We are working with both U.S. Sailing and Andre Blasse to ensure we can provide 100% legal IFA certificates with the new boats. A path forward has been defined.

Comments on the Class responsibilities.

  • Rodion and I cannot do this by ourselves due to both workload and lack of marketing expertise. Both the Snipe and Thistle class have contracted with professional marketing people.
  • The success of this venture requires follow-thru on the basics. One of the Solo editors’ largest frustrations is chasing regatta reports and pictures.  
  • The italics below are the recommendations from Shedden Marketing. A quote has been provided.

The class should have a balance of digital marketing and local, person to person tactics.

Digital marketing:

  • – Update wording and layout on the website homepage to better address new visitors (i.e. people interested in Finns)
  • – Create a resource center on the website with how-to and tip articles repurposed from old newsletters 
  • – Create a “how to get involved” page on the website that covers finding a fleet, finding a boat, what to expect, etc.
  • – Schedule social media posts that highlight articles in the resource center to show how helpful you are to newer Finn sailors 
  • – Write a spotlight series (articles or maybe video) on the new Finn and Beacon Composites once a boat is built and on the water
  • – Explore the best ways to take advantage of the international marketing resources

Local support:

  • – Create a post-regatta Q&A sheet (an easy fill in the blank form) that serves as the basis for a regatta report
  • – Develop a standard survey to send to clinic participants; this will be useful for identifying opportunities for the class and getting quotes/ideas to use in digital marketing
  • – Work with local leaders on how to use the new website and social media resources to spread the word 
  • – Develop a standard proposal/info sheet that supports having Finn regattas at yacht clubs without a fleet
  1. Sales Channels (Feasibility TBD)
  • Although the success of this effort is highly dependent upon the proper structure and implementation of the Sales Channels, it is felt this should be addressed later.
  • People sell boats to people and this has to occur on a local basis.
  • Some have the energy and resources to do sell boats on a voluntary basis, but those well-intentioned people shouldn’t lose money in the process. Certainly, financial compensation helps a person justify devoting additional time and energy.
  • Any commercial arrangement needs to take place between the builder and the specific sales channel.

3. Finn Foundation

  • The development of a new builder falls within the Finn Foundation’s area of responsibility.
  • Attempting to amortize start-up costs over a low volume will add significantly to the cost of each new boat. Our goal is to avoid any licensing fees and have the start-up costs paid for upfront thru a crowdfunding effort.
  • Despite an exhaustive search, a builder could not be located who would absorb the start-up costs of building a Finn. So, building in the U.S. will not happen if it is not funded by people interested in the long-term continuation of the class.
  • The Foundation is now working on the following projects;
    • Purchase and transportation to the builder of the Lemieux molds and potentially the Vanguard Molds.
    • Benchmark today’s fast boats.
    • Is engaged with the University of Michigan to develop drawings for cost-efficient manufacturing.
    • Is engaged with the University of Michigan to analyze various aspects of the Finn in order to ensure it is competitive with today’s state of the art boats.
    • Update the Lemieux hull mold to more modern standards.
    • Initial design and manufacture of some other tooling.
    • Manufacturing of one prototype new boat including dolly, rigging, blocks, etc.
    • Official measurement start-up costs
    • Does not include a mast or sails.
  • The intent is to build the first boat and let some top sailors use it in order to vet it.
  • This first boat will be owned by the Finn Foundation.
  • The Finn Foundation has created a “restricted account” which will be crowd-funded to finance the start-up costs. Accounting and distribution by the Finn Foundation.  USAFA Treasurer is also treasurer of the Foundation.

Without question, the challenges of sailing the Finn has resulted in the development of many successful sailors, including many giants in the sailing world such as Elvstrom, Ainslie, Lemieux, and Coutts.  For now, the Finn still reminds people of these past heroes and our plan is to keep the Finn relevant and most importantly available for the next generation.  We greatly appreciate the support you have given with writing articles, organizing clinics or regattas.  Please feel free to offer any input or help regarding the effort outlined above so we can maximize the benefits of the effort.

 

 

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