Bell Canoe Works announced it reached a production agreement with Mad River co-founder and former Mad River designer Jim Henry. The agreement follows almost two months of dialogue initiated by Henry concerning the feasibility of a partnership.
Confluence Watersports, owners of the Mad River brand, issued a company statement congratulating Henry on the move and wishing him well.
For 2003, Henry will be involved in the production of the Outrage in composite. Plans for further models are currently under consideration and may be confirmed as early as August.
Keeping it in the family, Dana Henry, champion OC-1 slalom paddler and son of Jim Henry, will compete in a Bell-built Outrage at Slalom Nationals in July. The younger Henry will also be sponsored by Bell for the Marathon Nationals in August.
Ted Bell acknowledges this new partnership with Jim Henry is ironic considering the friendly rivalry that has always existed between Bell Canoe and Mad River. One Bell T-shirt even depicts a cartoon golden retriever clutching a rabbit in its mouth. The dog and rabbit are respective company mascots.
SNEWS View: Jim Henry, along with Kay Henry, founded Mad River Canoe in Waitsfield, Vt., in 1971 -- click here for a more complete history. In 1998, Confluence (at that time the company was known as Wilderness Systems) merged with Mad River Canoe. Henry's role as a designer at Mad River has been diminishing since the acquisition, according to company insiders. Following the introduction of roto-molded designs three years ago, insiders also tell SNEWS that Henry had even relinquished the title of principle designer and was really taking more of a back seat in terms of creative and design input. Henry is a designer at heart -- pioneering the use of Kevlar and composites technology in the paddlesports industry in the '70s and '80s -- and it is likely that he heard the bell toll (oh, we're so sorry for that bad pun) at Mad River and realized he'd enjoy greater opportunity for design creativity with composites at Bell -- a company that has been making quite a bit of noise of late.