On December 18, 1923, at the age of 21, Willy Empacher founded a boatyard in Königsberg, East Prussia with the task of building three sailing yachts.
Three years after the end of the war, with inflation and the global economic crisis: it was anything but an easy beginning. Together with his then partner, the first years had to be overcome with great sacrifice.
But giving up was out of the question. The good work was successful, because the trained boat builder and later head master of the Hesse guild, Willy Empacher, manufactured everything in Königsberg that a classic boatyard could do: in addition to motor and sailing yachts, ice sailing boats, but only rarely rowing boats. In the 1930s he ran the largest German boatyard east of Berlin with over 100 employees. During the war, as everywhere in Germany, naval and pioneer boats were built.
Almost every order was cancelled following the currency reform in 1948. With nothing but the simplest resources, the head of the family, Willy Empacher, succeeded in building up a new business. After initially leasing it, he later took over the Seibert boat-yard. Repairs and small new boats were the start of the rowing boat company in Eberbach. It was not until 1952 that the first clinker-built racing gig eight was pro-duced, followed by the first plywood racing boat in 1953. It was also in 1953 that the first new workshop was built on Neckarstrasse street on the company's own grounds. After 21 years in Eberbach, the major international breakthrough was achieved in 1968, when Jochen Meissner won the Olympic silver medal in the single sculls in Mexico. After that, the production of moulded cedarwood racing boats developed rap-idly and was the mainstay of the company until the mid-1980s. The first experiments with plastics were conducted in 1955. The world's first plastic rowing skiff was built in 1956 in collaboration with the BASF company.
The "Bodensee-Vierer" with cox won the first gold medal in a plastic rowing boat in Munich in 1972. At the same time, this was the first sandwich-built plastic boat suit-able for racing.
The first racing boats were made of thin birch plywood with planks over malls and additionally carefully nailed to the keel and gondola bar with copper nails. In the 1960s, Willy Empacher began gluing racing boat shells made of several cedar veneers into shape under a vacuum blanket over a wooden positive block. These molded cedar racing boats were way ahead of their time and were outstanding in stability, longevity and quality in the 1960s.
Dieter Empacher, youngest son of Willy Empacher, trained boat builder and studied shipbuilding engineer, worked in the shipyard from 1964 to 1966. He revised and redrew all the racing boat layouts. He developed a new single design together with the successful single sculler Jochen Meißner. These boats were called semi-dolphins.
After 21 years in Eberbach, the big international breakthrough finally came in 1968 when Jochen Meißner won the Olympic silver medal in the single sculls in Mexico. After that, the production of molded wooden racing boats made of cedar wood took off quickly under boat master Kurt Pahl and was the mainstay of the company until the mid-1980s. As early as the beginning of the 1950s, Willy Empacher had the foresight to purchase properties on the opposite side of the Neckar in Rockenau. He recognized early on that the expansion space for the shipyard in the Keitländer on the Eberbach side of the Neckar was very limited due to the construction of the planned federal highway. Experiments with plastic were carried out for the first time in 1955 in collaboration with BASF in Ludwigshafen. The world's first plastic rowing skiff made of polyester was created in 1956.
In 1968, the first workshop for plastic boats was built on the opposite Rockenau side. Leo Wolloner was appointed master for the new plastic production. Initial experiments were carried out using epoxy resins to produce lightweight plastic racing boat shells. In Munich in 1972, the “Bullen or Bodensee coxed-four with coxman” won the first gold medal in a plastic rowing boat. This was also the first race-ready plastic boat with a honeycomb construction.
This was the beginning of modern boat building and the initial empirical experiments with materials that were still “exotic” at the time have now become the state of the art. And “incidentally,” Empacher wrote the standard work “The Construction of Plastic Boats,” which made it easier for many boat builders to get started with the new material, not out of a need for recognition, but because he considered the passing on of knowledge to colleagues to be self-evident and also the cohesion of the boat builders as one of his tasks.
Hans Empacher, Willy Empacher's eldest son, studied law and made a career in the aerospace industry at Messerschmidt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB), today's DASA. For the successful industrial manager, his father's boatyard was more of a hobby until 1970. At the age of 70, Willy Empacher could no longer continue to run the still-growing craft business. Since none of his children were willing to take over and the only alternative was to sell, Hans Empacher took over the management and shares in the craft business. He promoted know-how in plastic boats by linking his contacts from MBB with the boatyard. He managed to rationalize the operation with the new construction of the timber yard in 1977.
The plastics department was expanded in 1982/83 with a new administration and production building. This corresponded roughly to the size of the timber yard. Jürg Heckmann became production manager at the plastic shipyard in 1983.
In terms of development, the wooden racing boats were inferior from around the mid-1980s, so the plastic shipyard had to expand again. In 1989/90, today's new plastics shipyard was planned and the first construction phase was built as an independent shipyard.
Until his death in 1996, Hans Empacher knew how to positively steer the company's fortunes through risk and a willingness to innovate in good and bad economic times, despite the double professional burden. Through his open-minded diplomatic style, his fairness and human qualities, he opened the door to associations at a time when boatyards were only tolerated as rowing mechanics on the international racing circuit.
Helmut Empacher studied industrial engineering at the TH Karlsruhe. After completing his studies, he worked in Eberbach for a year (1983) before moving to the technology group MBB, where he worked on high-tech projects and took part in structurally interesting tasks for the shipyard.
In 1987 he returned to Eberbach as managing director of the Empacher boatyard. His first major success was the new development of the K82. In collaboration with Ralf Holtmeyer, Dieter Empacher drew the new pioneering figure eight K82. In 1988, Ralf Holtmeyer led the German eight in the new boat to the Olympic gold medal in Seoul again after 20 years.
Rainer Empacher studied architecture in Italy and joined the company in 1988. In sales, he carries out individual customer advice, marketing and sales tasks as well as organizing the regatta service and much more. He played a key role in the two new buildings, the central building from 1989/90 and the recently completed extension in 1997. Helmut and Rainer have been joint managing partners of the shipyard since 1996.
A state-of-the-art design office was established. Dieter Empacher, brother of Hans and uncle of Helmut and Rainer, a successful shipbuilding engineer in the USA, works here for a few weeks every year and implements the suggestions of the management of trainers and athletes from the regatta season into successful new cracks. The office is always staffed by an engineer and a technician. On average, two new boat shapes are developed every year and numerous details are continuously developed.
The development of aluminum and carbon wing rigger began at the end of the 1990s. By using stronger honeycombs, the first high-strength racing boats were created without the traditional frames.
From 2008 onwards, they only specialize in building racing rowing boats. The construction of touring boats and polyester boats is stopped due to lack of space in the boatyard. In 2011, an autoclave was purchased to produce complex carbon components such as carbon wing rigger, stretchers and sliding seats plates using carbon prepreg fibers. The number of components produced in the autoclave is increasing very quickly and will make it necessary to purchase an NC cutter from 2020.
The investments in the 90s are now paying off.
For more than 30 years, the boatyard has been present at around 20 regattas at home and abroad with a qualified regatta service.
A large proportion of Empacher boats are driven at all World Championships, World Cups and Olympic Games. The close collaboration with associations, trainers and athletes is continually growing and becoming more solid. Direct implementation of customer requests and the boatyard's many years of experience lead to more innovations in the further development of the yellow Empacher boats.
Empacher has been exporting racing boats all over the world for over 40 years. The export share of production is around 75%. Since the death of Rainer Empacher in 2018, Helmut Empacher has led the Business alone.
The workforce has grown continuously and has remained stable at around 90 employees for several years.