A KOOL Sailboat

Kool Sailboat – 1971 Marketing Genius

I think you will agree that you cannot often step back in time and share a bit of your childhood that your adult children think is a riot. We had that same experience a couple of summers ago with a relic from the 1970s. I hope you will enjoy a bit of this shared experience.

The Kool Snark Fully Configured

Kool Sailboat – Sailing Back in Time with Kool Marketing

My dad was clearing out the garage when he asked if I would take the sailboats that he and mom were storing in their garage. To tell the truth, I almost forgot he had both of these boats acquired in the early 1970s and ’80s. One was a large Sea Chaser and one was a little Kool Sea Snark from the Kool cigarette campaign that ran in the early 1970s. I readily agreed and proceeded to find a way to store yet another addition to our growing fleet.

KOOL Cigarette Marketing History

In 1971 KOOL Cigarettes ran a unique marketing campaign. Magazines around the country ran an ad that if you sent in $88 and one box end from a carton of  Kool cigarettes that this fully functional sailboat would be shipped to your door. My dad and mom both smoked then (Jeez, who didn’t), but they did not smoke KOOLs. However, dad managed to snag an empty carton from the drug store he owned. Snark industries supposedly produced a fleet of over 18,000 of these little sailboats as part of their Kool cigarette marketing campaign.

A Stout Little Styrofoam Sailboat

Guaranteed to float. Even in a million pieces

The boat arrived a few weeks later in a large box. Dad propped the boat on a set of saw horses, and we proceeded to sand and fiberglass the hull. The Styrofoam had these little round edges all over the hull, and it was my job to sand and smooth the entire hull. As a 9-year-old, I thought the chore would never end. But I was excited about the prospect of sailing this little boat.

The snark has a total length of about 11 feet with a beam of just over 3 feet. Officially the draft is listed as an incredibly small 2/10ths of afoot. It practically sits on top of the water. There is a small daggerboard and Lateen rig with 45 square feet of sail. With a sense of humor, they placed the boat’s name on the bow named “This Side Up”.

The 1971 KOOL boat also came with a 16-page booklet on how to sail. To many families, including ours, that was our first introduction to sailing. As a kid, I flipped through the pages and tried to envision my time on the water.

Still Kool After 40 Years of Storage

A Fun Kool Boat Name

The Kool sailboat hull and the sail have been stored for over 43 years. The original sail is still in great shape as well as the hull. Weighing in at about 50 lbs. one person can take it down to the beach. Two people can sail around in it. With a bit of wind and a full downwind run, there is usually water bubbling up from the daggerboard slot. Upwind, it doesn’t point up worth a damn. It’s more of a toy than a true sailboat, but it does force you to learn the basics of sailing and it will never sink.

We had a lot of fun with it and still take it down to the beach occasionally. It’s our go-to choice when trying to teach kids and adults how to sail.

Kool Marketing

Co-branding with the Snark sailboat gave rise to the success of the boat and the brands that it partnered with. In 1970, the New York Times reported that Snark outsold all other sailboats. In 1971 the KOOL mail-order campaign started and resulted in over 48,000 little boats being produced. Two years later that number swelled to over 200,000. The Snark was also used to co-brand with Coca-Cola, Budweiser Beer, and Vicks.

The 1971 KOOL’s ad and mail-order campaign resulted in over 18,000 orders. The campaign was repeated in 1972, and again in 1975. The KOOL ads received a POPI award (Point of Purchase Institute), as being the most creative and inventive ad of 1971.

All the Snark boats are a lot of fun and they have introduced 1,000s of families to the Joy of Sailing. (And spending your money). I think that next to a Sunfish they are a great learning tool and fun addition to any beach house. There’s another sailor/writer out in California who also did a post about these daysailers. Her assertion is that the Snark was a natural precursor to today’s carbon fiber racers. Read what Renegadesailing says about KOOL sailboats.


Michael Hardy

Mike Hardy is the owner of Thumbwind Publications LLC. It started in 2009 as a fun-loving site covering Michigan's Upper Thumb. Since then, he has authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 60,000 visitors per month.

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8 thoughts on “Kool Sailboat – 1971 Marketing Genius

  1. Had fun in one of these one summer in Minnesota. Now an avid fan of the UP. I vacation in St Ignace every July. I would love to have one of those boats. Do you know of one for sale??

    1. I just found my mom’s brothers Kool sailboat in storage. I haven’t inspected it yet but I’d like to get rid of it.

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