A Steady Course

Will Keene, president of Edson Corp., discusses developments in products and the yachting industry with Yachting magazine.

Will Keene Edson

Will Keene, president of Edson Corp., started with the 152-year-old company in 1979. We caught up with Keene at the Newport Boat Show to talk about the developments he's seen in his products and the industry during his tenure.

The Wheels: "When I started here 32 years ago, the requirement for a steering pedestal was one speed; the biggest boats we did at the time were 70 feet, maybe 80. Recently we've launched Hetairos [a 197-foot Baltic custom ketch]. So we've gone from a single-speed steering system on the smaller boats to a three-speed steering system on Hetairos — that's quite a change."

The Range: "Radar mounts came in the mid '80s and the davits came in a little bit earlier, and one of the things to happen was we bought a foundry in 1981. Because davits were aluminum casting they fit our foundry perfectly, so we made them ourselves. Then we got an order from Defender Industries — they said, 'We would like you to make a pedestal 8 feet long with a pedestal base on either end. We've got a customer that wants to mount a radar on it.' And I said, 'Bingo, we've got a foundry; we can make all the castings; that's right up our alley.'"

The Power Shift: "Back in 1985 I started getting information as to the size of the different markets, and there was a number that said something in the neighborhood of 95 to 97 percent of boats being manufactured were power and the rest were sail. I thought, 'How do we grow 3 to 5 percent of the total market? Why not go after the rest of it?' Radar towers and davits, they could go power and sail. Back in the '60s we made a powerboat wheel, which wasn't very elegant. So we did a redesign of that wheel and started adding these anodized wheels to our product line. A couple of the high-end boatbuilders saw them and they said, 'Whoa, we've got to have that,' and all of a sudden these wheels went from an unknown to this cult status. We were shipping thousands of wheels a month. It got to be a really big business."