History of Stiletto & Force Engineering
A quick summery of how Stiletto Catamarans came to be
Force Engineering was started in june of 1975 with the beginning of work on the factory proper. In the year and a half previous J.V. Cloud, retired manufacturer and builder, had been working with Bill Higgins on the final designand engineering of Stiletto.
Stiletto was conceived by Bill Hiiggins while working for Hobie Catas their Eastern U.S. sales representative. Bill detected the necessity for a boat that was anatural step for the 70,000 plus Hobie Cat enthusiasts. A boat that would allow them the performancethey were accustomed to, while giving them a dry ride androom for the rest of the family while carrying a head, galley and bunks for limited cruising. The boat had to be trailerable in order to have the utility necessary for the designconcept. Because of the readily trailerable feature the boat had to be light enough so that the average couple could assemble or disassemble it without help. For this reason it was necessary to utilize a construction material that was lighter than the currently available polyester/fiberglass construction methods. The material selected was preimpregnated epoxy fiberglass, cloth (prepreg) which is a thermoset epoxy that is kept frozen to retard the catalyzation process until time for use. The prepreg is placed over a nylon nomex honeycomb core, baked at 260 degrees in a 30x14x7 foot oven for an hour and a half under constant vacuume. This produces a light-weight composite structure laminate that is not only incredibly strong, but will float more than it,s own weight because of trapped airspace in the laminate, and is fire resistant. The composite structure has been used extensively in the aerospace industry for twenty years, but Force Engineering was the first and to date the only manufacturer to produce boats from the material.
With the final design and engineering done a prototype boat was produced using wet layup and honeycomb in order to prove the theory. The prototype was a success and the building of the factory was begun. Originally the financial backing of the Stiletto project was to be handled by a syndicate of Florida investors. Unfortunately the members suffered severely in the real estate crunch of 1975 and had to withdraw their support from the project. J.V. Cloud elected to finance the project in order to make it go. The constuction of the plant facility went smoothly although the constuction of the large epoxy high tempature tools ran afoul. Force was being aided by the largest plastics manufacturer in the U.S. by representatives who were on hand for the building of the tools. Unfortunatly the methodes that they recommended were incorrect and the first set of tooling, following two months work and expenditure of thousnads of dollars was a loss. There was some recovery from the plastics company, but the loss set the production of Stiletto far behind schedule and ate up much of the monies avalable for the start up costs. With new tooling built two boats were produced, one for shows and the other for testing. The boats took rigors of testing with flying colors. After several months of testing production was begun.
In the time that followed, Stiletto met with tremendous acceptance on the market. The boat was incredibly fast and impressively stylish. With much of the start up costs depleted with the tooling failures little money was available for the advertising and as such put Stiletto in a position of not generating enough sales. Conflicts between J.V. Cloud and Bill Higgins, stemming from differences in what appropriate business ethics entail, brought about the departure of Mr. Higgins in 1977. Since that time Force Engineering has continued to grow - changing sail makers in early 1978 which among other changes increased Stiletto's performance.
The boat has proven itself well - over 120 unites are sailing safely from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands, Mexico to Canada. The market for Stiletto is there, but needs a comprehensive marketing plan to stimulate a smooth production schedule year round.