Despite the occasional squall, the Southampton Boat Show is by far the best event in Britain’s marine calendar – and once again, the extraordinary calibre (and in some cases, the unconventional strangeness) of its exhibitors has done a great deal to push home that point... So here's our 10 best boats from the Southampton Show this year.
Alfastreet 23 Cruiser
Alfastreet is plainly a builder with serious standards. In addition to quality materials and a cleanly resolved finish, there are some distinctly high-value features here, like a hydraulic roof over the cockpit and an electric roof further forward to help brighten the cabin.
However, it’s the hull shapes that really demonstrate this company’s attention to detail, because while a great many builders might use a single hull for both inland and coastal navigation, Alfastreet uses an entirely different hull shape for each job – a full displacement model for electric operation inland and a planing hull for 38-knot entertainment at sea.
In the absence of the new Axopar 37 (the production of which has been delayed), Axopar’s original 28 remains a very impressive powerboat.
Launched ten months ago as the debut craft for this new Finnish brand, it can be configured in one of five ways (as an open boat with or without an aft cabin and a T-top; or as a wheelhouse boat with or without an aft cabin). Whichever you pick, the sunken helm is a treat, the workmanship is high-grade and that fine-entry, stepped hull looks like a very potent piece of work. It comes from the same stable as Aquador, Paragon and XO, but to my mind it’s as exciting as any of them.
Designed to replace the 215, Bayliner’s new VR6 is a better boat than its predecessor for several key reasons. Firstly, it uses a deeper V in the hull with the intention of generating a softer ride. Secondly, it uses a broader beam and (like the entry-level Element models) extends it as far forward as possible in its quest to create extra internal volume. And thirdly, it costs around 10% less than the model it replaces. Sounds like a winner all round.
De Antonio 23 Cruiser
This stylish sports cuddy enjoys some very unusual touches. For a start, its outboard engine is housed in a moulded box, enabling you to use this otherwise dead space as a convertible seat or a central sunpad.
Further forward, the dining area also employs convertible fenders that can be reversed to generate lateral seats around the six-man dining table. And up in the bow, the steep stem produces some useful extra cabin space for a double berth that comes with a sea toilet, sink, fridge and mini stove. In some ways, the De Antonio 23 feels like a blend of several boat forms, but it’s no less charming for that.
Fairline Targa 53 GT
Fairline’s dynamic new Targa 53 aims to demonstrate that a GT model can feel more open and it very much succeeds. From the aft deck, through the single level transition to the lower saloon and up to the helm, the light, the space and the seating versatility is very engaging.
The quality here is also very good, with high-class woods and inlaid steel and leather, allied to a rare calibre of finish. The very natural flow of spaces is a marked strength on the new 53 and that continues down below, where the brightly lit galley leads off into a pair of generous ensuite cabins and (rather impressively) a side-by-side guest twin to port.
The man behind the excellent Morgan 260 sports cruiser is back with an altogether more forthright piece of work.
Known as the Luxman Bullet and making its debut in Southampton, Andrew Morgan’s new 20-foot bow rider is able to use a broad range of outboards from 70 to 150hp for family-friendly performance from around 30 to well in excess of 50 knots. The peculiarly Gothic bent to the internal styling is unlikely to be for everyone but as part of the Luxman ‘Semi-Custom’ range, there are plenty of ways to make it feel more (or less) bespoke, including a trio of pursuit-specific packages.
Galeon 385 HTS
Galeon is one of the most innovative builders in the world but with the 385 HTS, it has chosen to leave the tricks aside and concentrate instead on generating one of the best looking sports cruisers around.
The long, low-cut hull window sets it well apart from the rest of the market and the internals are every bit as clean, bright, angular and modern as we have come to expect of Tony Castro designs. You also get a flush floor on the main deck, a retractable roof over the helm, an extendable canvas above the aft deck and space for a 2.6-metre tender behind the hydraulically operated garage door. Plenty of designers aim to combine main deck openness with versatile overhead protection but few do it as well as this.
Sargo is a wonderful builder of do-it-all, four-season, offshore powerboats – and the 31 is arguably the best of them.
In traditional Sargo style, it uses a large, central wheelhouse orbited by a wide, single-level walkaround deck. In addition to a pair of double cabins and a decent galley, you also get a large U-shaped saloon area, allied to clear all-round visibility and rapid access to the side decks. Despite heavyweight build, a wonderfully soft ride and a displacement of around five tonnes, this is still a 40-knot boat with a range of around 320 nautical miles. For me, it’s one of the best ways in the world to spend £187,000.
The C330 is a fine proposition for UK waters. Although it’s 400kg heavier and a couple of knots slower than the more sporting S330, it comes with a more spacious master cabin and, despite the presence of the galley in the saloon, it also has a more flexible and user-friendly main deck arrangement.
The aft end brings the inside and the outside into comfortable union without any unnecessary complication and it also offers a convertible dinette on the foredeck. By combining the industrial efficiencies of its German owners with the clear-thinking design input of Bill Dixon, Sealine has generated a remarkably complete all-weather family cruiser.
Sea Ray 19 SPX
We first saw the Sea Ray 19 SPX at the Cannes Yachting Festival last year but its UK debut at Southampton was still a cause for celebration. With 33cm more beam than its predecessor, you get extra space, plus an uprated fuel tank and seating for 11 people instead of nine.
The cockpit is also more versatile for a family in search of mixed marine pursuits – and as a driving machine, this space-friendly outboard model remains one of the most enjoyable (sensibly priced) bow riders money can buy.
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