THE EARLY YEARS
An Idea. Mike Vespoli unknowingly spent most of his early adult life preparing for his career as a boat builder and entrepreneur. From his time as a walk-on college rower at Georgetown University in 1964 to his victory as a member of the 1974 World Championship Eight, Mike was preparing to create a company that would become the “gold standard” in the rowing world.
During his rowing career, Mike found time to coach. His accomplishments include National Schoolboy Champions at St. Joe’s Prep in Philadelphia, coaching 2 consecutive Dad Vail Men’s 8 champions at UMass, and starting the Wichita State Rowing Program. Mike then moved to the upper echelon of college rowing where he coached his Yale crew to victory at the Eastern Sprints. During his years at Yale he found himself back on the international scene coaching the Light Men’s 8 to a silver medal at the ’79 Worlds and was appointed the ’80 Olympic head men’s sculling coach.
While working with top US athletes, Mike realized that world class equipment was needed in order for US crews to be successful at the Elite level. He also saw the need for small club programs, like UMass and Wichita State, to have affordable first-class equipment.
In 1977, fate and opportunity came together when Mike saw a revolutionary new boat at Henley-Upon-Thames. The history of American rowing shells would soon change.
The Beginning. Mike became the U.S. agent for Carbocraft Ltd, UK. Carbocraft was the first company to adapt aerospace materials and construction techniques to boat building. Their carbon fiber and honeycomb designs were significantly stiffer and lighter than any boat ever made.
After three years as Carbocraft’s agent, Mike realized importing boats led to unacceptable shortfalls in service. Customers were dissatisfied with fluctuating boat prices due to unpredictable exchange rates, an unreliable supply of spare parts, and uncertain delivery dates. In the summer of 1980, Mike decided to leave coaching to become a boat builder. By the fall, Mike had secured the rights to manufacture Carbocraft shells in the US and opened a 4,000-sq. ft. shop in Hamden, CT with his father and two employees. Production totaled 12 shells the first year. Today, the Company manufactures 12 shells per week!
1984 – 1986
Growing with the sport. By the mid 1980’s, Vespoli USA began to make a significant impact on both the US and the world rowing scene. At the Montreal World Championships, Vespoli boats were used by Denmark (gold) and Italy (silver) in the Light Men’s 8. In the United States, while Vespoli shells were winning races and setting new performance standards, Mike and his staff broke new ground in customer service by attending regattas, visiting programs, and conducting repair clinics.
In 1986, Vespoli USA built a new “state of the art” 19,000 square foot production facility in New Haven, CT. The original building has been expanded to over 33,000 square feet. This custom-built factory enables the Company to produce boats efficiently and cost effectively.
1987 – 1989
The results are in and refinements begin. Vespoli shells continued their leadership in 1987 with numerous high school and collegiate championships. That year, Vespoli achieved their greatest success to date when the US Men’s 8 rowed a Vespoli shell at the World Championships, winning their first Gold medal since 1974!
The following year, Vespoli USA initiated the most comprehensive rowing shell research ever. Utilizing the talents of America’s cup winning naval architect Bruce Nelson and hydrodynamics’ expert, Dr. Carl Scragg, Vespoli USA was the first to simulate shell movement in a tow tank with “unsteady” surge and pitch. The result was a state-of-the-art racing shell design that holds the only US patent for rowing shell hull design. Vespoli also pioneered the first complete line of size specific shells for women and light weight men.
1990 – 1996
More shells, more medals. Vespoli USA continued to improve the quality of their shells by bringing essential operations “in house” thereby maintaining control over the production of key components. The company added a machine shop, welding shop, paint prep room, finish spray booth with paint baking, CNC equipment, and a complete boat repair shop.
Vespoli introduced other major innovations in shell construction during this time, including the world’s first one piece pre-preg 8, “un-crushable” carbon channel ribs, “clear coat” on the all carbon interiors, non-cracking adhesives, carbon seat tops, Euro-style riggers, snap-on height washers, and new Euro pins.
In 1991, Vespoli USA became the first US boat builder to add a full time service team with the hiring of Dave Trond. Dave had a long and successful coaching history, which enabled him to understand the importance of the customers’ needs and feedback.
Vespoli USA’s exhaustive research and innovative hull designs were adapted to create a fleet of small boats. The great Polish single sculler Kajetan Broniewski won a bronze in ’91 and ‘92 in his Vespoli single and the US Women’s team won silver in the Barcelona Olympics in the new Vespoli “light displacement,” size specific Coxless Four. The following year at the 1993 World Championships in Prague the US Light Men’s coxless four rowed a Vespoli to win the US’s only gold medal ever attained in this event. The Chinese Women’s Quad also won gold in the new Vespoli hull. In 1996, the US Light Men rowed the LD four and won an Olympic Bronze in Atlanta. These outstanding results validated the effort and investment Vespoli USA put into the creation of new hull shapes, hull sizes and the use of high temperature composites.
1997 – 2000
Moving into a new Millennium. In 1997, Vespoli USA introduced the Millennium, a model made from 100% uni-directional, pre-preg carbon fiber. This new material and construction method increased shell stiffness by an incredible 33% with no increase in overall weight. This stiffness combined with the most advanced hull shapes in the world helped the US Men’s and Women’s teams collect an unprecedented number of medals from 1997-2000, including three consecutive World Championship gold’s by the US Men’s 8. In 2000, Great Britain pulled a stunning upset at the Sydney Olympics in a Vespoli Millennium 8 to win their country’s first gold medal in the eight in over 80 years! The Aussies took a very close second, also in a Vespoli Millennium.
These cutting edge hull designs and innovative use of high tech materials impacted all Vespoli USA racing shells, making high performance affordable for colleges, schools, clubs and individuals. Due to Mike’s original vision and to the investment in our staff, factory and production processes, Vespoli is able to offer boats at a price point well below those of the competition.
Vespoli’s commitment to service expanded nationally as more members were added to our full time sales and service team and strategically located throughout the US. The “Team Vespoli Vans” attend hundreds of rowing events annually and provide legendary Vespoli service to all.
In 1998, Vespoli USA offered another first: a 5 year “Bow to Stern” warranty. This warranty remains THE best in the industry! Every inch of the boat is covered from manufacturing defects for a five full years.
During the late 1990’s and into the new millennium the research program continued with the introduction of the fast, durable and affordable MATRIX line of small boats. MATRIX hulls have been specially sized for lightweight women, lightweight men and open weight rowers. These small boats have distinguished themselves with numerous wins in the championship events at the Head of the Charles and at the World Championships.
2000 and Beyond
The Next Frontier. As Vespoli USA moves into the future, the investment and development continues unabated.New production equipment and new alliances with the best and most advanced boat designers in the world are resulting in the fastest, most affordable boats in the world.
To lead our advanced design team into the future, Vespoli USA chose naval architect, Manolo Ruiz DeElvira, the principal designer of Alinghi, winner of the 2003 America’s Cup. Manolo has access to the most advanced hull design programs in the world and used them to design the V1 series, a line of boats that are faster and easier to row than anything else on the market today. With cutting edge computer technology, this new series of boats was designed in just 14 months and includes 5 totally new 8 oared hulls!
The Vespoli tradition of innovation and excellence continues to create new, better, standard setting products for rowing. Our commitment to build the fastest, highest quality rowing shells and support them with quality customer service grows stronger each year. Our company commitment to “speed, service and value” has made us “Number One” for the past twenty-five years. Team Vespoli’s daily commitment to these values will keep us “Number One” for the next twenty-five!