Attempting to pick out the marine trends for the year ahead is always a great opportunity for seasoned journalists to make tits of themselves. So this year, we’re playing it relatively safe. We’re steering clear of predicting the lifting of speed bans, the return of cheap diesel, the advent of Approved Used boat schemes and the building of British boats in Britain. We’re not even thinking about the eradication of corduroy, the outlawing of deck shoes or the mandatory use of kill cords. Instead, we’re building our predictions upon a sturdy bedrock of precedent.
Boating trends for 2016: powerboats
Alex Smith takes his reputation in his hands and confidently predicts...
More private ownership
There was a time when shared ownership schemes were all the rage. They allowed you to dip your toe into powerboating without committing too much faith or money. But with better economic conditions, cheaper fuel and plenty of fuss-free dry stack services, the time has come to stop dabbling. In 2016, we will buy powerboats outright and use them for 200 hours a season instead of just 20.
Eventually, we (and the rest of the world) will copy the Scandinavians. That means building small boats from sensible materials like aluminium and roto-moulded plastic instead of shiny, high-maintenance fibreglass (see Finnmaster Husky range hits the water). We can then smack our boats off gnarly groynes and drag them up shale-strewn beaches without behaving as though it’s sacrilege.
Driven by vanity and enabled by technological advancements, the race for the world’s largest megayacht will continue apace. And ironically, it will be joined by a self-defeating belief that greener processes and more fuel-efficient operation are making superyachts ever more friendly to seals and puppies and fish and trees. Ignore the lie and enjoy the spectacularly ambitious hardware. Read: Superyachts flash their green credentials.
Though I’ve predicted it before, I confidently (re) predict that this year will see deck boats and pontoon-style platforms win a foothold in Britain. Having witnessed several new beam-forward designs emerge to great critical acclaim, the time is now ripe for British buyers to recognise that there is better value in a blunt-headed plodder than in a rapier speed machine. See Interboat Neo 7.0 review: buy a better boat.
I confidently predict that in 2016, lots of boat designers will attempt to piggyback the appeal of the mainstream automotive world with a spate of car-style boat designs. They will be good to look at but they will never make the transition from the draftsman’s board to the water because now, as ever, the overlap between cars and boats is conceptual rather than genuine.
In a busy and finite world, a manmade island is fast becoming the ultimate maritime solution – and from respectable designs like Wally Island to otherworldly objects like Orsos, Kokomo and Project Utopia, they come in plenty of shapes and sizes. Expect more of the same in 2016 as we all dream of abandoning the land for the freedom and self-reliance of our very own sovereign states. Read Floating islands: a new way of life afloat.
When Bayliner invests in the bottom end with boats like the Element (and Sea Ray joins in the fun with a fresh and accessible bow rider range), you know that entry-level budgets are once again a driving force. Expect a flurry of new sub 20-footers, all aiming to win fans by getting as close to the magic ‘Grand a Foot’ mark as possible.
Boating trends of 2016: sail
Gazing into the crystal ball holds no fear for Rupert Holmes...
Furling Code 0s
These sails originally found favour with racing yachts, but are increasingly being adopted by cruising yachts wanting to improve light airs reaching performance. They are beautifully easy to handle and an increasing number of cruisers are sporting them, with more and more new models being designed with this in mind. For instance the Dufour 460 GL, launched at the Cannes Yachting Festival in September, has a short bowsprit from which a Code 0 can be flown and which also forms neat stowage for the anchor.
Back in the 1980s, when Australia ll wrested the America’s Cup from US hands for the first time ever, her winged keel garnered lots of attention from both other racing teams and from designers of cruising yachts. Before long there were many otherwise staid cruisers sporting winged keels of various descriptions, along with claims – some of them valid – about the improved performance or sea worthiness of the design as a result.
With high end racing mono and multihulls now increasingly sporting various additional appendages to improve stability or speed, it can’t be too long before we see more of them applied to ostensibly cruising yachts. Of course, there will be plenty of naysayers that will claim there’s no chance of this happening, but history consistently suggests otherwise. Granted hydrofoiling is a radical development, but in little more than a decade we’ve seen cruisers sprouting twin rudders, chined hulls, furling reaching sails, twin wheels and small jibs replacing big overlapping genoas. All are changes that happened first in the offshore racing scene.
In one sense the market for new yachts is seeing ever larger, more expensive and significantly more complex designs on offer. However, an increasing number of often very experienced owners are realising that the comfort and ostentation these may offer frequently doesn’t equate to a greater degree of carefree enjoyment. Smaller and simpler boats invariably have fewer logistical headaches, while being easier and less hassle to sail. What’s not to like?
Having said the above, the market for sailing is not monolithic – the millions of participants around the globe are all driven by different motivations. We will therefore continue to see more complex systems to make life easier for those who don’t see the point of constantly trimming sails when they could be relaxing with a nice cold drink instead. Take a look at this video of the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 509:
Jeanneau and Harken are among a number of companies that have been working in this area, collaborating on their Assisted Sail Trim system that was announced at the METS exhibition in Amsterdam in November. This goes a lot further than systems that have hitherto been available for sailing yachts – it can trim the sail automatically, look after the sails at the touch of a button when tacking or gybing, and even set or hand sails at the beginning and end of a passage.
For more on ideas that may or may not have been ahead of their time, see: 5 of the greatest marine inventions or 5 extraordinary boats: inspired or absurd?