Boating Industry

July 2016

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July 2016 | Boating Industry | 21 also have to balance that with building a product that does what it is intended to do well. "The more a customer sees that something he's going to invest a lot of money in that can do a multitude of things – whether it's for his fam- ily, whether it's water sports, fishing," the better, said Sean Callan, naval architect at Cobalt Boats. "We want the ability for a product to cover as many bases as a customer would want to use a boat for, right up until you go too far and you almost don't do any of those things well. … We have to be really careful to not cross that line where we don't execute super well on all of those [features]." That balance has led to an increase in the number of models manufacturers are producing. Those numbers have risen since the recession and continue to grow. "We see the proliferation of the types of boats [and] the number of different models. We're ap- proaching 30 unique boat models, when 10 years ago it was about 14 different unique models," said Callan. The FourWinns HD series is another among the many examples of crossover products, as it combines elements of a bowrider and a deck boat to fit the needs of customers. "We want to make sure the boats we design can be served for multiple purposes. We have a lot of options to turn a deck boat into a fish- ing boat, a fishing boat into a ski boat, and that's definitely a trend," said Christophe Lavigne, vice president, engineering at Rec Boat Holdings, LLC, "and we have some success with that. It gives more versatility to the customer. Some- times we effectively create hybrid boats that may be difficult to classify in the future." One segment that has seen success in capi- talizing on the crossover mentality is pontoons. These vessels are no longer the sluggish plat- forms of our grandfathers' day, thanks to new technologies like triple tubes and the addition of larger horsepower outboards. Because of that, many customers who once owned a fiberglass boat and an older pontoon are now moving into a new pontoon to serve both purposes. "I think we've seen a lot of crossover custom- ers over the last five years. I think it dates back to the old mentality of when people thought they needed a speed boat and a [PWC] and a fishing boat and a pontoon. You had to have everything. But as we've evolved and as we've added our cen- ter tubes, and overall the industry has changed," said Dave Grovender, product development manager at Premier Marine, Inc. "I can buy this pontoon boat that does everything I need it to do that a runabout boat will do, and it'll go just as fast and it's nimble in the corners and handling. The maneuverability is very similar." Premier's Encounter, which was among the products that helped Premier receive 26 patents in its 2016 model year, could certainly be con- sidered a crossover model. The 31-foot pontoon has a fiberglass cuddy cabin built into the center PTX tube of the pontoon and was built to play in the saltwater market. The idea was to use the tube as a space for a changing room or head and eventually became the cuddy cabin. "As we were designing the tube, it turned out to be a 42-inch [wide] PTX. At that point, we also started looking at other things we could do with this tube," said John Deurr, product devel- opment manager at Premier Marine, Inc., point- ing to the 12-foot wide, triple-engine Dodici, "That was also a result of starting with this 42- inch PTX. So it kind of just fed upon each other." When looking for new ideas on innovative pontoon design, Premier Marine looks to trends in megayachts segment and conceptualizes how those trends can be brought to a pontoon. "You see things in the superyachts that usu- ally don't trickle down into the 30, 40, 50-foot recreational boat size, so we try to emulate that a little bit," said Deurr. "Many of the dreams that we've had as an engineering group have been very successful and they have set trends for the industry." Recognizing opportunities Building crossover products is only possible when manufacturers are able to recognize an opportunity in the market. Cobalt certainly saw the quick recovery of the pontoon segment post-recession but wanted to be sure they built a product that was still true to its brand. "We said we're not going to do a traditional plywood floor bolted to the aluminum pon- toons, and then build the top sides on top of it," said Callan. Recognizing these opportunities also helps bring innovation in design to the market, as the fiberglass pontoon did, and opens opportunities for manufacturers. "If you consider the back end of the boat that has a molded-in swim platform with the auto- matic ladder that comes down, and that swim platform being right at the water line, as an ex- ample of the DNA that's in every other boat; if we had gone at the platform in the exact same way many [manufacturers] do today, we couldn't have brought what we feel is a very important feature into the Marker One," said Callan. Gyurko recognized an opportunity for a "hy- brid" boat of sorts in the industry by combining a PWC with a jet boat, creating the WaveBoat. He saw interest in the market to address both needs at an affordable price point. "Looking at the financial aspect of all this, if you take a brand new, top-of-the-line [PWC] TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMATION Lavigne believes the most significant impact on boat design has come from the advance- ments in engine and electronics technology. These advancements induce opportunities to create a new type of boat. "You have much more connectivity with electronics than we had before. You have the possibility to connect with your phone, to connect the electronic packages with your engines and to have engines that do more things than they used to, like speed control, GPS speed control, adjustment of trim. There are more opportunities," Lavigne said. "The possibility to surf behind the boats, that you see in many tow boats, has been supported by evolution in electronics, speed control, ballast systems and new engine technology." As the technology continues to advance, manufacturers have to work hard to seam- lessly integrate these products. To properly do so, more and more companies end up becoming involved with the boatbuilding pro- cess to create one cohesive product. "More and more, we have to have third and fourth parties involved. The engine sup- pliers have to be involved, and sometimes the radio supplier has to be involved, in order to share the protocol of communica- tions for their own specific computers," said Lavigne. "It's becoming fairly complex to have all of these people involved in these electronic systems, but I think it's one of the elements that have changed a lot in the last few years," noting that is has also become very collaborative as well.

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