The company won international recognition as the main production unit of the well-known Finnish sailboat brand Finngulf. Instead of wood, the main material of Saare Yachts became GRP (glass reinforced plastic), with the interior design, furniture and finishing also being made in the same factory. Several Finngulf yachts built on Saaremaa have been chosen as the best sailboats of their kind at trade fairs in Finland and elsewhere. The contracts were flowing in and business was good.
Finngulf is a company with a complicated fate, however. Having survived several reorganisation and bankruptcy processes, the company is still producing, but no longer using, the production base on Saaremaa. When Finngulf first went bankrupt in 2011, it also meant trouble for Saare Yachts . According to Managing Director Peeter Sääsk, the company escaped a catastrophe only because, in addition to successful subcontracting work, it had begun working on the development of its own yacht models. When the contracts from Finngulf stopped coming in, Saare Yachts took the decision to concentrate on the production of yacht models Saare 38 and Saare 41. Those turned out to be successful and Saare Yachts exited the crisis as an independent sailboat producer.
Today there are two different versions of the model Saare 41 − the 41CC, with its central cockpit, is more suitable as a family yacht, and the 41AC, with its classic aft cockpit. In addition, the company continues to produce the Saare 38 and introduced Saare 46 in 2016. Although the standard equipment of the main models is set in the catalogue, customers have the opportunity to have their say regarding the layout of the cabins and the choice of equipment. Thus most boats produced by Saare Yachts are one-off customised products. As the entire interior design is also produced in Nasva, there is a lot of flexibility when it comes to customer wishes, and the high quality handicraft from the same factory is the biggest selling advantage of Saare Yachts.
The quality of the work by boat builders on Saaremaa has been proven on the Nordic market and to date the boats of Saare Yachts have been sold in Scandinavia, the rest of Europe and Russia too. The Saare Yachts are sporty and fast, but with comfortable and varied equipment. In addition to sailboats, the company has also produced classic-shaped motorboats Stormer, which are also made of GRP.
Last summer the company came under new ownership, but the brands of sailboats remained the same − Saare. The reason for this change in company ownership has to do with the fact that the main shareholder to date − Saare Kalur − decided to leave the boat construction business altogether and hence also the circle of owners. The company was taken over by Thomas Nielsen, who has been the redistributor of Saare boats in Germany. Nielsen has represented the Saare brand in Germany since the establishment of the company and he has also participated in the development and creation of the Saare boat models. He commented on his decision to become the owner of Saare Yachts in this way: ‘It would be a real shame to let all the work which has been done to date go to waste.’
The Manager of the company, Peeter Sääsk, will continue in his position as will most of the core team. The main operating models and the trademark Saare are also here to stay. Sääsk has confirmed that the change in the ownership of the company is likely to benefit the company as it brings it closer to its core clientele in Germany and the rest of Europe.
New fields of activity for the company include winter maintenance and storage of the yachts where there are also many German clients already.
Sääsk reported that although the market of sailboats has taken a downturn, Saare Yachts will continue operations with its expanded family of yacht models:
‘The years 2015 and 2016 were quite similar for us in terms of output. We mainly sold the Saare 38 and also brought a new model, the Saare 46, onto the market. The market in sailboats continues to suffer a downturn with no signs of real recovery. In 2016, an additional blow came from Brexit. The Finnish market is also quiet’ he explains.
‘In 2016, we got a new owner − someone with many years of distribution experience in Germany. This is important for us, as Germany is our primary market. We plan to continue to develop the Saare product family, and in addition we are focusing on winter storage- and maintenance/repair works. We hope to offer those services particularly on the Finnish market,’ he goes on.
Last summer, Saare Yachts put its biggest model to date on to the sea − 46-foot Saare SC which was a custom-made order. This is a new model of Saare, which was presented at the Hanseboot trade fair in Hamburg and will also be exhibited in Düsseldorf. The company hopes that with a favourable response, this model is set to become their new success story.