Club Marine

2004 Boat of the Year was the Powercat 2600 Sports Cabriolet.

A diversity of designs in boats ranging from five to 15 metres entered this year’s Australian Marine Industries Federation Awards. Across seven categories, boats from local and overseas builders went head to head as we report in this special Club Marine review.

Each year the Australian Marine Industries Federation (AMIF) accepts entries in a variety of sections that cover marinas, exporters, new and innovative products as well as the more consumer-oriented awards for boats. The latter being the most popular and most publicised. In total, 29 boats were entered with one, the Whittley 550, entered in two classes.

This year the judging took place in both Sydney and on the Gold Coast, with most craft being assessed by seven judges who were either experienced boating journalists or experts in safety and ergonomics. Imported boats made a good showing even though the rules preclude them from taking out the overall Boat of the Year title, which is reserved for Australian-built craft.

The big and luxurious Riviera 51 winner of the Non-Trailerable Cruiser category.

The 2004 Boat of the Year Awards winner – Powercat 2600 Sports Cabriolet. An excellent all-round package that also won the Trailerable Cruiser section.

While the Aussie boats were spread across a number of categories such as cruising, dayboat and fishing, imported boats were classed by sailing and power and between trailerable and non-trailerable. Sailing craft were noticeably absent, with just one entry in the Imported Sail category. Powerboats made a stronger showing with 14 entries across Imported Trailerable and Non-Trailerable sections to make these two classes the largest.

The imported power market is doing very well at present due to a number of factors. Several brands either new to the local market or returning after an absence are racking up sales with a mix of good quality, lots of added features and remarkably good value. That didn't stop a few Aussie designs showing that builders here can match it with the best of the imports. This should serve as a reminder to other local builders: overseas boats can be matched and outsold but only if the product is competitive in design, performance and features. This became apparent during judging, with a number of Australian boats offset by detail omissions or careless oversights in design or rigging.

Each boat was assessed over six areas of overall appeal, presentation, ergonomics, performance, safety and planning. The judges took into consideration factors such as innovation, construction, appearance, value for money, compliance with specifications, storage, added features, handling and response, fit-out and rigging, seaworthiness, appropriate power and user appeal amongst many other key criteria.

Another good result in Dayboats – Haines Hunter’s V17 Legend scored a Commendation Award.
Not satisfied with one category success, Powercat Marine used a beamier version of its twin hull design to win a Commendation in Dayboats with its 7.6 PartyCat.

The ETAP 37 was the only sailing boat entered this year and received some positive comments from the judging panel and a Commendation Award. At the top end of powerboats in the Cruiser Non-Trailerable category, the Sunrunner 4800 and Riviera 51 Flybridge Convertible looked equally impressive. The Riviera, which took out the award, was immaculately prepared and presented to take plaudits from the judges. Its handling and performance were amongst the best, especially out through the Southport seaway where the big Riv showed its local heritage pushing through rougher waters with ease as a result of its size, design and construction.

Four boats lined up in the Cruiser Trailerable field with the Whittley 550 taking on the Mustang 2000 Bluewater, the Haines Hunter 625 Horizon and the Powercat 2600 Sports Cabriolet. It was a tussle for top marks with the Powercat winning out due to its stability, onboard space, finish, soft-riding performance and a stack of included features. Twin-hulled boats are more difficult to build, but the extra beam does provide opportunities for both better performance and design innovation. The Powercat made the most of those opportunities to come up with a very versatile and appealing craft.

Noble Engineering fought off close competition to take a Commendation Award in the Trailerable Fishing category with the Noble 6.2 Super Vee.
Rapidly building a name for itself in the local market and winning the Imported Trailerable Award, was the Cobalt 220 Bowrider.

There were also four entries in the Dayboat category with the Coxcraft Bayrunner, Stacer 605 EasyRider, Haines Hunter V17 Legend and Powercat 7.6 PartyCat displaying a variety of approaches for daytime enjoyment on the water. The closed bow Legend was the most traditionally-styled of the four boats, with the Coxcraft and Stacer bowriders perhaps more contemporary. The PartyCat was along the lines of the large ‘deckboats’ that have seen increasing popularity in the US and now in Australia. With the same sort of space on board as pontoon party boats, this Powercat also showed surprising performance and ran well with modest power to display competence when taken onto outside waters.

The same qualities that saw Powercat win the Trailerable Cruiser field played a part in the company also gaining a Commendation Award in this Dayboat category. Haines Hunter also scored a Commendation. The Legend has a large foredeck hatch and opening screen panel that allows easy and safe access forward to tend to anchor and mooring lines.

The last of the Australian boat categories and the most popular with five entrants was the Fishing Trailerable title. The Whittley 550 was a surprise participant in this class after appearing under its more expected designation in the cruising field. It was hard pressed to compete with more dedicated fishing rigs such as Stessl’s 4.75 Pro Tournament (the smallest boat in the overall field), the Noble 6.2, the South Coast Marine Sahara 5.3 (that hauled the distance from South Australia to the Gold Coast to compete) and the Quintrex 650 Offshore. All these craft rated fairly closely but it was the Nobel 6.2 which emerged from the pack to pick up a Commendation Award.

Catalina Yachts brought in the ETAP 37 and scored well enough as a lone entry in the Imported Sailing section to take home a Commendation Award.

There were some big boats chasing points in the Imported Non-Trailerable section with Sea Ray entering both the 455 Sedan Bridge and the 455 Sundancer, joining Four Winns 250 Horizon, Bayliner Ciera 285, the Genesis 360 Targa from New Zealand and from England, the Sunseeker Sportsfisher 37. The Sunseeker stood out from the crowd with its racy styling and triple 250hp Yamaha outboards on the transom, but it was the two big Sea Rays that chased eventual winner Four Winns 250 Horizon for the category award while Sea Ray's 455 Sundancer earned a Commendation Award.

The Imported Trailerable category had multiple entries from Cobalt (220 and 240 Bowriders) and Bayliner (Capri 225 and Trophy 2352), with the Maxum 1800 MX, Four Winns 205 Sundowner, Boston Whaler 190 Nantucket and Sea Ray 200 Sundeck rounding out the field. When the spray had cleared, it was the Cobalt 220 Bowrider that came away the class winner.

With category winners determined, it was onto the award that held everyone’s interest – the Boat of the Year title which this year went to Powercat Marine's 2600 Sports Cabriolet. This slightly slimmer model in the Powercat fleet carries a 2.5 metre beam (rather than 2.6 as with the PartyCat) to be legally trailerable. It's still a big boat to tow of course, weighing around the 3,000kg mark on a trailer, but is within the towing capacity of stronger 4WDs.

Recommended power is a pair of 115hp outboards with which the Sports Cab cruises at a healthy 26 knots and tops out around 40 knots. That's quick enough, but the Cat can take up to 150hp outboards, which makes for a very speedy boat. The cockpit is a little unusual partly due to the twin hulls below with the helm inset slightly from the port side and a wide seating arrangement in front of the console. A wet bar and work bench over the fridge, make a handy food-prep station with the aid of a portable single-burner cooker. Wrap-around aft seating is totally removable if extra floor space is required, and there's a removable table too, which along with the seating can be converted to a sun lounge or extra overnight double berth. Up front is a good cabin with toilet and double berth.

The Powercat has twin 200-litre fuel tanks for a good cruising range, plus an 80-litre freshwater tank and a 30-litre holding tank. Those who'd like to use the sea-going and range abilities of the Cabriolet to go game fishing would benefit from factory options such as kill and live bait tanks, rocket launcher, rod holders and game poles. Other options are available to set up the 7.75 metre hull to meet personal requirements and it is available in open or soft-top form.

Against strong efforts from larger boats, the Four Winns 250 Horizon showed its mettle to gain the Imported Non-Trailerable Award.
One of the biggest and most visually appealing boats entered was the Sea Ray 455 Sundancer which won a Commendation Award in the Imported Non-Trailerable category.

The judges rated the Sports Cab well across the board and saw it as a versatile and innovative design that had been well thought through and built to a high standard. The hulls have a very deep vee of 28 degrees that works with the air entrapment characteristics of the Cat to provide a stable and soft ride. While some of the other boats might have come close to equalling the Powercat in individual areas, none could match it as a total package.

Boat of the Year Award:
Powercat 2600 Sports Cabriolet

Non-Trailerable Cruiser Award:
Riviera 51

Trailerable Cruiser Award:
Powercat 2600 Sports Cabriolet

Dayboat Commendation Award:
Powercat 7.6 PartyCat

Dayboat Commendation Award:
Haines Hunter V17 Legend

Trailerable Fishing Commendation Award:
Noble 6.2

Imported Sailing Commendation Award:

Imported Trailerable Award:
Cobalt 220 Bowrider

Imported Non-Trailerable Award:
Four Winns 250 Horizon

Imported Non-Trailerable Commendation Award:
Sea Ray 455 Sundancer

It's not often that a company takes out two categories as well as the overall Boat of the Year Title. But Powercat Marine demonstrated laudable abilities for a comparatively small organisation to do exactly that this year. Topping both the Trailerable Cruiser and Dayboat categories required an ability to take care of all the basics with what are essentially very similar hull designs yet different topsides and accommodation layouts.

It was encouraging for the Australian boating market to see a good mix of local and imported craft doing so well. Riviera and Whittley were particularly impressive along with the Powercats to keep the Australian flag flying high, while Cobalt, Four Winns and Sea Ray were considered to be the best of the overseas builders. It's a good time to be buying a boat.

In other sections; the New and Innovative Products Award for 2004 was won by Swing Moorings Pontoons with a Commendation Award in this category also going to Traveldock. The Exporter of the Year went to The Riviera Group with an Emerging Exporter Commendation presented to the Mercury Marine Boat Group. There are several sub-sections for Marina of the Year Awards with the overall title and the Recreational/ Tourism Marina Operation classification both won by Mandurah Ocean Marina. Gold Coast City Marina took out the Service/Repair/ Commercial Marina Operation section while the Clubs/Yachts/Motor/Cruising Marina Operation Award went to the Mandurah Ocean Fishing and Sailing Club.

The 2004 AMIF Awards were held with the assistance of Trader International Group, Modern Boating and Yaffa Publishing.