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
|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
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
||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
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:
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:
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.