Before Japec Jakopin started creating boats professionally, he studied medicine. He’d have preferred mathematics, like his older brother Primož, but their mother thought otherwise. He finished his medical doctorate and specialized in cardiology, and lectured on physiology at the Medical Faculty in Ljubljana. But he decided to resign from the Medical Faculty and changed his profession entirely – to start a boat business.
Earlier, together with a friend, he’d had a charter base on the Croatian island of Krk, taking care of and repairing the sailboats there. In the 1970s he sailed across the Atlantic with a film director friend. Together with his younger brother Jernej they planned to sail around the world on their 10-metre Melody sailboat.
Like Japec, his younger brother Jernej also trained for another profession entirely – as an architect. The two of them, together with two friends, had been working on designing and building sailboats. Back then they had to do it all by themselves, and really had to know a lot about all aspects of design, assembly and performance.
In 1983, they founded the design studio J&J together, which would later evolve into the success story that is today Seaway. They started to work with celebrated Slovenian ski manufacturer Elan, which also had a boat-building department. Japec and Jernej went to work in Germany, and designed a 9.40-metre sailboat, the Elan 31. Together with the upgraded Elan 33, they were a big commercial success.
They produced 940 boats of these two models – a lot of boats for the sailboat business. By the time cooperation with Elan wrapped up three years later they well knew what kind of boats sold – and what good boats were all about. In 1988 Japec went to work with the French boat manufacturer Jeanneau as head of marketing, where he stayed for three years.
Meanwhile Jernej had continued working on boat designs for Jeanneau and other manufacturers. In 1990, they founded Seaway and began developing advanced boat designs. Jernej remained a designer, while Japec focused on marketing strategies and industrial design.
The tandem approach has proven highly successful. Today, Seaway employs 250 skilled professionals, including almost 30 designers and 35 development engineers. Their success in the nautical world speaks for itself – Seaway has become one of the world’s leading marine companies, and is one of the largest Slovenian knowledge and expertise. And it’s the only company in Europe that performs the entire development process for the mass production of motor and sailing vessels.
Japec sees the future in the further development of more affordable boats for a wider range of people, that are environmentally friendly at the same time. The Greenline 33 Hybrid, developed by the Seaway designers in 2007, is just such a boat. The boat brought home several awards during the past few months, as well as the European Boat of the Year 2010; and in March 2010 the Swedish Ministry of Environment presented the innovative craft with an environmental award.
And this past spring they began operations at their newly-built shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, but a couple hour’s leisurely sail from their early sailing roots.