As the year draws to a close, here is a reminder of some of the best new powerboats we looked at in 2014.
(1) Bayliner brings boating back to the people
At its best, Bayliner is an authentic ally of the poor man – and with the UK arrival and subsequent awards success of the new Element, the start of 2014 heralded a welcome return to form. See the full boats.com Bayliner Element review.
This very simple and modestly priced 16-foot open boat used a moulded jetboat style configuration on top of traditional tri-hull style underpinnings to create a flat, stable and user-friendly boating device. It’s since been joined by the stretched (18-foot XL) version – and while both are rudimentary, wet and hard-riding, the recent addition of an optional driver’s backrest and elevated screen does much to alleviate these issues.
(2) The Spark lands in London
No review of 2014 would be complete without a word on the UK arrival of the smallest, lightest, cheapest personal watercraft in the world.
After eight years in secret development without a whisper ever reaching the press, its appearance was every bit as radical as BRP intended. Its stated intention to revolutionise an ailing PW industry by establishing a fresh form of watercraft altogether looked a little far fetched - but with a base price of less than £5,000, it made the super-powered £15K monsters (and the manic race to make them faster, more powerful and more sophisticated) seem a little bit silly. Read the full boats.com Sea-doo Spark review here.
(3) Galeon invents something excellent
In an industry plagued by the tendency of boat designers to describe everything as revolutionary, it was a pleasure to witness the authentic box of tricks that was Galeon’s first ‘Skydeck’ craft (see the full Galeon 430 Skydeck review).
By shifting the fly deck aft and dropping it deep (and then equipping the main deck with a telescopic ladder and multi-purpose external seating unit), the helm and saloon were kept extraordinarily bright and clutter-free. The fact that the Skydeck 430 also offered sleeping for six and came in at under 390,000 Euros made it far more deserving of overblown marketing superlatives than almost any other boat launched this year.
(4) Slovenia gets in on the act
The extraordinary design directions of the Solvenian-built Brioni 44 lent it some uncommon piquancy for any serious powerboat fan (see Brioni 44 review: a striking delight).
By abandoning any pretence at guest headroom down below, it generated massive headroom in the main cockpit without in any way harming the low-profile loveliness of the external aesthetics. It also trimmed everything in bright orange fabric, hid a swing-out galley in the bulkhead and conjured up an artisan price tag that excluded almost everyone from ownership except the day-boating basketball pros at whom it was presumably aimed. Brave, strange, ingenious and memorable, the unapologetic Brioni 44 remains the most endearingly peculiar boat of 2014.
(5) F1 Sunseeker with nightclub included
This year saw the hotly anticipated launch of F1 Mogul, Eddie Jordan’s bold new 155-foot tri-deck superyacht.
Plucked from the very pinnacle of the Sunseeker range, ‘Blush’ reputedly cost around £32 million and came equipped with its own nightclub, a large bar, a hot tub and generous sleeping space for ten guests and ten crew. It also boasted floor-to-ceiling windows, several panoramic balconies, a ‘Sky Lounge’ on the upper deck and a 4,000-mile range for genuine ocean-crossing ability. However, most remarkably of all for a boat of this ambitious scale, Eddie invited the press on board for an informal look around. Well done Sir. A repeat invitation is warmly anticipated.
(6) Dutch Masters solve the deck boat conundrum
The age-old problem is simple. Bow riders are cool but tight on space; deck boats are spacious but ugly; and pontoon boats are huge but limited in the rough and truly objectionable to look at. So what’s the solution?
Well the Interboat Neo 7 is as close to an answer as we have seen (see Interboat Neo 7.0 review: broad appeal). It took the un-tapered, rectangular inboard shape of a pontoon boat, added the depth and seakeeping of a monohull, the looks of a Dutch sloop, some serious power options and a set of modular deck layout options. Modest though it might seem, this extraordinarily impressive 23-footer remains one of the year’s most inspired designs.
(7) Sargo preserves the Minor magic
I was in Finland listening to the President of Minor Offshore when he broke the news that, after 47 years, this revered family boat building company was to respond to the pressures of global markets by abandoning the negative connotations of ‘Minor’ and picking a new name.
That new name was to be Sargo (reportedly a fusion of the Sarin Boatyard and the East Atlantic Seabream) – and while some proud locals were concerned that this was a betrayal of the company’s heritage, it took all of an hour or two on the water to recognise that the fierce offshore ability of these boats would survive the transition intact. Take a look at our Sargo 28 Explorer video.
(8) Mighty Marex brings 80s retro to Britain
Ever since I met Espen Aalrud (son of the Marex founder and one of two brothers currently at the helm of the company), I have had a bit of a thing for Marex boats.
They offer great build quality, rare attention to detail and a lovely driving experience - and while people in Britain are rightly in love with the delicious 320 and 370 Aft Cabin Cruisers, it was great to see the equally excellent (if slightly quirky, 80s-style) Cabriolet model make its debut in the UK at the hands of Wessex Marine. It’s long overdue and very welcome. See Marex 350 Cabriolet cruiser review: retro flavours.
(9) Italian GT for barmy boaters
What do you get if a rich and passionate car-loving Italian entrepreneur builds a boat? Well probably something like this.
As the second in the fleet from Revolver, the 44 GT (see Revolver 44GT: delightful distraction) was a monstrously beautiful expression of automotive flair, with surface piercing propellers and a leather-trimmed, climate-controlled cockpit that wouldn’t look out of place on a high-end Bentley. Of course, the ergonomics on the prototype (head heights, switch gear, bracing points and visibility) were a bit of a disaster – but as a pungent shot of 100-proof Italian spirit, it was indisputably memorable.
(10) Draco reawakened by Windy
Draco was one of Europe’s biggest manufacturers in the 70s - and while it fell from view in 2002 when Windy ceased production of the brand, this iconic 50-year-old name made a high-profile return with the 27 RS.
Designed by Dubois and powered by a Yamaha F300, it offered a deepset cockpit, heavyweight construction, sumptuous fabrics and 45-knot performance. If its appearance on the stands at Southampton is anything to go by, the revived company will continue to be about serious sea craft with practical Scandinavian flavours and high calibre finishing. Here’s to more of the same in 2015...