Carl Rand of Rand Boats – The Plugboats Podcast

A few months ago I sat down with Carl Rand, the Founder and CEO of Denmark’s Rand Boat. Rand was founded in 2014 and Carl is one of the pioneers of the electric boat industry, and as you will see has had significant influence on electric boats and boating. In this conversation we talk about the history of Rand, the design ethos behind it and how that is embodied in the Breeze 20 electric dayboat.

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Carl Rand
Our story started with the original picnic boats, the Picnic 18. And that was like, how do we introduce people to a new way of boating, one that was electric, the other it was social, it was meant to go slow, it was all of those things.

So I think for me the interesting thing about the Breeze 20 is that it takes that origin route, and actually merges it with all that we’ve learned over almost a decade now. So it can really introduce a wider audience to electric boating and to social boating

Jeff Butler/Plugboats:
…and by social boating, you mean…

Carl Rand:
Creating this space where people can actually really meet and interact with other people, it is a quite special space, because … you know … you’re stuck, you have to talk to the other person. So something very beautiful comes from that, to actually spend that quality time without a possible escape.

Rand Picnic 18 electric boat - the first model
The original Rand Picnic 18

And it’s transformative for many people. It comes from our little bit different perspective. I’m an architect, and industrial designer. People have a safe zone, you know, you don’t want a person right up in your face. You also don’t want them too far away, so it’s like creating the ergonomics and the spatial layout so that you can actually have that sense of togetherness.

JB:
How did you get into designing electric boats?

CR:
I actually knew what I wanted to do since I was five. I was introduced to sailing by my godfather who was an Olympic sailor. So I did all this small dinghies, optimist and international classes…and I think those escapes, I think it’s a very special set of values that you live by. And I personally didn’t find that anywhere else in society. I think that was just so clear to me that if I could do that, and give those experiences to people and open their eyes to what the ocean has to give, you know, that’s my life ambition.

JB:
I assume your first interest was sailing boats. How did you get into power boats?

CR:
(Laughing). I hit my teens. And then it was ahh, wakeboarding is cool and, and other things as well. So and I think that’s it, like, basically, any experience that I can have on the ocean, like I kite surf a lot, I do still sail a lot.

It’s just a fantastic way. And I think powerboating, motorboating really makes it very accessible. Most people will be little bit scared about heading out, untrained in a sailboat. And I think in our stressful daily lives, just ease of use is important.

JB:
You had this great passion for designing boats, how did you end up studying architecture and industrial design?

Rand Breeze 20 electric boat
The Rand Breeze 20 electric dayboat with Torqeedo motor

CR:
So doing the classical architecture education in Denmark, and also studying in the US, was my my only way to boat design. Because that was the most academic way that I could educate myself and understand how to create these experiences and products.

JB:
But why not something like a naval architecture course?

CR:
Naval architects, they are engineers, they are not designers. They don’t understand how experiences can be actually shaped and affected by everything from ergonomics to tactile experiences.

So you could say it was the softer way of treating a boating experience. But I think that’s actually where the boating really comes to life. It is actually a very emotional experience.

We only think in experiences we want to look at, if you want to have a, you know, a picnic on the water. We actually start there. And then we forget about the boat size and all sorts of other constraints and say, ‘Okay, what would that experience look like’? And I think that the Danish design tradition and an architecture tradition actually really takes that to a very, very different level.

JB:
You have the architecture and design, who does the hull and the technical things?

CR:
Well, I have a team of engineers with the all the CFD and like there’s some advanced computing going on in the background. We design our own UI on apps, the whole system

JB:
And I assume they follow the same philosophy and ethos of ease of use and accessibility, enjoyment.

CR:
Yes, and I think that that discussion is super important because we want the technology to step in the background. The whole point is you’re out there to engage with nature. And I think that, there’s a real danger that you might fall into the trap of, ‘oh, it could be cool to build this feature’, without putting a filter on the actual necessary things, everything underneath should be seamless. That’s our philosophy.

JB:
Rand boats are known as electric boats, but you also sell them with fossil fuel motors, did you start out as electric or fossil fuel or both?

Rand Raid electric inboard boat motor
The Rand Raid electric inboard – 170 kW with 78 kWh battery or 265 kW with 117.5 kWh

CR:
We started 100% electric. That was the first several years, was like, pure electric. And I think from that, because it’s the right thing to do, like in respect of the environment, and if it’s really my life ambition, then I need to make sure that there’s something to take care of still in 50 or 100 years.

But for me, I started electric. And it was actually mostly through engagement with the boating industry, acknowledging that it is quite a traditional sector, and engaging with the dealers and understanding if we need to win as many people over as possible, we were you almost too early, and we needed to start to ease people into it, you know,  you needed to break down some barriers.

And I think for us, the best way was actually to make sure that they fell in love with the product, if they had a really good reason or concern about range of anxiety, or whatever it might be, that we could still get them into the community and the experience.

So we actually started doing that. And I think that’s the perfect transition for many dealers as well as they need to transition into the future. Not many dare to do it very abruptly. So we’re pushing it fast as we can.

JB:
That was 10 years ago. I know that today some dealers look at electric boats, not quite sure what to do with them. What was the reaction?

CR:
They basically they thought of this as like, a fantastic gimmick to say the least. I think many of them saw real potential, if they were placed close to lakes or slow, speed limited areas, they could really see the point. And when they started thinking about it, certainly every marina spot – in Europe, at least – has a 15 or 16 amp plug at the at the dock. I think many of them could see that it would be relatively easy and attractive, so many took the chance.

Various Rand Boats electric models
Rand now has a range of 10 boats with more to come

JB:
How about consumers? Were they interested?

CR:
Definitely. Yeah. And that’s actually why we also for those first years, we actually also sold directly to consumer. Because they were much further in their thinking and especially if they were new to boating, they would tend to be even more open to just pushing the on button and heading out. So it took some time to find the right dealers that could follow the trend. But we’ve we’ve found many now. So it’s it’s a really a good place.

JB:
So it sounds like from the beginning, you were interested in not just boats, but in electric boats. Was that because of the environment?

CR:
I was, to be honest, a pretty concerned kid, I would, you know, from a very early age, be quite worried about where the future was heading. And that might seem strange for a 10 year old, but I took it to heart. And and it has always been a major thing for me. And I think it might have been a blessing or a curse, but it turned out to be a blessing.

JB:
It certainly seems to be a blessing. You’re one of the leaders in electric boats. How many boats have you sold?

CR:
Well, more than 1,000

JB:
Wow! And has that been a steady thing or more ups and downs along the way?

CR:
We’re basically doubling every year, we’re, we’re about 100% growth – 80 to 90%. We had two really crazy years where it was 200%. And experiencing those two years actually made us dial it down. Because it was not sustainable for the organization. Because we really want to take care of our colleagues. And when you’re hyper scaling, it puts a lot of pressure on the system and people make mistakes naturally. And since this is a lifetime project, I just agreed with my team that we’re going to cap it at 100%. Because those two years were too tough.

JB:
This may be a difficult question. But why do you think you’ve been so successful?

CR:
The why is easy. Because we have a very, maybe untraditional way of looking at our products. We know that we want to make the best possible products for a certain experience. And that’s actually how all the models came to fruition, The Breeze is a fantastic example of it, actually, a very purified approach.

Rand Boat Breeze 20 with family aboard

So you have this social layout, of course, with the tables with the fantastic seat ties and backrests and so on, and the spacings in between people feeling safe and secure, but not remote from the surroundings. I think that’s also something that not many people think about is the mental experience of feeling safe enough to enjoy it. You know, it’s not the end of the world to get a little spray of water in your face, if you’re feeling safe. It actually probably enhances the experience.

And I think that’s what the Breeze also does very well is that you can still you can put your arm over the side of the boat and reach the water surface if you have long arms like I have. But also in terms of having, on a small boat, good mobility, so that when you go into the marina, it just feels…easy. I’m a little bit fanatic with ergonomics, that means that walkways and stuff, they’re not 25 centimeters, they’re 45. So there’s no banging your knees and wiggling around the front cannot. The front can also turn into this massive sunbed in a very brief moment.

JB:
I understand you also paid close attention to the sustainability of the materials.

CR:
I’m super proud that we actually did go quite far in the production phase, in terms of eliminating as much material waste as possible. And going for the slightly more complicated options in terms of producing more sustainably.

We wanted it to be a natural thing. We want it just to be the right thing to do. Here’s the boat. It’s fantastic. Yes, we produce it sustainably. Yes, It’s electric. But most of all, it’s a fantastic experience. It has that more passionate expression, even though it’s a small, basic, simple boat. So I think that’s those aspects were what was important for a beautiful picnic day on the water, that you feel that you have engaging surroundings, and you’re in a beautiful thing.

JB:
This is a very complete and all-encompassing design philosophy. How do you know when you’ve got the boat right?

CR:
Simple, actually, all departments have to go out in every product. So other than, of course, we have a few boats here around the office, so people can just go out. And we encourage that, like, we want it to be a part of their lifestyle.

Rand Boats seating detail

And it’s also super important, because even our accounting department, it’s actually quite important that they understand that they understand that dealer on the other side, when he says that I didn’t get this, I want to credit note on this items, it’s really important that they know what it’s actually about.

So they actually do go out. And in our Zero series of boats – before goes into the production phase, we do make sure that all departments actually have time in the boat to understand how their work impacts the finished product. You know, it might be the upholstery department having to go out and use those buttons that they placed and seeing, ‘Oh, my seam is maybe not up to the task’, or whatever the learning is great.

JB:
Well, we’ve kind of covered the past and the present. Tell me what does Rand Boats have in store for everyone in the future.

CR
So this is actually what we’re going to do before 2030. We know that we need to do 36 products over the next couple of years to cover 98% of leisure boating activities. We’re going to launch these four products every year to reach the 36 experiences that we’ve defined.

JB:
It sounds like you’re going to be quite busy.

CR
Yeah, like when I’m 100 I’m still going to be behind the desk somewhere, in a wheelchair, trying to make boating more interesting and show how sexy the electric or modern boat could be. What’s also important for us is that we actually have always gone for this upper mid segment so that we could get as big an audience as possible and have a bigger effect and impact on the marine business.

JB:
Certainly in the first 10 years of Rand you’ve succeeded in making boating more interesting and showing how sexy electric boats can be. We look forward to your big plans for the next four years, and thank you for chatting with us today.

Rand Boats

 

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