Nimbus founders Hans and Lars Wiklund on the rise and fall of their beloved brand and the development of their latest venture, Epoca
It is glistening cold and the harbour is nearly covered in a thin layer of ice. Only a few yachts are out on the water. At the shipyard, just a few hundred meters from the headquarters of Nimbus in Långedrag, the blue Epoca flag is raised.
Since 2008, when the Wiklund brothers sold their shares in the yacht company they had founded, this is where they have been, in a newly built office with a private pier. With a view over the Rivöfjord and the industrial dockland, the rooms’ interiors are lined with models of old ocean liners from the Sweden-America line, the walls covered by Gösta Werner collections of modern maritime paintings.
Hans and Lars Wiklund have a significant role in the history of Swedish yacht craftsmanship, have lived their lives both surrounded and influenced by it. “This has been our hobby our entire lives,” says Hans. “When I was young I worked as a test driver for Volvo Penta, raced quite a bit and competed in offshore racing. So, in hindsight, it was no surprise it was our destiny to develop yachts.”
The Borg effect
Nimbus, which was destined to become Scandinavia’s biggest boatbuilder, began with the development of the Nimbus 26 – designed by Pelle Petterson on request from Volvo Penta and the brothers’ father, Harald, who needed motorboats in which to fit his Volvo Penta engines. “It was fairly quick to make changes in the airframe, and so we developed Nimbus 800 Turbo, which was a huge success,” says Lars. Tennis ace Björn Borg, the biggest star in Sweden at the time, was brought on board to help market the yacht following a fortuitous meeting between Lars and the tennis player’s manager, Mark McCormack, during Lars’ America’s Cup campaign back in 1977. Borg was signed as the official face for the new yacht company. Every deal has its price, and this one involved allowing Borg use of the Nimbus 800 one summer. “It became a world sensation. He was a true mega star and overnight we went from being a small shipyard in Sweden to being famous across Europe. Björn Borg is an amazing person – he opened up the markets for us. Every summer he got a yacht from us, and in the autumn each year, we sold that yacht at a higher price, just because it had been his yacht. It was a very good deal for us,” Hans recalls.
That was a long time ago, but history has a way of repeating itself. The shipyard crisis of the 1970s has since revisited the Swedish marine industry.
NOTE: This is an excerpt from the story included in the June-July issue of IBI magazine. The article is a translated and edited version of an article by Richard Bråse that first appeared in the march edition of swedish magazine Dagens Industri. The article has been reproduced with permission from the author and Dagens Industri.
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