In the early 1950s, Robert J. George and William (Bill) Kaino (who was involved with the import/export business) began importing wooden pleasure boats from Finland. They assumed these boats would be attractive to buyers in the United States because of the long history of boat-building in Finland, reputedly dating back to the Viking era. Finnish boat construction was also renowned because the builders used Finnish pine, which was harder than North American pine, making it ideal for constructing boats.
When the first handcrafted boat arrived, the partners were pleased by its craftmanship but realized it was not styled according to American tastes at the time. They then decided to start their own company, Finnish Yachts and Boats, Inc., and planned on contracting with Finnish boatbuilders to build boats according to their specifications.
They retained an American naval architect, Charles W. Wittholz, to design their first line, four boats (Seafin 18, Bayfin 17, Gulfin 15, and Elfin 14). Hardware and accessories were to be manufactured and assembled in the United States prior to the boats' being shipped to dealers.
Before the partners brought their boats to market in 1956, they changed the name of the company to Flying Finn, Inc., thereby honoring Paavo Nurmi, a Finnish gold-medal-winning long-distance runner who was a cultural hero. The name attracted the attention of Finnish boatbuilders, and soon production was underway.
The company soon became popular and after receiving numerous requests for a larger hull design, the partners asked Charles Wittholz to design the Seafin 21 for their 1957 line. The new, larger boat was a success, and it was used in the 1958 U.S. Atlanta Tuna Tournaments and was featured in the February 1959 issue of Field and Stream.
The company continued to grow and in 1959, the partners decided to enter the nascent fiberglass pleasure-boat industry, once again contracting with Charles Wittholz to design the Baybelle 16, a fiberglass boat that would appear in their 1959 line.
The new fiberglass boat was not a success, although the partners and other boat manufacturers recognized that this was the material of the future. The company was unable to recover its losses on the fiberglass boat, and by 1962, wooden-boat sales had begun to decline as well. The partners thus decided to dissolve the company while it was still solvent.
Flying Finn, Inc. may have enjoyed a brief existence, but the company was influential, not only because it was part of a larger 1950s trend toward pleasure craft and other expensive leisure items that were emblems of postwar posterity. The company's goal was to produce more seaworthy leisure craft. Charles Wittholz introduced a unique "VU" design (named for its sharp "V"-shaped bow, designed to separate the waves more hydrodynamically, and a "U" transom for greater planing speed) so the boats would demonstrate superior handling in rough waters, like the East Coast. Boat dealers remarked on the "superior ride" and the way they stayed dry when testing the boats--a distinction the company took advantage of in its advertising.