Force Engineering was started in June of 1975 with the beginning of work on the factory proper. In the year and a half previous J.V. Cloud, retired manufacturer and builder, had been working with Bill Higgins on the final design and engineering of Stiletto.
Stiletto® was conceived by Bill Higgins while working for Hobie Cat as their Eastern U.S. sales representative. Bill detected the necessity for a boat that was a natural step for the 70,000 plus Hobie Cat enthusiasts; a boat that would allow them the performance they were accustomed to, while giving them a dry ride and room for the rest of the family while carrying a head, galley and bunks for limited cruising.
The boat had to be trailerable in order to have the utility necessary for the design concept. Because of the readily trailerable feature the boat had to be light enough so that the average couple could assemble or disassemble it without help.
For this reason it was necessary to utilize a construction material that was lighter than the currently available polyester/fiberglass construction methods. The material selected was prei-mpregnated epoxy fiberglass, cloth (prepreg) which is a thermoset epoxy that is kept frozen to retard the catalyzation process until time for use. The Prepreg is placed over a nylon Nomex honeycomb core, baked at 260 degrees in a 30x14x7 foot oven for an hour and a half under constant vacuum.
This produces a light-weight composite structure laminate that is not only incredibly strong, but will float more than it’s own weight because of trapped airspace in the laminate, and is fire resistant. The composite structure has been used extensively in the aerospace industry for twenty years, but Force Engineering was the first and to date the only manufacturer to produce boats from the material.
With the final design and engineering done a prototype boat was produced using wet lay-up and honeycomb in order to prove the theory. The prototype was a success and the building of the factory was begun.
Originally the financial backing of the Stiletto® project was to be handled by a syndicate of Florida investors. Unfortunately the members suffered severely in the real estate crunch of 1975 and had to withdraw their support from the project.
J.V. Cloud elected to finance the project in order to make it go. The construction of the plant facility went smoothly although the construction of the large epoxy high temperature tools ran afoul. Force was being aided by the largest plastics manufacturer in the U.S. by representatives who were on hand for the building of the tools. Unfortunately the methods that they recommended were incorrect and the first set of tooling, following two months work and expenditure of thousands of dollars was a loss. There was some recovery from the plastics company, but the loss set the production of Stiletto® far behind schedule and ate up much of the monies available for the start up costs.
With new tooling built two boats were produced, one for shows and the other for testing. The boats took rigors of testing with flying colors. After several months of testing production was begun.
In the time that followed, Stiletto® met with tremendous acceptance on the market. The boat was incredibly fast and impressively stylish. With much of the start up costs depleted with the tooling failures little money was available for the advertising and as such put Stiletto in a position of not generating enough sales.
Conflicts between J.V. Cloud and Bill Higgins, stemming from differences in what appropriate business ethics entail, brought about the departure of Mr. Higgins in 1977. Since that time Force Engineering has continued to grow – changing sail makers in early 1978 which among other changes increased Stiletto®’s performance.
The boat has proven itself well – over 120 units are sailing safely from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands, Mexico to Canada. The market for Stiletto® is there, but needs a comprehensive marketing plan to stimulate a smooth production schedule year round.