SHOW BOATS: Peter VanLancker, president of Hunt Yachts, came to the then Massachusetts-based company two years after its founding. Within six years, it had outgrown its facility and found a new home in Portsmouth.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
By Rebecca Keister PBN Staff Writer
When Peter VanLancker, president of Hunt Yachts, joined the company two years after its inception, in 2000, he saw a solid business idea but a fledging execution for a boat-building business.
Thirteen years later, the company formed out of C. Raymond Hunt Associates, the well-known, former Boston-based design firm, is thriving thanks to its debt-free business model and product line that enabled it to move to Rhode Island seven years ago and weather the state’s tepid economic waters.
“It was remarkable that at first we able to survive some of these downturns,” VanLancker said. “Most boat companies don’t survive at all. They go in and out of business.”
John Deknatel in 1961 founded C. Raymond Hunt Associates with Ray Hunt, who in the 1950s developed the deep-V hull design, which many in the industry consider revolutionary for fast-powerboats design.
Winn Willard, vice president of C. Raymond Hunt Associates, joined in 1970 and worked alongside the pair until Hunt died, at age 70, in 1978. By the end of the 1990s, according to the company’s website, Deknatel and Willard decided to develop a single-engine powerboat but were unable to secure the backing of a production builder. Instead, they formed Hunt Yachts.
“[Ray Hunt] was a bit of a genius [but] wasn’t able to protect the patent. The whole industry changed on that form,” VanLancker said. “The Hunt Yachts brand came out of that history and experience [but] they had a reputation for design, not boat building. The key was taking the history that was there and moving into product. That’s where I came in.”
VanLancker had many years of experience in the industry and was, in the late ’90s, working for Boston Whaler in Florida, helping the company work to shut down its Boston plant.
The Rhode Island School of Design graduate was planning to return to New England to be closer to his wife’s family and saw, he said, an opportunity to take Deknatel and Willard’s boat-building concept into an actual business.
VanLancker had previously worked with Deknatel and Willard, having hired them as architects throughout his career.