The story begins in 1975. Rod, then an ad salesman for the sailing trade magazine, Soundings, and an active one-design sailor decided to build a sailboat he had been designing since completing a Westlawn School of Yacht Design correspondence course in the 60’s. With $400-worth of fiberglass and wood, some rigging and hardware left over from a Soling of Bob’s, he built the 24’ x 9’ wide RAGTIME on weekends in his garage at his home in Stonington, Connecticut. During the summer of 1976, with an all family crew aboard, RAGTIME beat everything in sight. Rod realized he had created something special. Enter Everett Pearson, co-founder of Pearson Yachts, and owner of TPI Composites, Inc.. He was quite taken with Rod’s design and agreed to produce the boat on spec in return for the U.S. building rights. Display ads in Soundings got the word out. That winter they set up a makeshift factory in an old textile mill in nearby Fall River, MA. Enter the marketing experience of brother Bob, a vice president of marketing at AMF/Alcort (the makers of Sunfish sailboats at the time). He saw the potential in the boat Rod had designed. From 1975 to 1977, Bob had helped to take Alcort from the red into the black, and then began trying to convince AMF to start producing a boat similar to the J/24. But, he says, in spite of overwhelming market research results showing 50% purchase intent in a boat like the J/24 , AMF really didn’t care anything about gaining share of market or investing any more in sailing. In 1977, Bob left AMF and threw in his lot with J/Boats. With Rod contributing the design and his prototype ‘Ragtime’ and Bob investing $20,000 to cover start-up costs, office space, and advertising, their 50-50 partnership was launched. Expecting to sell 250 J/24s that first year, they sold 750. The next generation of Johnstones now mans the helm, while founders Rod and Bob continue to contribute in the areas of their strength, design and marketing. By 1992, Rod’s sons Jeff (president) & Alan (vice-president) and nephew Jim (sales director) were managing company operations & sales from J/Boats Headquarters in Newport, RI. with five of Bob & Rod’s sons (Jeff, Alan, Stu, Drake and Phil) on J/Boats, Inc. Board of Directors. More than 9000 J-Boats have been built. J/Boats, Inc. 557 Thames Street Newport, RI 02840 401.846.8410 www.jboats.com
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