RIB Charter Made Easy

How one's couples problem of sourcing RIBs for junior events became everyone's solution.
Lindsay and Alfredo Lopez, owners of startup Club Boat Charter, started their RIB ­charter business to support local youth events and clubs. With high demand, their fleet continues to grow. Walter Cooper

As with most things in life, a necessity called for a solution, and for Lindsay and Alfredo Lopez, that need was a RIB for their home-port Hampton YC. That need then quickly transformed into a full-time family-run RIB-rental business, a fast-growing fleet, spiking demand and a dealership to tie it all together.

A couple of summers ago, Lindsay says, Hampton couldn’t raise the capital to buy a new RIB, so they considered chartering one at a daily rate for the entire summer. “The rate was astronomical,” Lopez says. “So, we said, ‘Why don’t we just buy a boat and charter it back to the club for way less.’ It was really about doing something to help out our program, and hey, we get another boat. So that’s a win-win. We very quickly realized that there are never enough boats for events, coaches, spectators and parents.”

Naturally, one became two, two became three, and their new company, Club Boat Charter Company, was formed. They’re now moving eight RIBs with an insane schedule of charters already lined up for youth sailing events in the ­mid-Atlantic summer and Florida regattas all winter long.

“When we looked at what was out in the industry, we realized it was a great opportunity,” Lindsay says, “but our model was to see if we could get boats at a lower cost and pass those savings along.”

They connected with Highfield Boats, which makes award-winning aluminum-hulled RIBs, and Alfredo says that’s where the business took off. “What they were trying to do with the brand and competitive sailing and what our goals were aligned really well.”

The intent with their ­charter business, Lindsay says, is not about getting rich off the sport, but rather to make it more affordable for parents and families in the youth space and be an asset resource for organizations, regattas, and wherever else there’s a need. “It’s about keeping it reasonable for host clubs, PROs and everyone who’s involved by lowering the market price to charter a RIB.”

So far, she says, they’ve ­managed to keep their rates below $400 per day, depending on the location. “I think keeping it as affordable as we can is important because sailing is already an inexpensive sport, and I hate seeing kids unable to do something they love or enjoy because they can’t afford it. That is unacceptable, so we want to keep it as affordable as we can in the spaces where we have control.”

Dave Reed testing a RIB for the 2024 Boat of the Year.
The ­company provided a RIB for Sailing World’s Boat of the Year tests in Annapolis. Walter Cooper

And as they say, and the pun is intended, the charter experience is turn-the-key turnkey. “We provide what we call a white-glove service,” Alfredo says. “Bring your life jacket, and the boat is in the water when you get there. It’s clean, it’s gassed up, keys are in the ignition, and it’s ready for you to go.”

Same goes for the return. “It’s as simple as leaving it at the dock; we’ll recover it and take it to the next place,” he says. “We make it as painless as possible.”

Seems too easy to be true, but Alfredo says that’s the point. “It is logistically difficult in many ways, but personally, I saw this as an opportunity to be on a boat more, which I love. It is tough and it requires a lot of capital, but the market and the demand are growing. We will grow the fleet as much as demand allows and is ­appropriate for the market.”

There’s plenty of cleaning boats, as well, Lindsay adds. And driving, which they’ve been doing less of since onboarding their first operations manager, Brian Fox, a former college sailor and active coach. “He actually taught our daughters when they were Opti Green fleeters,” Alfredo says. “His perspective is good because he knows what coaches want.”

Now three years into the biz, things are humming along for the parents of two young daughters, and both Alfredo and Lindsay see the potential of more. Partnering with Highfield Boats was the critical relationship to jump-start the company, and Alfredo looks longingly at the fact that Highfield is the official RIB sponsor of the Paris Olympic regatta next summer, which means Los Angeles could fit perfectly into their long-term business plan (they both have MBAs, by the way). “I would love to do LA in 2028 and support that initiative,” Alfredo says. “But next year will be one of sustainability. I think that we’ve hit a pretty good number in our fleet. We’ll focus on turning it around and refreshing it, and then just continuing to break into new events however we can.”