The roots of New England Boatworks are tied to aluminum 12-Meters, the 1983 America's Cup, and a "Let's see how we can make it better" approach to the status quo of boatbuilding. NEB's present-day partners, Tom Rich, Steve Casella, and David MacBain, began building racing yachts, including Dennis Conners' 12-Meter, Liberty, while working at Newport Offshore (Casella and MacBain) and Williams and Manchester (Casella, MacBain and Rich) in Rhode Island and at Minneford's (Casella) in City Island, New York.

Finding success at applying their specialty of metalwork (aluminum, stainless steel, titanium) to a variety of yachts, from IOR and IMS racers to fully-found cruising boats, in 1988 Rich, Casella, and MacBain persuaded ten of the best hands-on boatbuilding experts in the business to join them in starting New England Boatworks. Soon the demand for NEB-built boats found the company expanding from their rented facilities to ownership of East Passage Yachting Center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, adding a full-service marina and haulout yard to their capabilities.