The Dream Team

Fountain Powerboats founder Reggie Fountain, left, shares a laugh with Pete Caldwell, center, and Billy Moore Jr., right.

Checkmate Powerboats gains insight from performance boating legends. 

By Gregg Mansfield

Industry legends Reggie Fountain and Craig Barrie are coming together and bringing their wealth of knowledge building performance boats to help build the next generation of Checkmate Powerboats.

The legends are advising Checkmate Powerboats owner Pete Caldwell, who is updating and relaunching models from the venerable brand with an eye toward consumers making a move into performance boating.

With more than 100 years combined experience in designing, building and marketing high-performance boats, adding Barrie and Fountain is like bringing in Nick Sabean and Jim Harbaugh to supplement your football coaching staff.

Craig Barrie, left, is consulting with Checkmate Powerboats and is joined by Billy Moore Jr., Pete and Jenny Caldwell.

Their advice is already paying dividends as Barrie recommended painting a 2400 BRX red for a January boat show in Oconomowoc, Wisc. It sold within three hours.

“The biggest hit of the show was that all-red boat,” Caldwell said of the boat sold by Titus Marine. “It was an attention-getter … and turned out amazing.”

Reggie Fountain is the namesake and founder of the Iconic brand Fountain Powerboats, built his first boat in his garage in 1979. He has known Caldwell for 23 years and even though Reggie is retired, the pair still meet regularly for dinner and boats are always on the menu.

“(Peter) was always hanging around the plant and actually came down to work when you were in school,” Fountain said. “You’ve been working with me ever since and you know everything about all these boats that I know but in fact you actually built a lot of them.”

Barrie has run boat companies from Cigarette Racing to Statement Marine, and most recently returned to run Donzi Marine. Caldwell got to know Barrie when he was contract-building boats for Donzi Marine out of Caldwell Marine Designs in Washington, N.C. Barrie has since left Donzi Marine.

Caldwell is looking for Barrie to help with updating boat interiors, marketing and fleshing out the business plan for Checkmate Powerboats.

“He’s got Billy Moore, Reggie Fountain and he’s got himself,” Barrie said. “He’s got a lot of tools or people to draw from and put this thing back together again.”

Caldwell purchased Checkmate’s assets in 2020 with plans to restart the brand just as the pandemic took hold. His company builds for Sea Cat Boats, among others, out of the 50,000-square-foot facility. When Iconic Marine decided to move Donzi Marine’s production back to the Fountain plant, it was an opportunity for Caldwell to add a few more Checkmates to the build schedule.

“It’s a really good brand that has a huge following of customers, and I feel it’s a good entry-level boat into the performance section,” Caldwell said. “There’s not a lot of guys in the market with a good entry level Introduction to performance boating.”

Reggie Fountain talks bottom design with Pete Caldwell, who is updating the Checkmate Powerboats line.

Updating the Line

Checkmate Power Boats was founded in 1963 in Bucyrus, Ohio, and regardless of who owned the company, Checkmate had a reputation of delivering a lot of boat for the money. Caldwell has started on remaking the Checkmate line using modern materials and building techniques, focusing on first-time buyers looking for a semicustom powerboat.

Checkmate Powerboats donated a powerboat to World Alive Ministries to help with a youth program for 300 court-appointed juveniles.
The 2400 BRX will be used to take the teenagers skiing and tubing to show them there is more to life.

The first redesigned model from the Caldwell-led Checkmate was the Pulsare 2400 BRX, which Fountain provided his input on the bottom design. “We’ve redesigned the pad on the bottom of the boat and gave us good feedback,” Caldwell said. 

Checkmate released an open bow model first and a closed-deck version is currently in production with its release later this year. Following up the 24-foot boat, Checkmate will launch a 21-foot open- or closed-deck boat, the 21 Gambit. 

Establishing a Dealer Network

Caldwell is establishing a smaller dealer network for Checkmate Power Boats and already Canadian dealership STAX Performance Marine in Brockville, Ontario, has five boats on order.

“The Checkmate is going to be awesome,” said Stan Vandervliet, who owns STAX Performance Marine with Alex Decristoforo. “It’s a high-quality sport boat, 24 feet with a reliable outboard that gives you five years’ warranty right off the bat. That’s very appealing for new boat buyers.”

Joining the proud owners from left: Checkmate representative Denny Backis, new owners Scott and Kathy Allen, and Tim Tinus, owner of Tinus Marine.

What has Caldwell excited are the first few 21’ Gambits closed-deck boats are being built for offshore racing’s Bracket Class 700. The 21-footer will have a special build using carbon fiber and epoxy. The goal is to raise awareness and showcase Caldwell Marine Design’s build quality.

“We’re thinking about letting some of our dealers drive them at some of the offshore races if there is one in their area,” Caldwell said.

Delivering for a Cause

Faith plays a large role in Caldwell’s life, and he donated a new 2400 BRX to World Alive Ministries in Alabama. The organization houses over 300 court-appointed juveniles, who are part of the diversion program primarily for drug offenses.

Caldwell donated the boat and trailer, while the ministry supplied the 300-hp outboard.

“They wanted to get a boat to take them skiing, take them tubing to show them something else in the world that gives them a high versus drugs and alcohol,” Caldwell said.

Keeping the Brand Small

Checkmate Powerboats owner Pete Caldwell donated a new 2400 BRX.

Caldwell plans to limit production to 20 boats a year and Barrie said after listening to Caldwell’s pitch, he can see why he’s looking at first-time buyers looking for a powerboat. 

“If you end up with 30 orders going out the door the first year, I think you hit a homerun,” Barrie said. “Now that may not seem like a lot of boats to a lot of people, but still, you’re starting back up. The name is great. You’ve got to find new customers one at a time, so people know that you’re there to stay, and you’re there for the long haul.”

It’s always been Caldwell’s dream to own a boat company. Adding Fountain and Barrie to the team will give Checkmate customers a better product.

“Even back when I was working for Reggie (Fountain), I always thought it would be neat to have my own brand and do my own thing,” Caldwell said. “I always saw ways that I felt could be done better and now I’m able to do that.” 


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