Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc.
Roger already had considerable experience building composite racing boats, V8 parts and skis when he recognised an opening in the market for a locally designed and made trailerable fishing boat. He set his mind to the challenge and, after six years in development, the result was the “Veitch 27” – a fully trailerable, resininfused, composite game fishing boat. “A standard full licence allows you to operate a vehicle with a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of 4.5 tonnes. So I designed a boat that could fit a trailer just inside the legal width for towing. It is a fast boat with buoyancy at the top section to keep the bow up when diving into big Bass Strait swells,” said Roger.
From a startup in 2017, Veitch Boats soon attracted an equity partner in 2018 and now employs around 17 local people and six apprentices in technical boat building roles. The company operates from a 12,000 metre site overlooking wetlands and a wildlife reserve, both part of the environmentally significant Gippsland Lakes.
The company’s purpose-built boatbuilding facility includes three sheds – soon to be four – with ceiling heights of 10.5m. The factory is fitted out with three 3 axis CNC machines, five spray booths and three overhead cranes capable of lifting 10 tonnes. “The build started at the beginning of 2020 just as the pandemic was breaking. The teams worked frantically to finish the job which was completed in record time – we were all freaking out that the world was going to end,” said Roger.
The base model Veitch 27 can be bought for around $250,000, but optioned up the price can double. Roger likens his boats to high-tech drones: “Options include gyroscopic stabilisers that reduce rolling by sensing and automatically stabilizing orientation. The C-Zone switching system manages all things digital including autopilot, night vision systems, radar and even running operations with pre-set modes dialled in for cruising or fishing. Later this year, we’re launching a 23-footer using the same concepts.”
Spending on aquatic recreational endeavours and assets has exploded during the COVID-19 era. According to Roger, game fishing has attracted much of the spending and Veitch can’t keep up with the demand. Waiting time for delivery of a Veitch 27 has now stretched out to 18 months.
Roger sees no downside in operating his business in a regional location. “As a startup we could afford to buy our land and build a production facility that is fit for purpose. We have a ready pool of willing workers. Some have done a tree change and relocated from the city, others have knocked on our door keen to build boats. As a young company, most of our marketing communication is done through social media – we don’t need flashy showrooms,” advises Roger.
Boats such as the Veitch 27 and upcoming Veitch 23 are in high demand and the economy of Bairnsdale is growing in parallel.