Honda Marine and H2O Sports Mfg. are reviving the Trophy brand as a new line of center consoles powered by Honda engines.
Honda Marine builds 4-stroke outboards, and H2O Sports Mfg., established about a year and a half ago, builds Clearwater Sport Fishing Boats, Cape Craft Sport Fishing Boats and Outcast Skiffs.
Under the agreement, H2O will produce a new Trophy line powered by Honda engines. The companies say the Trophy models will be manufactured with all-new tooling and will incorporate the latest boatbuilding technology.
The Trophy lineup, which will feature wood-free construction, initially will consist of four V-bottom boats: the 1800SVK, 2000SVK, 2200SVK and 2400SVK. Production of these models is projected to begin this summer at the H2O facility in Americus, Ga.
Honda will supply H2O with outboards from its midrange BF Series (BF40, BF50, BF60, BF75, BF90 and BF100) and high-power BF Series (BF115, BF135, BF150, BF200, BF225, and BF250) as original equipment.
The new venture will provide customers and dealers with “great value and outstanding quality in the skiff segment,” says Mark DiPietro, senior manager at Honda Marine. “With class-leading performance, outstanding fuel efficiency and reliability, Honda Marine engines will be power-matched for optimal performance for the new Trophy line of boats.”
After less than two years in business, H2O Sports Mfg. is expanding its operation and hiring more workers to meet the demand for its Clearwater and Cape Craft brands.
Founded in 2014, H2O has more than 30 dealers in the Southeast and says it plans to double the size of its network within the next year. The company says it is also expanding its manufacturing and employee footprint.
H20 Sports founders Chad Roberson and his father-in-law, Charles Baker, bought the brands after spending several years working for a different boat manufacturer. They already have 25 dealers and expect that number to double this summer.
H2O is working with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and local and state agencies to move its manufacturing operations into an upgraded 500,000-square-foot facility that puts a rehabilitated brownfield site back into use. The company says the addition of the Trophy line to the current H2O lineup is expected to create 30 new jobs by the end of the year.
“In January 2015 we built one boat,” Roberson says. “Now we’re building 10 boats a week. We’ve got 52 people working in the plant now, and we’re looking to hire 30 by the end of the calendar year.”
Roberson says the company has only been able to quickly ramp up production because of the pool of highly skilled boatbuilders they have attracted to the company. “We’re up to 10 boats a week, and we can only do it with the heart and drive and skill set of good people,” he says.
Design engineer Chris Smith says he has worked with many of the workers for years. “We wouldn’t be able to make any of this happen without them,” Smith says. “They make us look good.”
The company recently bought the Trophy trademark and brand, which Brunswick Corp. had let lapse. “The name went dead,” Roberson says. “We just bought the trademark to the name and the rights.”
They chose Trophy because it has brand recognition, he says, but no molds or tooling came with it. The company is taking the brand in a new direction, although Roberson says it will remain price-competitive.
“What we’re doing is we’re developing a full line of skiffs, and the reason we’re doing that is because as far as outboard saltwater boats, that’s the No. 1-registered boat in the United States,” Roberson says.
The team decided to build the Trophy brand as a full line of skiffs because only one other builder offers a full line.
“It is a different segment [than Trophy originally was in], but we have momentum from what H20 has already established with skiffs, and we’ve got the Honda machine behind this project,” says Roberson. “This really is the largest outboard saltwater segment.”
Smith also has spent the bulk of his career in that segment. The boat will be in high demand because it will incorporate several features not typically seen on boats from 18 to 24 feet, including a console with a walk-in head, he says.
“There will be lots of live storage space and things you wouldn’t find on many boats, much less a skiff, this size,” Smith says. “The hull we’re running here, it’s not a traditional skiff. It’s more of a mix of traditional skiff flat hull and a bay hull. It gives a tighter lift and a smoother ride. The traditional skiff has a very flat bow, and you have wave impact. The center of this hull is actually a V bay hull. It softens our entry.”
Smith says the boat also has features that will make it comfortable for aging baby boomers who previously enjoyed bass boats.
“It’s traditional on the coast, but it’s also accepted in lake markets,” he says. “My guess is what’s going to happen is, America’s aging, and the guy that might have bought a bass boat when he was 55 or 58 years old, at 65 years old, does he really want to crawl in and out of one? A skiff is good in shallow waters, easy to get in and out of.”
This type of boat also is user-friendly for the family. “I’m 45,” Smith adds. “Instead of paying $70,000 for a bass boat that only I can use and can only use one or two weekends a month, the skiff will have a universal appeal. And it’s a good freshwater, brackish and saltwater boat.”
Both anticipate that the boat will be popular in the Northeast. They added a sales representative to expand the dealer network in that region.
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue.