The precursor to BBG Bootsbau Berlin GmbH was founded in 1890 by Claus Engelbrecht. For about 50 years he mainly built yachts and other recreational craft until the factory was forced to convert to torpedo boats, minesweepers and other war material at the beginning of the Second World War.
After the war, plastic shoes were first produced on the site, giving us experience of processing plastic laminates. In 1949 the now rebuilt factory started producing boats again. The first post-war boat was a Gutasit paddle boat, consisting of a plastic skin, which was stretched on a wooden frame.
In late 1949, the first single was built, which immediately developed into a commercial success. No one else built rowing boats out of wooden laminates at the time, making the demand so great that new production halls had to be set up at the Müggelspree, our current location. In 1956, the company was renamed “VEB Yachtwerft Berlin”, a national GDR operation with many production lines and varied production of boats.
In the early seventies, the first composite rowing boat was built. It consisted of a fiberglass hull in epoxy resin, whose interior was expanded with wooden shoulders and struts. At this time, the distinctive grey boat hulls were rowed by the top crews from the Eastern Bloc. The composite boats were so successful that they almost completely displaced the production of traditional solid wood boats. By 1976, no more solid wood boats were built. In the same year, the GDR won 9 of the 16 rowing gold medals at the Montreal Olympics. Taken together, the GDR won a total of 583 medals at World Championships or Olympic Games in the period from 1950 to reunification in 1990.
With such a medal yield, the demand for our boats was immense. 88% of the production was initially exported only to countries of the former Eastern bloc, where they were used by the majority of national teams.
It was not until 1981 that exports to the West began, primarily to the Federal German Republic, which at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall received about 6% of total exports. As the Yachtwerft’s boats were obviously outstanding flagships with good export figures, their development and further research was heavily supported by the state during GDR times. New materials and boat shapes were constantly tested and developed.
The success of East German rowers did the rest to prove that our boats were and are fast.
From 1956 to 1990, a total of 15,633 rowing boats were produced, that’s 460 per year or about two boats per day.
With such production figures and the quality of our boats, we survived the upheavals of Germany’s reunification relatively well.
Of course, things changed a lot: our workforce shrank considerably, our production facilities and the site were completely renovated and are hardly recognisable today.
In 1990, the state holding company converted into a limited company. This is how BBG Bootsbau Berlin GmbH came into being.
With the end of the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, it was possible to combine East German experience, research and development with Western technology and high-tech materials. With a new name, fully renovated area and workshops as well as a free market, it was decided that the brand colour should be red from now on, because red symbolises strength, progressiveness and an effort to further technical development. BBG continued to enjoy great success at international level throughout this time.
In mid-January 2016, BBG Bootsbau Berlin GmbH filed for insolvency.
Since March 1, 2016, BBG Bootsmanufaktur Berlin GmbH, a new company, is continuing production at the old location. Behind it stands the Swiss company 4row GmbH with Adi Schmid as managing director and Martin Strohmenger.
BBG’s master boat builder Kay Brodersen remained in charge of production and Manja Debetz handles administration and customer inquiries. For more information about our team please see our team page.