Entrepreneur relaunches iconic speedboat

A South West entrepreneur is relaunching the iconic British sports boat, which he recalls 'dreaming of owning' when he was growing up in Devon.

After buying the moulds and brand rights for Phantom Sports Boats two years ago, Plymouth-based Iain Johnson is now putting the finishing touches to his demonstrator boat and preparing to market his range internationally.

The 16 and 18-foot speedboats are being built in Falmouth and Iain has been supported by Plymouth University’s Marine Innovation Centre (MARIC) to get his business off the ground.

MARIC was set up with support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with the aim of making the South West’s marine and maritime businesses globally competitive. MARIC works with new and existing marine businesses, inventors and entrepreneurs, giving them access to expertise, facilities, networks and funding.

Iain met the MARIC team just as he was starting the business. MARIC supported him in securing ERDF funding through South West Composites Gateway and also put him in touch with Falmouth Marine School, who he collaborated with on manufacturing and tooling and on building his first boat. The MARIC team has also supported Iain as he has carried out design and safety testing work to get his boats ready for the market.

The original Phantom Sports Boats were built from the 1960s until the 1990s, and were extensively used in Offshore Power Boat racing where they gained an enviable reputation for excellent handling even in the roughest of seas. 

The first model that will be launched in spring 2016 is the 18 foot Phantom Venom. Iain has had the boats extensively redesigned above the water line by an experienced boat designer, but has also borrowed heavily from the car industry. He explained:

“I researched lots of new boats being launched, and was not excited or inspired by what I saw. The marine market is very much one of evolution rather than revolution, and I wanted to create a boat that was revolutionary and that people would be excited to own”. 

As well as re designing the new boat, Iain has researched how to modernise their production by using new materials and technologies. They are built by resin infusion process, which is much quicker than more traditional methods, taking just a week instead of a month, and produces a much stronger boat. Each will be made to order, allowing customers to specify colour and design preferences.

Iain Johnson said:

“I have fond memories of watching Phantom boats from the beach at Salcombe in the late 80s. I am proud to be getting these iconic boats back on the water, with some changes to make them stronger and faster and more appealing to today’s boat market. MARIC has been instrumental in me getting to this stage. Plymouth University is a fantastic institution that is doing a lot with businesses and I plan on keeping the relationship going as the business grows. Phantom Sports Boats will be an international business, with about 75 per cent of the boats being exported, but I am committed to hand-building the boats locally, working with nearby suppliers where possible. There is such a strong skill set in the South West–it is a great place to start a marine business.”

Deborah Burhouse of MARIC said:

“Iain’s dedication and openness to new ideas should be celebrated, as he has done a great job turning this dream into a real business. Working with the MARIC team, Iain took full advantage of the support on offer; realising the value in engaging with education and the fantastic marine networks available in the South West.”
GAIN (the Growth, Acceleration and Investment Network) connects Plymouth University with businesses through centres like MARIC. Head of GAIN Adrian Dawson said:

“Phantom Sports Boats is an exciting new business, which is making the most of the talent and expertise across our region. The impressive progress that Iain has made in a short space of time is testament to his hard work and determination as well as the range of support he has been able to tap into from the University.”

To find out more about Phantom Sports Boats.