The original Columbia Yacht Corporation was founded as Glas Laminates in 1958 by Dick Valdes shortly after college. Glas Laminates, a fiberglass contract company, eventually focused its fiberglass development expertise on the production of sailboats and became Glass Marine Industries (GMI). Early Columbia models included the Columbia 24 and the Sparkman & Stephens designed Columbia 29. By 1964, Columbia Yachts was generating over $2.5 Million in revenues per year and growing. Then 28-year-old president of GMI, Dick Valdes, had this to say:
“GMI….has rapidly attained a dominant position in the industry through new engineering techniques and efficient production methods. The company has demonstrated its ability to produce its own plugs and molds that are setting a new standard of excellence in the industry. One of the main reasons for the Columbia’s popularity is the use of outstanding marine architects such as Sparkman & Stephens, Wirth Monroe, Charles Morgan, and Blaine Seeley.”
The next year, Columbia introduced the Columbia 50, at the time the world’s largest fiberglass production sailboat. With classic beauty and exceptional comfort below decks, the Columbia 50 rapidly made headlines by winning such notable races as the Chicago-Macinac and the Newport to Ensenada (the world’s largest international yacht race). That same year, GMI was renamed Columbia Yacht Corporation to tie the corporate name with that of the yachts.
By the late 1960s, Valdes had built the company into the world’s largest fiberglass sailboat manufacturer with manufacturing plants throughout the world. He sold the company to Whittaker (listed on the NYSE), but retained his position as president of Columbia Yacht Corporation and was instrumental in the development of Whittaker Marine Group, which ultimately included Bertram Yachts, Trojan Yachts, Riva, Desco Marine, Kettenburg, and Balboa Marine. Total sales of the Whittaker Marine Group reached between $250 and $350 Million in the early 70’s during Valdes’ tenure.
Following Dick Valdes’ departure from Columbia Yachts, the company was reheadquartered to the east coast, and was eventually sold to Hughes Boat Works, and later to Aura Yachts. In the mid-80’s, Hughes regained control of the company. Eventually, Columbia Yachts faded from history.
Today’s Columbia Yachts are very different than the boats Dick Valdes launched five decades ago, but they share one thing in common; pushing the limits of current yacht-building technology with state-of-the-art design and precision construction. firstname.lastname@example.org.