The brainchild of Ted Irwin – who, as a child, developed a passion for sailing, designing and building sailing yachts – Irwin Yachts has been a global leader in sailing yachts geared towards racing and cruising since 1966.
Ted Irwin fell in love with sailing at the age of 7 when his family moved to the Tampa Bay area of Florida. At 15, he started building boats of his own design in his backyard. He was completely self-taught. Following his formal education, a stint in the Coast Guard, and a job as a draftsman, illustrator and part-time builder, he went out on his own and built his first commercial sailboat. He named this 31’ sailboat Voodoo, and went on to log a fantastic racing record over the next two years, winning 24 of 28 races between 1964 and 1966.
Ted took the knowledge he acquired in building high tech racing boats to build high performance cruising yachts. He incorporated as Irwin Yacht & Marine Corporation, and in 1966 he moved to the new site of the Irwin factory in St. Petersburg, FL. The original factory had only 12,500 square feet. It grew to over 75,000 square feet and over two hundred employees.
Ted’s innovative designs were a fusion of luxurious accommodations and easy sail handling in a fast hull. Irwin’s philosophy was simply to build a good boat for the money, making each one stylish and fast while also stable and comfortable. Irwin Yachts was the only major yacht manufacturer whose Research and Development Program used international yacht racing to test new designs and construction techniques.
Ted Irwin was the chief designer, company owner, and handles most of the research and development. He ran a very efficient operation, buying everything by the boxcar load, including fiberglass, winches and sails. Irwin Yacht also outright owned all of its land, factory and tools, eliminating the debt that led other manufacturers to charge higher prices for their vessels. Irwin strived to build everything possible in house, such as pedestals and masts, and even printed their own brochures.
What began as a 12,500-square-foot shipbuilding factory, Irwin Yachts gained popularity in the late 1990s for the thousands of sailing yachts it produced, and expanded to a 75,000 square-foot space, operated by more than 200 employees. Their impressive facilities can build up to fifteen yachts in production at one time. More impressive than anything else, however, is the brand’s dedication to racing.