Australian boatbuilder seeks Florida facility

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An Australian superyacht builder is looking at a boatyard in Merritt Island, Fla., to build lightweight sailing yachts that would use new fiberglass technology developed by a Brevard County composites company.

"The next step is to negotiate the facility and to acquire the facility," Capt. Ronald LePard, operations manager for Evolution Yachts USA, the company's U.S. sales office, told the Florida Today newspaper. "The biggest thing we'd have to tackle is getting the permits to do what we want to do, which is basically new sailboats and powerboats."

Evolution Yachts has been assisted by Structural Composites president Scott Lewit, whose company recently was awarded a $245,000 state grant to help transition boat designs and improve composite construction technology developed for the government to the commercial market.

Founded in 2003, Evolution Yachts builds multimillion-dollar luxury yachts in Australia and China. The company hopes to use Structural Composites' technology to create an environmentally friendly manufacturing process and improve fuel efficiency.

"That's our main goal," LePard told the newspaper. "It's our belief that boat manufacturers have not kept up with changing times and changes in the way boats are used, the way boats look and who's buying the boats. We think there's going to be a shift back toward more economically run vessels."

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