At the Drawing Board
Long before a boat is ever fabricated in fiberglass, a company has to choose what it will look like. For Cobalt, that responsibility has often fallen to iconic boat designer peter Granata. It’s Granata’s job to decipher not just what a client has in mind for the design, but ultimately what he or she is trying to accomplish with the product as well.
Visual appeal can’t be underestimated. “You have to remember,” Granata tells clients, that “even with the best engineered cars in the world, if they don’t look good, they don’t sell.” That’s why attention is paid not only to a boat’s overall style, but also to elements that attract a customer’s immediate attention — dash, steering wheel and the size and comfort of the seats.
If the job has been done right, little details will show through, and Granata says it’s critical to design a boat with the customer in mind. “A lot of boat companies will do research on who their consumer is,” he explains. “That’s a false read. What they need to do is go out and find out who their consumer aspires to be.”
Of course, there have to be checks and balances along the way. Guys like Regal’s vice president of engineering, Pat Wiesner, are among them. At Regal, new product planning committees blend designers with engineers and manufacturers (especially company president Duane Kuck) to guarantee a project is not only eye-catching but also viable. Regal works extensively with 3-D modeling software, fabricating a virtual product from hull and stringers all the way to cabinetry, not only to validate the product but also to reduce work down the line. “We try and take that model to the nth degree,” Wiesner explains. “The more time we put into it on the computer, the better it’s going to be.”
Computers deliver precise shapes and sizes, but they can’t gauge the psychological and ergonomic impact of key features. That’s why certain components — a helm or a doorway — are mocked up full size for evaluation. Once everything receives the final OK, a plug is cut, a mold is made, and ultimately a single boat is built. Countless tests are then completed, from performance to ride to endurance, to make sure the model meets expectations. Regal employs naval architects during the design process. Then they come back to validate the end result.
The job never stops. Borrowing a lesson from Harvard Business School, the entire project is re-evaluated. Sums up Wiesner: “Every time we do a new boat we review what happened, what was expected … and how to make it better the next time.”