dave reed headshot
Early on a Sunday morning in April, Jerome Sammarcelli is rumbling down the interstate, “somewhere in Tennessee,” his 30-year-old sidekick, Nick Vale, asleep in the back of their Dodge Sprinter van. They have about 13 hours remaining on their cross-country delivery, and drafting behind them is a brand new 21-foot sportboat destined for its owner in Annapolis, Md. It has been a long haul from their coastal California shop, but the end is near. But then, of course, there is the one-day set up, and the return trip.
Sammarcelli, 35, and Vale are like a lot of us, doing whatever it takes, and then some more, to stay on the road toward that increasingly elusive American dream. They’re modern-day traveling salesmen hawking high-priced discretionary toys in a time when luxury is something that many of us are eschewing. Challenging times to be selling sailboats, but these guys are up to the task.
In the last few months they’ve crisscrossed the country many times, dragging their wares to and from boat shows in Annapolis, Miami, and elsewhere. They don’t have a fancy boatshow booth or elaborate display: just unique-looking boats and a fast-is-fun lifestyle. They’re holding demo sessions up and down the left coast, coddling new owners, negotiating sales, running a showroom in Marina del Rey, building one-design boats, and somehow still managing to go sailing on their own time-just for the fun of it.
Sammarcelli and Vale have only been in the marine business for three years, but their dedication to the excitement of sportboat sailing-regardless of the boat or manufacturer-is paying off. They’re fostering a burgeoning Open 5.70 class, and moving a few, much more substantial, Open 6.50s (see p. 54). They’re encouraging unity within their own fractured sportboat niche and working for change in the way club races are run by persuading organizers to occasionally include reach legs in their racecourses so that sportboat sailors can get more excitement out of their boats. In other words, they’re diligently keeping the allure of high-performance sailing alive in their little corner of the market, and sailors are responding.
“We have to keep pushing,” Sammarcelli tells me as our phone conversation nears its second hour. (I’ve done my best to break the monotony of his five-hour stint behind the wheel). “Like everybody, we have some buyers putting orders on hold, but we’re getting a lot of inquires, and we are selling boats.”
It’s exciting to see this positive energy in such depressing times, and if it weren’t for these guys and countless others in the industry trying to make a difference-big or small-and encouraging participation at every level, our sport would surely run the risk of going stale. They’re doing their part. Are you?
In their first year as a licensed builder of the $30,000 Open 5.70, their goal was to sell 40 boats, and Sammarcelli says that will happen. “We have to do what it takes to hold on until it’s over,” he tells me. “We have to collect-to harvest-and we will see the benefit of our hard work when it [the economy] gets back to normal.”
Whether things will ever get back to normal is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime, sailing needs guys like Jerome and Nick out there hustling, hawking their sportboats so we can all get out on the water, have fun, and plane around when the white caps come up.
Thanks, guys, and drive safe.