Like a poker player who knows that his streak has ended and is smart enough to push his chair back and cash in his chips, Barry Carroll has decided to call it a day and close Carroll Marine. For 19 years, Carroll and his team of boatbuilders have been producing such popular raceboats as the Mumm 36, Frers 33, 1D35, Corel 45, Concordia 47, Farr 40, Tripp 40 Farr 52, Carroll Marine 60, Farr 395, and most recently, a Wally 60.
“Its sad and its not,” said Carroll in an interview last Friday. “Financially its a good ending, emotionally its a little tough. The grand scheme a year or so ago was to do five more years and kind of wind it down, find a buyer, or transfer ownership to the staff and sail off into the sunset. But our market just pitched its tent and moved away. I could sit here and blame external forces like the economy, the stock market, and the international situation, all of which have had a huge impact. The fact is that people will make it through this but it wont be us.”
Carroll also cited the lack of a grand-prix rule as being part of his decision to pull the plug. “As a businessperson who had a ten million dollar business to run, I was finding it more and more difficult to put all my eggs in one basket, especially when there’s no grand-prix rule. The last six months we were able to get Tom Hill’s Titan done and out the door,” said Carroll. “And he’s happy with it and we made some money, but all these other projects we were talking about with people never happened. We didn’t lose them to someone else, they just didn’t get done. It’s one thing to say that the person went and bought something else or went to New Zealand to have a one-off built, but these projects didn’t get built at all. Maybe we didn’t shift gears fast enough into the new market, or maybe the new market just isn’t there. We saw this coming back at the boat shows last year. This is nineteen years we’ve been doing this and this is the worst we’ve ever seen it. From a market or brand name point of view, we’re [Carroll Marine] the strongest that we’ve ever been but there’s just nothing out there.”
To fill the gap and to keep his crew working last spring, Carroll began to use their know-how in other arenas, including architectural moldings and building fascias. But the business from companies closest to Carroll Marines, powerboat manufacturers, led to an opportunity. “We did some work for Hunt Yachts, and then we started doing contract molding for a company called Outerlimits,” said Carroll. “They came to us for epoxy technology via SP Systems. First they asked us to do some parts, and then to do all their epoxy molding.” Soon Outerlimits made Carroll an offer he couldnt refuse. “They asked me what I wanted for the place and I told them and they came back an hour-and-a-half later and said OK. Theyre nice guys and theyve hired most of my top guys, and that was part of the game plan.”
After twenty years in business, Carroll is looking forward to a bit of a break, and some time on his powerboat with his wife Janice “One of the most attractive parts of the deal was that Outerlimits didnt want me to stay on,” said Carroll. “There were other offers, too, but part of the package was for me to stay. Ive felt kind of light on my feet for the past few weeks since the decision was made. Its the right time for me and for Janice to take this step.”
But Carroll hasnt forgotten the owners of the many boats hes sold over the years, especially the ones that have an up and running class association. “The assets of Carroll Marine have been sold,” said Carroll. “Were going to wrap up operations in the next week or two. The thing I want to protect and manage well is the ongoing construction of the Farr 36, the Farr 395, the Farr 40 and the 1D35. Im concerned about the classes–the people who invested in us. Id like that transition to be smooth and professional.”
Sailing World received a copy of Carroll Marine’s announcement, dated June 12th, the contents of which follow:
“Carroll Marine Ltd., of Bristol, R.I. announced today that they will cease boatbuilding operations at the end of June, 2003. the manufacturing assets have been sold to Outerlimits, a local powerboat builder.
“Founded in 1984 by Janice and Barry Carroll, Carroll Marine specialized in high performance, series built offshore sailboats. they also built custom race boats, the largest and most recent being the Reichel/Pugh 75, Titan XII, which was launched this spring. Over the years, more than 700 sail and powerboats were produced by the firm, and found a worldwide market. Recently they had been building advanced composite components for other local powerboat builders, and had successfully entered the architectural composite market.
“Like most markets, ours is cyclical, and sensitive to outside forces: without going into details, the outlook in our segment is as difficult as I have seen in our 19 years in business. Faced with a very weak sales forecast, our goals were to complete all the contracted yachts under construction, insure that our suppliers would be fully paid, place our loyal and talented staff in good jobs, and preserve the good name and reputation of Carroll Marine. The deal with Outerlimits Powerboats achieves these goals and maintains the strong high performance boatbuilding heritage of this town. It is just with Outerlimits, the definition of high performance changes from 10 knots to 110 knots. All our production personnel, and most of the management team, have been offered positions at Outerlimits or other local builders.
“Carroll went on to say that he is working closely with Farr International, Farr Yacht Design, and Nelson Marek Design to find alternative builders for the one design yachts currently built by Carroll Marine. There will be further announcements in the near future when these arrangements have been concluded.”