Originally building sailing yachts, Willy Empacher founded his boatyard with Wilhelm Karlisch during 1923 in Königsberg, East Prussia. The boatyard was the largest east of Berlin during the 1930s. They built boats for Germany during the war, but in 1945 the family fled their town and reached Eberbach, Germany in 1947.
Willy started a new business at the Seibert boat-yard in Eberbach repairing and making small boats. In 1952 they started producing racing rowing shells, an enterprise that has become their main business today. The business took off after Jochen Meißner won the silver medal while racing in an Empacher single scull during the 1968 Summer Olympics. They built mainly moulded cedarwood racing shells, but collaborated with BASF to produce the world's first plastic shell in 1956. Empacher built the first plastic to receive a gold medal during the 1972 Munich Olympics. This was also the first race worthy sandwich-build plastic boat. This process includes using a wood frame to create the boat hull and then filling with it with composite material.
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