Sailboats In The City
On a rare sunny afternoon this past winter, in the Syracuse offices of Eric Mower Associates, a group of executives stood watching something that shouldn’t have been happening. The only water in sight was in a plastic Culligan cooler, but a group of college students were busily pulling carbon fiber slabs and aluminum tubes out of a pair of suitcases, and snapping them together into a 16-foot catamaran.
Fully assembled, the mast reached the third level of the atrium, a four-storey space in EMA’s Armory Square office. It blended right in with the high-tech interior, and as the team drew the mainsail taught, everyone finally reacted appropriately. There’s a sailboat by the elevator.
The boat is the brainchild of Anthony DiMare, a mechanical engineer in the College of Engineering at Syracuse University. He first sketched the idea when he was a sophomore. A year-and-a-half on from that first drawing and he’s formed a startup—Regattable Corp—to build and sell the world’s first high-performance, suitcase-portable catamaran. Their plan is to re-connect people to an experience they loved when they were growing up, but lost when they took a job in a city.
“I grew up near water and first learned to sail in a little Sunfish. When I finally sailed a Catamaran I was in heaven. When I went to college my plan was to get a job in a big city, and I figured I had to leave sailing behind. I’d visited New York city and seen the apartments my friends were living in, and that got me wondering–could I design a boat that could fit in their closets. Turns out I could.”
That first thought led to a sketch which led to a cardboard prototype, and that proof-of-concept led to an interested team. The entrepreneurial energy is high in Syracuse. There is a well-established startup scene, and at one of the regular “demo days” DiMare quickly assembled his cardboard prototype and got people believing. Soon after that, DiMare contracted with Brooklyn naval architecture firm Persak & Wurmfeld to further refine the design and find the right materials to build a foldable, high-speed, low-drag catamaran.
Together the two companies refined the design and built the carbon fiber version christened the FC-16 (foldable catamaran, sixteen feet long). The first full boat was shipped to Syracuse in two big duffle bags.
Seeing the boat take shape is one of those moments of disbelief, not unlike seeing Kanye and Kim exiting an SUV looking like a suburban couple. Your first thought is to wonder, will this work? It does. The boat is seaworthy. The third time DiMare and his team assembled it was at Jamesville Beach Park. On the first ice-free day of 2014, the prototype caught the breeze and shot across the reservoir. It’s fun, and now the team are working on scaling up to sell to customers. “There are still some things we have to figure out before we have the supply chain for a mass-production-ready product, but at this point we’ve erased all doubts. We’re work now is getting the pieces in place to bring this boat to market” explains DiMare.
There are three major barriers to owning a boat says DiMare. “The cost is the biggest barrier, but the storage and transportation restrictions are also important. We thought if we could eliminate those barriers we could make sailing more accessible than it has ever been before.”
That prototype will now go on an East Coast tour to prove the the world that sailing is accessible to everyone, even if you live in a fourth-floor walk-up in Tribeca.
You can see the boat on the company’s web site. They’re taking pre-orders now.