Jeff Carroll: First, how are things at Nautique?
Bill Yeargin: Thanks for asking, Jeff, we are doing great.
The boating market in the US and Western Europe is still soft but we have a great business model and have adapted to the current conditions. We have been spending a lot of time developing the Nautique brand in international markets which has kept me and our international sales team on the road quite a bit. Our efforts have resulted in over 30 new international dealers which gives us representation in fifty-five countries.
We have also been investing heavily in product development, employee development and process improvement. No matter how good we are we want to be significantly better. We have an amazing company culture and are blessed to have the best dealers and employees in the industry, by far.
We are all excited about the future!
Jeff Carroll: Nautique executed an outstanding build-up to the release of this boat. I have never seen such buzz about a product in the watersports industry before. Did it go as you expected?
Bill Yeargin: Our marketing team did an outstanding job developing and executing the launch plan for the G23. I have had several people tell me that they have never seen anything like it in our industry. As I worked with our team on the launch I came to expect big things and our team delivered.
I know a lot of people have talked about the roll-out but there is one important point that is key to understanding why our team did such a great job planning and executing the product launch. They TRULY believed in this boat.
Jeff Carroll: Were you worried the hype was getting to be too much?
Bill Yeargin: No, I wasn’t. I knew the G23 was an amazing boat. However, I did have several industry friends ask me during the rollout if we were setting Nautique up for a fail by so dramatically building up expectations. Funny thing is that I heard the same comments during the rollouts of both the Ski Nautique 200 and the Sport Nautique 200. Those boats both delivered and I knew the G23 would too.
Greg: Our focus was to build a great product and then tell the world about it. The Super Air Nautique G23 is worthy of all the hype!!
Jeff Carroll: You must have been pretty confident in the fact that you had an outstanding product. What can you tell us about the design work, testing, and preparation for the release of this new boat?
Bill Yeargin: Jeff, this project goes back nearly three years. It started with a meeting that included our entire team of wake athletes working with our internal team to list everything that would be needed to create what would indisputably be the world’s best wake boat. Our design and engineering team then went to work with the list and built a prototype. The prototype was repeatedly modified in an effort to make the boat better and better. The Nautique athletes came to the plant to test the boat after every modification. There were some big wins and some setbacks but in the end it was a great process that created an incredible boat.
Jeff Carroll: Where had the pro athletes been before flying into the airport for the reveal?
Bill Yeargin: They were at our top secret Team Nautique training facility in Central America… Actually they weren’t; but I think we will just keep where they were one of the mysteries of the unveiling…
Jeff Carroll: I heard that the number of people trying to get information about this new boat actually crashed the nautique.com website! That's incredible. PlanetNautique also had record traffic that night, and the thread about the G23 is one of our busiest threads ever, currently at 49 PAGES LONG and over 500 posts! That thread has been viewed almost 43,000 times as of right now. Did you have any idea that there would be this level of interest?
Bill Yeargin: We knew there would be significant interest and prepared for it. However, frankly, the interest was overwhelming and it crashed the website. We were disappointed the website crashed but were happy that so many people wanted to learn about this amazing boat. If anyone missed the webcast and would like to see it they can check out the video section of Nautique.com.
Jeff Carroll: How in the world did you work on this boat for as long as you did and have virtually no leaks of information or pictures? With such an exciting product, it seems that someone would have talked. How did you keep people quiet?
Bill Yeargin: The athletes, dealers, and employees who worked on this project were incredibly committed to its success and this is just one of the many ways we all worked together. It is one more sign of the amazing team we have at Nautique.
Greg Meloon: One thing that helped with confidentiality was that we never referred to the boat by its length and only provided vendors with the information that they needed to see. The team working on the docking light received one cubic foot of the boat and projection angles. This was true for every vendor that worked on the project. Very few people were able to see the entire boat until it was unveiled. It is not that they we don’t trust anyone, but it is a small industry and it is easy for information to migrate during communication on a project. Lots of people knew that something was coming; just not what was coming or how big.
Shaun Murray: When you have something with the potential to so dramatically change our sport, it makes you want to keep it to yourself and enjoy one huge impacting moment; and that is what the big reveal was about. Sure, we wanted to tell everyone that we had something that had never been seen before, but it made it that much sweeter when we kept it to ourselves for the big day.
Jeff Carroll: Shaun Murray refers to the Super Air Nautique G23 as a game changer in the world of wakeboarding. What makes this boat not only great, but a game changer, and how are those advancements achieved?
Shaun Murray: People have used terms like this in the sport and other arenas to the point that it has been watered down. When we started using the term, people were so jaded by overuse elsewhere that it made them think it was purely marketing hyperbole; they didn't want to believe that we really had something that has never been seen before. The wake is so big that it will be a game changer. It honestly gives you extra time in the air to add the extra 180 on tricks you didn't think you could previously do. I've seen multiple riders already doing new tricks behind the G23 that they couldn't do behind any other boat.
Jeff Carroll: Shaun, will you have a G23 at your wakeboarding camp, The Boarding School? If so, when? If you do have a G23 at the camp, do you expect the other boat to get much use?
Shaun Murray: I suspect we will eventually have one there, but that is for Bill and Greg to answer… I know when we do it will be a crowd favorite!
Bill Yeargin: Shaun was key to this project so I am pretty sure we will get a G23 out to The Boarding School before long. However, the initial orders have been overwhelming; we already have way more orders than we can build but as soon as we can arrange it Shaun will get whatever he needs!
Jeff Carroll: Let's talk a bit about the ballast in this new boat. 2—8—5—0. Really? 2,850 pounds of factory-installed under-floor ballast?!? That is unheard of in the industry. What allows this boat to hold all of that ballast? Can you tell us how the ballast system is designed and laid out? Are there hard tanks, bladders, a bunch of milk jugs, or…. How is the ballast distributed? How does it fill, and is it integrated into the LINC System?
Greg Meloon: The ballast system has been incorporated into a completely new structural design. Large fiberglass tanks are built as a structural component of the stringer system and these cavities are lined with bladders to control the water. The ballast system is controlled by LINC 2.0 with user profiles imbedded from the factory that can be customized by the owner.
Jeff Carroll: Another new term we're seeing is Nautique Configurable Running Surface. What is that?
Greg Meloon: The Nautique Configurable Running Surface (NCRS) system is an active vessel control system that uses the Nautique Hydroplate to control the attitude of the boat based on user setting, ballast levels, and dynamic conditions. By controlling the boat’s running angle, the NCRS system aids in planing, keeps the boat on plane in tight turns, and reduces bow rise for improved visibility. NCRS also functions as a wake shaping device. By varying the NCRS Set Point from 0 to 5 the user can transform the wake from a rounded mellow ramp to a pro level lip in seconds.
Jeff Carroll: What is the Hydro-Plate? I hear that it is automatically controlled by the LINC system based on the settings chosen for each rider. Is that correct? Does it help keep the boat on plane during tight turns? Is it manually-controllable as well?
Greg Meloon: The Hydroplate is a designed-in part of the running surface. The NCRS system controls the Hydroplate automatically based on the user/driver settings, ballast levels, and dynamic conditions. Although there is no manual adjustment, there are three settings available to the user, Auto Deploy On/Off, NCRS Intensity (Low/High depending on ballast load), and NCRS Set Point (0-5). Auto Deploy allows the NCRS system to aid in planing and helps keep the boat on plane in tight turns. The NCRS Intensity setting allows the user to adjust how much the Hydroplate deploys during the Auto Deploy event. The NCRS Set Point allows the user to tune the wake shape by choosing the final position of the Hydroplate once the desired speed is reached.
Jeff Carroll: I have heard some people expressing concerns about this large, heavy boat being offered with the Excalibur 343 HP engine. Does that engine truly provide enough power for this boat? Do you expect most people to order this boat with the 409 or the 450? Do you expect many XS-550-equipped G23's to be sold? The boats I have been in with the XS-550 (a 230 and a G23) have incredible power!
Greg Meloon: The Excalibur 343 was tested in the G23 and found to provide sufficient thrust with the factory ballast system filled. We anticipate that many G23 customers will specify one of the 6.0L based engines.
Jeff Carroll: One of the things I really noticed when riding in the G23 earlier this week was the way it handled rough water (crossing back over its own massive wake, running double-ups, etc.). It was very evident that this boat handles rough water significantly better than your competitors’ boats. How in the world did you make that happen?
Greg Meloon: It was very important to the team that the boat would ride well through double-ups. Many features of the hull work together to accomplish a great wake and the incredible rough water ride. Regarding how we do it… well, we can't give away all of our secrets.
Shaun Murray: I will tell you that Greg Meloon and I spent a lot of time walking around boat shows crawling under big cruiser boats that we knew had a smooth ride. We studied some of the characteristics that we thought made them handle rough water better because we wanted a boat that wasn't fazed by gigantic double ups. The time we spent crawling around boat shows was well spent!
Jeff Carroll: Are the stringers and hull built in a similar fashion to other Nautique boats?
Greg Meloon: The Super Air Nautique G23 has a molded fiberglass stringer system which is bonded into the hull. The deck is then fastened to the hull at the shear and bonded to the stringer creating an extremely rigid assembly. The stringer system not only forms structure for the hull but creates finished storage compartments with no carpeting covering the bottom surface to collect moisture.
Jeff Carroll: How can this boat have less draft than a 230, yet weigh significantly more?
Greg Meloon: The deepest parts of the both the 230 and G23 hulls are the prop and rudder. The G23 hull has a unique shape, even though is sits a bit deeper in the water at the tracking fin, the prop and rudder are not as deep as the 230 with the ballast empty.
Jeff Carroll: Why is there only one stabilizing fin?
Greg Meloon: We tested various possibilities and the single fin best balances the dynamic forces in turning on the G23 hull. Our main goal may have been to create the best wake possible, but the boat still had to drive like a Nautique.
Jeff Carroll: In the videos we have seen so far, the wake looks simply amazing. Was extra ballast used while shooting these videos? How much extra ballast can this boat hold? What is the limiting factor as far as extra ballast (gunnel height, storage space, engine power, etc.)?
Greg Meloon: The hull was designed to overcome many short comings of existing wakeboard boats. The large wake created by the G23 is a result of its unique hull and along with the 2850 pound factory ballast creates a wake that is larger out of the box than other towboats do with a "pro" ballast load. The wake in the launch videos was created with factory ballast, 5-6 people and 1400 pounds of additional ballast to make up for only having so few people on the boat. The limiting factor will be the rider!
Bill Yeargin: It has been interesting to see how people who were not involved in the development of the boat have viewed the wake since the G23 introduction. One respected industry wake boarder told me he would be afraid to have more than factory ballast in the boat. Another indication of the wake is how the G23 is being used in this weekend’s Nautique Wake Games. We are using factory ballast for all the competitors except Pro Men. Even the Pro Ladies will be competing with factory ballast. Finally, you have probably noted that the magazine reviews written so far on the boat mention how amazing the wake is with just factory ballast.
Jeff Carroll: The G23 is a tall boat. What's the height with the tower folded down on a standard trailer? How much do I need to extend my door height to fit it in my garage?
Greg Meloon: Several trailer manufacturers are currently designing trailers for the G23. It would be safe to say that a 9 foot plus garage door height will be required but this will depend on the trailer you choose.
Jeff Carroll: One thing I heard Shaun commenting on quite a bit was the ability to ride behind this boat at a slower speed and still have a clean wake. Why is that possible with this boat?
Shaun Murray: Honestly, that was a very pleasant surprise that came out of our extensive testing. Behind my 230 I normally ride at 24 mph at 80', which is quite a bit slower than most riders. Average is about 24.6. I'm riding the G23 at 23.2 at 80' right now which makes falls much easier.
Bill Yeargin: I wake skate at 21 and can tell you the G23 has a perfectly clean wake at that speed with or without ballast.
Jeff Carroll: How slow can you go and still have a clean wake?
Bill Yeargin: I was wake skating as slow as 20 mph and the wake was very clean… I am sure you can reduce the speed even below that.
Jeff Carroll: Can you explain why pro-level riders might want to ride at a slower speed?
Shaun Murray: Easier falls, bigger wake, wider from takeoff to landing which equals more hang time.
Jeff Carroll: Is this boat a good choice for people with young children who want to learn to wakeboard?
Bill Yeargin: The boat was designed to be able to pull all skills of riders at any speed. However, I would teach them with the ballast tanks empty!
Jeff Carroll: How did you come up with the G23 name?
Bill Yeargin: The long version includes two market research firms and lots of brainstorming sessions. The shorter version is that in the end the name came out of a meeting with our athletes just a couple months ago.
Shaun Murray: Gray was the initial code name that we came up with for the project so it was somewhat of homage to it. A while ago when we were brainstorming names, I suggested the boat be called the Genesis to represent the new beginning and call it the G3. I was close.
Jeff Carroll: Should we be looking for a Murray Icon Edition G23 anytime soon?
Bill Yeargin: Well…. That’s a good idea…. I guess we will have to wait and see…
More seriously, Shaun played an incredibly important role in the development of this boat. He worked as hard as anyone and was involved in all the details. This boat could not have been built without Shaun. While there are no current plans for one, there is no one who would deserve an Icon G23 more than Shaun.
Jeff Carroll: Is the 230 going away?
Bill Yeargin: Absolutely not. The 230 is an outstanding boat that will continue to evolve in our product line. The 230 has a different styling and is very attractive to many buyers. It has been our second biggest selling model this year, it is not going anywhere.
Jeff Carroll: Any other G-series boats coming soon?
Bill Yeargin: Hmmm… seems like a logical question that I probably don’t want to answer just yet. I will say that there is a fast growing segment of the towboat market that currently does not have a Nautique boat. If I was trying to guess what Nautique is doing next I would probably look there…
Greg Meloon: The G23 best represents a new beginning for wakeboard boats. Of course there is more to come...
Jeff Carroll: Before we end, a few questions on other topics. First, any new news on the electric boats?
Bill Yeargin: As you know we have already introduced two prototype electric boats; a ski boat and a wakeboard boat.
For some context, we believe it is important to continue development of these boats for a couple reasons. First, it is an R&D project that helps us develop our creative thinking in lots of areas while energizing (no pun intended) our team. Secondly, and more pragmatically, we believe electric boats will be much more prevalent in the future and we want to lead our industry (which we are clearly doing) in their development.
So, we are continuing to work on the development of these boats and hope to have them available for sale at some point in the future. We don’t want to get pinned down on exactly when yet but we are excited about the potential of these boats and will continue working on them.
Jeff Carroll: Some people have asked why Nautique does not have clamping board racks. Any plans for them?
Greg Meloon: Our team is constantly evaluating new products. As part of this process we have looked at some clamping board racks but to date none meet our standards for durability, impact on boards, and safety.
Jeff Carroll: I couldn’t help but notice that at the launch event Bill mentioned “Nautique Cares” in both his pre-event interview and in his closing comments. I have also read about some of the things you are doing related to this in his Nautique Insider blog. Is there anything you would like to say about “Nautique Cares”?
Bill Yeargin: “Nautique Cares” is an important part of our culture.
We are VERY fortunate at Nautique that we use our profits to support organizations all over the planet that are working to make the world better. We are not working for a private equity firm that is trying to make the books look good so it can turn the company over to another buyer. Our goals are first to do the right thing even if it costs in the short run and then use the fruits of our labor to help support organizations who are making the world better.
As part of “Nautique Cares” we are also getting employees personally involved. Every year I lead groups of employees to places around the world where we can help. We have worked in the scorching sun to build homes for the needy in Mexico and on the Apache reservation in Arizona. We have worked in a shelter for homeless teen mothers in Nicaragua and built beds for the poor in Guatemala. Last year I took a group of employees to Ethiopia where we learned about ways we can help Project Mercy, an organization there that is changing the lives of Ethiopians.
Locally we have supported organizations in Central Florida like Give Kids the World and the Coalition for the Homeless. Last year our company paid for a Habitat for Humanity House for a needy family and our employees volunteered personal time to help build it.
At Nautique we have an amazing group of people who really care.
Jeff Carroll: Nautique has developed quite an outstanding track record. Besides the well-known historical innovations and success of your company you seem to have hit home runs with both the Ski Nautique 200 and the Sport Nautique 200. Now that the G23 is off to such a great start where do you go from here?
Bill Yeargin: Jeff, we are just getting started. We have some very exciting projects in the works. We are obsessed about continually improving and will never be content.
Jeff Carroll: Are there any other interesting things about the G23 or going on at Nautique that you would like to comment on?
Greg Meloon: Regarding the G23, there are so many incredible details that have been incorporated into the design of the boat. It is obvious that the boat was created by athletes, designers and engineers that actually use the products they build. The only way to really appreciate the boat is to spend some time in it!
Bill Yeargin: On behalf of the entire Nautique team of athletes, employees, dealers and suppliers I would like to thank Planet Nautique members and all Nautique owners for their incredible loyalty. Our market research consistently demonstrates that Nautique has the most loyal owners in the boating industry and we do not take that for granted. We appreciate your loyalty. The trust Nautique owners place in us drives us to be even better.
On behalf of Greg, Shaun and myself, thanks for the chance to share our thoughts on the new G23 and the other items we discussed. We appreciate the opportunity and, again, appreciate all of the Nautique enthusiasts who participate on Planet Nautique. Enjoy the Nautique life!