The turnaround of a Cornish boatbuilder is the work of Heathrow's chief of IT
Last week I got all excited by an ambiguous press release about the new Mystery 43. I was looking forward to seeing the actual vessel, but it was the plans that were being revealed at the London Boat Show.
This will be the biggest boat ever built by Cornish Crabbers. It is a bold decision and an interesting story of a small company on the move.
The photo above is of Philip Langsdale, who bought the assets of Cornish Crabbers in 2008. Langsdale isn’t from a marine industry background at all. Actually, he’s chief information officer for Heathrow, in charge of IT, and I believe involved in the inquiry into the disruption to the airport in December.
Langsdale was the owner of a Crabber 22 and when the builders went into liquidation he thought he could make a goer of it. “I thought it was a tragic shame and I put in a bid to buy the assets,” he tells me.
“We relaunched three years ago and we’d sold 50 boats last year and the business is in profit.”
How did he turn it round?
“We put in the basics: proper financial and management accounts,” he says simply.
That and refocusing what the company does. The emphasis is back on the Crabber range and on adding to the Mystery brand – the gorgeous Stephen Jones-designed Mystery 35 has been a great success. “We had a collection of different designs. Trying to sell them together doesn’t work.”
The Crabber 26 was launched in September because, as Langsdale says: “You need to have new launches and forward momentum.” That worked, too. “We sold five Crabber 26s off plan.”
The most popular boat in the range is still the Shrimper, of which over 1,000 have been built. The traditional-looking range has worldwide appeal. About 30 per cent of boats built go abroad and surprisingly one of the keenest markets beyond the UK is Japan. “About five or six boats a year are sold in Japan,” says Langsdale.
The company, which employs 32 people in Rock, Cornwall, is in negotiations to buy new premises in Padstow and expand production of the range. The new Mystery 43 is key to this. The design will be the company’s flagship – “that is staking out the upper limit; then you get into the Southerlys and so on,” says Langsdale.
It’s hoped that the first Mystery 43 will start building later this year, to be launched in summer 2012. We’ll have to wait until the Southampton Boat Show next year to see it, and that’s a launch I’m looking forward to. The Mystery 35 is a beauty. Below is the latest one at the show.