The modern marine industry is awash with judging panels intent on handing out cakes and medals. There are regional, national and international awards to be won, as well as ‘Best in Show’ rosettes and lots of pat-on-the-head ‘Commended’ platitudes for boats that simply enjoyed taking part. However, in this fickle world of ego-stroking networkers and smile-savvy pros, the European Powerboat of the Year Awards seems to possess more gravity than most.
With editors from significant motorboat magazines in seven European countries (Germany, Italy, Norway, France, Switzerland, Austria and Spain), the judging panel is tasked with nominating 25 new boats in five powerboat classes (‘Up to 25 Feet’, ‘Up to 35 Feet’ and ‘Up to 45 Feet’, plus ‘Over 45 feet’ and ‘Trawler’). Of course, these categories are extremely broad and (as intimated in my run-down on the new BOB awards), I still don’t see how Austria and Switzerland add much credibility to proceedings, but with a huge range of boats to choose from, plus a close affiliation to the Dusseldorf Boat Show (where the winners will be picked in January), its 25 expectant nominees are definitely worth a closer look...
Category 1: Up to 25 feet
In the most modest of the five categories, the Bénéteau Flyer 6 has achieved another awards nominee shortlisting, courtesy of three properly integrated, pursuit-specific deck solutions on a single hull.
Joining it are the Flipper 600DC and the Parker 750DC, both of which are very capable and well-sorted family day cruisers, but to my mind, they are otherwise fairly unremarkable. The Rinker 200 Captiva MTX is a decent choice in this category, not least because it offers the kind of affordability so rare in the brightly coloured, do-it-all, pickle-fork sector of the watersports market. However, Yamarin’s Cross 75 BR, which recently won the aforementioned BOB Award, looks like the standout candidate, with its bold fusion of fibreglass topsides and a tough but splendidly compliant aluminium hull. In a shortlist high in competence but peculiarly lacking in spice, the Yamarin is far and away the most interesting option.
Category 2: Up to 35 feet
The shortlist for the top prize in the next category up is altogether more dynamic. It starts with Draco’s Windy-built comeback model, the attractive 27RS, with its Yamaha outboard power, bow rider layout and premium Scandinavian approach.
The Quicksilver Activ 805 is another very strong contender on account of its sheer space and versatility. However, after that, the difficulty for the judging panel becomes quite plain. After all, this category somehow manages to pit the sleek Frauscher 747 rocket ship against the upright, bubble-shaped Galeon Fly - and that’s to say nothing of the Transformer-like, expandable Wider 32. I’m not sure how these craft can be meaningfully compared, but however confused the rationale of the category might be, I would like to see the judges sidestep ‘Ingenuity for the Rich’ and reward ‘Ingenuity on a Budget’ (an altogether more testing achievement) by overlooking the excellent Wider and applauding the modest but authentic brilliance of the Polish-built Galeon.
See the Galeon 430 Fly first look video on boats.com.
Category 3: Up to 45 feet
Given that the Nimbus 365 Coupe won EPOTY in 2012, its big sister, the range-topping Nimbus 405 Coupe looks like a very strong contender. With the same ‘Sidewalk’ deck layout that won such acclaim for its security and user-friendliness, this Swedish, Category B, long-distance cruiser has to be in with a chance.
However, this category also offers the beautiful Italian Rio Paramá 38 express cruiser, with its angular aesthetics and retracting roof; plus Cranchi’s much-admired 43 Eco Trawler, with its dramatic cyber-style topside mouldings, its huge foredeck, its lofty headroom and its long-range capability. The Windy Camira 39, successor to the Khamsin 36 is also in contention, with a Hans Jørgen Johnsen hull design, Ed Dubois externals, a two-cabin layout, some useful galley options and a cockpit with either a sun lounge or a sports configuration. But as for the overall winner? Well if the heart dominates the head, the Windy or the Rio might take top spot, but for me, it’s hard to bet against the rigorously capable and well-arranged Bavaria Sport 400 scooping the plaudits at its home show.
Category 4: Over 45 feet
Despite its bold stylistic impact, the Absolute Navetta 58 is a practical looking boat, with an elevated bow shape, lofty bulwarks and a fine, swell-softening vertical stem, plus step-free decks and generous internal headroom.
This category also includes the extraordinarily sleek, flybridge-equipped Azimut 50, plus the flagship Prestige 750, which is particularly impressive on account of its radically crisp and modern open-plan interior. Famous for its commitment to the electric-diesel hybrid approach, Greenline is also in the running with its new 48 - the first fly-equipped model in the range and a useful bridge between the ‘SeaClass’ (sub 50 feet) and ‘OceanClass’ (over 50 feet). However, I would ignore the rigorous, zeitgeist-sensitive puritanism of the Greenline and the sharp-dressed sophistication of the Azimut and strike a blow for glittering alien strangeness by giving it to the Korvet 14 – a serious offshore cruiser with the lines of a military gunship, and an interior of cork, stainless steel and leather, all wrapped up in an aluminium, category-A hull. Lovely.
Category 5: Trawler
Competition in the trawler segment is extremely acute. In this particular EPOTY shortlist, Fleming puts in quite a predictable appearance with its excellent (if overtly traditional) 58 (see the full length boats.com Fleming 58 review here; the Jetten 50 MC meanwhile is a result of a collaboration between Jetten Yachting and Vripack - and with its extremely trim lines, its owner’s mid cabin and its layout versatility, it is a breath of fresh air in this often conservative and pedestrian sector.
The charismatically tubby Linssen Classic Sturdy 36 Sedan Deckbridge is all about 15 square metres of living space up on the flybridge, which is accessed (in a very bold, space-saving design initiative) via the foredeck. And while the slab-sided Panorama Flatfloor 46 makes good sense in terms of space and light, it is rather upright and ugly, even by trawler standards. As a result, I’m rooting for the Dutch Aquanaut Andante 438 AC. With its low profile lines, flat-bottomed stern and aggressively sharp bow, it claims to offer more pace on less fuel, plus a layout that fuses the merits of a trawler, an open cockpit and a hardtop motoryacht. It’s compact, it’s different and it would make a worthy winner.