Hatteras Yachts, Knit Wits
Nearly 60 years ago, Hatteras Yachts leapt to the forefront of the big-game sportfishing industry with the introduction of the very first fiberglass boat over 40-feet in length. Named Knit Wits, the 41-foot “convertible” was the brain child of textile magnet Willis Slane of Highpoint, North Carolina. She rolled out of the shed in 1960.
“Slane was a member of the Marlin Club over in Cape Hatteras,” says Joe Cacopardo, Director of Marketing for Hatteras/Cabo Yachts. “He was pretty well off and he and his buddies all had wooden fishing boats. But the seas off Hatteras can be pretty rough much of the year and Slane found himself sitting at the dock waiting out the weather quite a bit. He decided he wanted to build a boat that could take on the heavy seas without breaking and decided to try the new ‘miracle fiber’ called fiberglass. It was real space-age stuff at that time.”
Amazingly enough, Slane encountered a bit of hesitation when he told people he wanted to build a boat out of fiber-glass. People thought the material was actual glass and didn’t think that would make a very strong bottom! Slane eventually talked some investors into taking the gamble and was soon set on building a solid fiberglass boat that could take a beating and keep on fishing.
“That first boat was a convertible,” says Cacopardo, “Which meant that you could have the luxury yacht experience and still get out and fish when you wanted to. That whole seakeeping ability and robustness still represents our core philosophy to this day, in both our sportfishers and motor yachts. We’ve never built wooden boats. Hatteras became very dominant in the 60s and 70s by taking that leap in fiberglass. It was one of the things that reshaped and moved the industry forward to where it is today.”
Cacopardo acknowledges that a Hatteras might be a bit heavier but that the tunnel design, gear ratios and propulsion systems offset any disadvantages of weight, while keeping all the advantages that weight can bring. “Our captains tell us that in 6-footers they can put the hammer down and power through while other boats have to back off or get beat up. Our boats can handle it. Some others might be lighter and have a higher top end in the flat, but when there’s a sea change we can handle it…and handle it well.”
Hatteras continues to build exceptional, yacht-quality sportfishers to this day and is now working with Chris and Laura Jessen on a new 65 Convertible. “The Jessen’s will also be fishing and campaigning the Hatterascal in several Gulf Coast tournaments this summer. The new 65 will represent a new generation for us, at least from a styling and design standpoint. However, it will still contain our core DNA; ruggedly-built boats with meticulous attention to detail,” says Cacopardo. “All those things will stay the same, but the designs will continue to evolve to meet people’s tastes as they change in the future.”
As a testament to how solid a Hatteras is built, you can still go take a ride on the original Knit Wits at the factory in New Bern, North Carolina…and she looks amazing.
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