The Huang siblings, Peggy and Andy, are not exactly your typical brother and sister. The third generation to run the family business, Queen Long Marine—the Taiwanese builder of Hylas Yachts for some four decades now—at 32 Andy is the company’s CEO, while older sis Peggy, 38, serves as the firm’s COO. As partners in the enterprise, they typically see eye-to-eye on the major decisions they must regularly address on a nearly day-to-day basis. However, in a recent interview with the pair, they admitted it wasn’t always smooth sailing between them.
“Yes, we used to fight,” sighed Andy. “She used to beat me up over the TV remote.”
“We’re pretty close most of the time now,” laughed Peggy. “We party together, we have a lot of mutual friends. Sometimes we still have different opinions, but we talk things through. We don’t really fight like kids anymore.”
And a good thing, too. After all, it’s now their responsibility to ensure the ongoing success of one of the cruising and sailing world’s most beloved and respected brands. Founded in 1978, for the first few years of existence Queen Long focused primarily on boats like the Stevens 47 and the Peterson 46, blue-water cruising boats that also saw service in the fledgling bareboat-charter business. The Hylas line was launched in 1985 and, in its early days, was perhaps personified by the legendary Sparkman & Stevens-designed Hylas 49, of which over 60 yachts were built. Today, the company continues to partner with renowned naval architects like Bill Dixon and German Frers, the respective designers of the top-notch, semi-custom Hylas 57 and Hylas 60, both of which are currently in production.
For a company whose legacy was established by creating yachts literally built to sail anywhere, it’s more than fitting that the Huang family’s story begins with a sea story, and a rather treacherous one at that.
“We’re the 11th generation in Taiwan,” said Andy. “Our ancestors were actually farmers from the coast of China who sailed here across the super-rough Taiwan Strait in these tiny dinghies, there was a fleet of hundreds of them. It was very challenging, you were very lucky to make it to Taiwan. They landed in Kaohsiung on the southern coast, just seeking a new way of living and how to continue their lives.”
That was a couple of hundred years ago. For decades those original farmers—those hearty survivors—carved out a living from the land. But eventually, over time and with the onset of an industrial revolution in Taiwan, the family discovered a better, more lucrative pursuit: manufacturing. Originally, Peggy and Andy’s grandfather, Gino, made rope (another useful product for ships and the sea). Next came a dedicated factory for producing plywood. When that market became saturated, he formed a partnership with a boat-building neighbor—he supplied the nautical know-how, Gino provided the land and the facility—and pivoted to the marine business that exists to this day. Andy’s and Peggy’s parents, Jane and Joseph, joined the firm in the mid-1980s, and now the baton has been passed along to their offspring.
The name of the business, Queen Long Marine, has nothing to do with either royalty or length, but is an anglicized rendering of two similarly sounding Chinese words. In translation, Andy explained, “queen” is synonymous with “large land” and “long” is another word for prosperity. Names are very important and symbolic in Taiwanese culture, and folks often enlist the services of fortune tellers and psychics to choose ideal names for everything from businesses to children. So Queen Long, basically, means big and prosperous. Pretty fitting, right? “It’s cool and catchy,” said Andy. “I think it’s a good name.” Speaking of which, Joseph coined the name Hylas when Queen Long made the move to launch their own brand of sailboats; in Greek mythology, Hylas was a warrior and a valued crewman on the ship called Argo, and thus was one of Jason’s original Argonauts.
Peggy and Andy were immersed in the Queen Long culture from an early age. “We spent quite a lot of time at the factory when we were very young, before kindergarten,” said Peggy, who today sometimes sees carpenters and electricians she remembers from her youth who are still employed there. Clearly, the Huangs aren’t the only family for whom Queen Long Marine and Hylas Yachts represent their life’s work.
“My parents were working all the time, six days a week,” said Andy. “We’d go to the office and watch TV, draw stuff, hang out. It was a fun time for us.” Interestingly, Andy also says his love of fishing began at the plant. “There were plenty of fish in the freshwater test tank for the boats,” he laughed. “I found my passion for fishing right there.”
As they grew older, the brother and sister matriculated to colleges in Southern California: Peggy earned her degree in fine arts from the University of Southern California, and Andy has a pair of diplomas—an undergraduate degree in finance from Cal State Fullerton, and a graduate degree in furniture design from the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. In both cases, their educations were well suited to their ultimate careers in the marine sector; Peggy’s graphic-art skills came to very good use in Hylas’s marketing campaigns, and Andy’s dual backgrounds in business and product design are obviously excellent foundations for the CEO of a company in an increasingly competitive, high-tech industry.
They rose to their current positions as the leaders of Hylas about six years ago, when the decision was made to restructure the business from a dealer-oriented outfit to more of an in-house operation with direct sales that could cater to and prioritize the needs and wishes of their clientele, with a more direct, personal touch. “Both Peggy and I want to take the time to talk to our clients to know exactly what they want,” said Andy. “And we take that input to our naval architects when working up the design brief, so nobody’s attention is diverted or distracted. We think it’s been a successful transition.”
Neither Peggy nor Andy sailed as children, but both have registered plenty of blue-water miles in recent years. Peggy is now a two-time Hylas owner, first with a 54, and in the last several years on the Hylas 57 she owns with her husband, David Crafa. “I’ve learned a lot in the last few years,” she said. “We’ve been up and down the East Coast and to the Bahamas. We’ve done a lot of deliveries and sailed to the boat shows. I’m pretty used to the whole sailing thing now, the weather, the motion. I’m good.”
Andy got his feet wet—literally and figuratively—on a 10-day passage from Taiwan to Thailand soon after coming back to Queen Long on a full-time basis shortly after serving his mandatory year of military service. Later, he made a memorable trip up the Gulf Stream from Florida to New England on a Hylas 46.
“It was a little scary and mind blowing to see exactly how our products are being used,” he said. “It was very new to me. But it’s also interesting to see how the boats are commissioned and how people are so involved with them. It was all a lot of fun.”
Going forward, Andy sees Hylas becoming an even more efficient company as new technologies are introduced and incorporated into the way Queen Long produces boats. “I know that robotics and A.I. are going to be bigger factors in the marine industry, in fact they already are,” he said. “But the high quality that people have come to expect from Hylas isn’t going away. It will still be there.”
And so will Peggy and Andy, the latest stewards and caretakers of a company and brand that is rich with their family’s history. Hylas is the Huangs, the two entities are practically synonymous. And the Huangs, of course, are Hylas.
By Herb McCormick