HISTORY OF COLUMBIA YACHT CORPORATION

Columbia Yacht Corporation had its origin in 1960 when its current president, Richard V. Valdes, founded a small company known as Glas Laminates near the present site of Columbia's ultra-modern headquarters plant in Costa Mesa, California. At the age of 25, and with $8,000 in borrowed money, he built Columbia's predecessor company into a thriving business producing fiberglass camper tops, shower stalls, and chemical toilets. The company's entry into the sailboat business came in 1961 via the Islander 24, a model which generated sufficient orders at the Los Angeles and Chicago Boat Shows to exhaust the company's 5 production capacity for the balance of the year. From this modest beginning Columbia today enjoys the undisputed position of the largest sailboat producer in the world.

In 1962 the complete tooling was acquired for the Columbia 29, a highly successful model designed by Sparkman & Stephens. This fortuitous acquisition later led to Columbia's corporate name and distinctive emblem.

To reduce freight charges and better serve customers on the East Coast, Columbia Yacht Corporation opened its Eastern plant in 1964. Situated on a nine acre site at the edge of Portsmouth, Virginia, the eastern arm of the company was soon producing all of the Columbia models. One year later, Columbia was building the largest production fiberglass sailboat in existence -- the Columbia 50 designed by Bill Tripp -- and its phenomenal success, both in terms of dollar sales and major race wins, did much to solidify Columbia's position as Number One in the industry.

In 1967 Columbia became a subsidiary of the giant California based Whittaker Corporation. With the added financial stability, coupled with the technical and engineering resources of its new parent company, Columbia continued to strengthen its position of leadership in the sailboat industry. The company headquarters plant was moved to a 10 acre site in Southern California's S Irvine Industrial complex, which to this day is probably the most modern, progressive, and best equipped fiberglass boat building facility in the country.

Columbia recently embarked upon a successful kit-boat venture, producing component parts for 7 sailing models ranging in length from 22 to 57 feet - under the Sailcrafter Yachts Kits label. By appealing to the fast growing owner/builder segment of the market, Columbia has significantly broadened its appeal to the yachting public.

Columbia presently has one of the largest networks of foreign licensees of any U.S. boat builder. Under arrangements with leading local yacht builders, Columbia models are now produced in Canada, Australia, Japan, and Spain. Columbia's impressive record of race wins and its sizeable group of satisfied and enthusiastic owners tells the rest of Columbia's history.

 

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This page last modified October 17, 1998