Endeavour Sailboat History


The Endeavour Yacht Corporation was founded in 1974 by John Brooks and Rob Valdes in Largo, Florida. John Brooks was born in 1934 in New York City and got started in the business first with Charlie Morgan, and later with Ted Irwin, Vince Lazzara (an early owner of Columbia Yachts), and sons Brad and Dick at Gulfstar. Rob Valdes was the younger brother of Dick Valdes, cofounder of Columbia and then later Lancer Yachts. Rob began his career at Columbia, and persuaded by Vince Lazzara, then joined Gulfstar. It was at Gulfstar where Rob met John Brooks.

To get their fledgling company off the ground Ted Irwin, who was then located in Tampa Bay, gave Brooks and Valdes the molds for his 1970 vintage Irwin 32 for a minor stake in the fledgling company1. Endeavours' in-house production and design person Dennis Robbins took the Irwin 32, modified it, and named it the Endeavour 32. It was introduced in 1975 and just under 6002 were built during its production run. Encouraged by its success they looked around for a sister ship. Looking for boats along the Miami River, Brooks and Valdes found an old abandoned Ray Creekmore design which Dennis also modified. The 34ft design was cut in half, they added 3 feet to the midsection, and created the Endeavour 37 of which 476 were sold. The early Endeavours (E32, E37, and E43) were simple, straight forward boats with outboard chainplates, short rigs, and strong, moderate hulls using a combination of polyester resin and fiberglass woven roving and multi-directional chopped strand fiber (MCSF). These "Florida" boats sacrificed windward sailing performance for shoal draft, which is a requirement of the Florida Keys and Bahama Islands. Dennis Robbins left Endeavour and went on to run Ted Irwins designs, and then later to the mega yacht company, Trident, in Tampa. At this point Bob Johnson (today, CEO of Island Packet fame) joined Endeavour as the principal in-house designer for a 2- to 3-year period and was responsible for the design of the Endeavour 43 (1979) and the Endeavour 40 (1981).

The 1980s ushered in a new era in boat building and the pressure was on for more performance-oriented designs and updated construction methods. Also the charter market was growing and they wanted faster, more comfortable boats so Endeavour began to respond to this need by introducing the Endeavour 40 in 1981, but it wasn't until America's Cup designer Johan Valentijn was commissioned to design the Endeavour 38 (1984), and Bruce Kelley the Endeavour 33 and Endeavour 35 (1984), that the company made a real effort to improve performance. Where earlier boats had been cored with 4–6" squares of plywood, the newer Endeavours used Klegecell closed-cell polyvinyl foam coring and incorporated "a multi-axial steel reinforced 'force grid' bonded to the hull for stiffness."

By 1985, Johan Valentijn had designed the Endeavour 42 and Endeavour 51 and the company was now almost exclusively building center cockpit boats for the charter trade and cruising families. These boats were easily handled, moderate design boats suitable for offshore work, with taller rigs and inboard chainplates. At this point Endeavour stopped using the Klegecell core and returned to using end-grain balsa in the sheer-to-waterline areas, plywood where compression strength was needed for thru bolting hardware, and incorporated a structural grid system built up of triaxial fiberglass encapsulated urethane foam. Valentijn also designed the Endeavour 38 and Endeavour 52

In 1986 John Brooks closed the doors and the company was bought out of bankruptcy by Coastal Financial Corp. of Denver where he stayed on as sales manager. Doug Franzese, the former Production Manager at Gulfstar, was hired on as the General Manager.

By 1988 the company was building 100 boats a year with 105 employees, down from 200 boats a year and 300 employees in 1984. Despite their upgrading the line of boats they were hurt by declining sales and competition with its own products on the used boat market and Endeavour Yacht Corporation effectively went out of business in 1988 when it was sold to an investment firm from Charleston, SC. The new company changed the production models and attempted to build catamarans but being unsuccessful, they went out of business the same year. Coastal Finance Corporation sold it again in 1991, and after several more changes in ownership, it became the builder of multihulls called the Endeavour Catamaran Corporation. Although it's a different company today producing cruising catamarans, they briefly (unconfirmed) produced several custom sailboats in the 45 to 59ft range.3

During this period Bill Symons, a fiberglass multihull builder on Long Island, had a 28-foot cat-rigged catamaran designed by Rob Ladd, which he eventually licensed the molds to Endeavour. However with the changes in ownership Symons transferred the molds to America Cruising Yacht Corporation (a reorganized Irwin), but claims that Endeavour copied the molds before doing so. After making some design changes, the Endeavourcat 30 was introduced in 1992. America Cruising introduced the AmeriCat 3014 shortly afterwards but the company went out of business. Symons then took the molds to Hutchins (Com-Pac) and sold the boat as the Symons 30.

On April 24, 1996 John Brooks was found dead in his St. Petersburg home at the age of 61. According to local police the motive was apparently burglary. At the time of his death he was active in the boat financing business.4

1 Bob Johnson.
2 Endeavour numbered their boat hulls beginning with 101.
3 Our database shows E42s, E45s, and E52s being built in 1991 and 1992.
4 Mid-Gulf Sailing magazine, May 1996.

Much of this information was acquired from "Heart of Glass", by Daniel Spurr and Practical Sailor boat reviews. Transitional history came from Troy Rollins, the former President and CEO of Coastal Financial Corp.