The Fort Lauderdale show’s statistics boggle the mind — more than 1,500 boats covering 100 brands with a combined estimated value of $4 billion.
This year, the big names all have new product to offer — Boston Whaler, Chris-Craft, Grady-White, Bertram and Viking, to name a few. I can’t remember a boat show season packed with new vessels from so many highly respected builders. If there were a Hall of Fame for recreational boats, all of these brands would be voted in on the first ballot.
We shine the spotlight on 11 new boats ranging from 23 to 72 feet. The new Bertram Yachts unveils its highly anticipated 35-footer, built in the image of the iconic Bertram 31. Chris-Craft steers a course into a new market segment with the first of three throwback cabin cruisers, the Commander 42. Viking and Hunt each come to Fort Lauderdale with $5 million-plus 72-foot yachts. Regulator, Southport, Grady-White and Boston Whaler all have new center consoles.
“It has the potential to be a very good show for Boston Whaler,” says sales and marketing vice president Jeff Vaughn. “Center-console and dual-console boats continue to grow. The Consumer Confidence Index is up. We’ve brought a lot of product to the market with our Outrage center consoles. We’ll have all of them at Lauderdale.”
The Edgewater, Fla., builder will have 22 boats from 17 to 42 feet. Models from 25 feet and up will be in the water at the Bahia Mar and those 24 feet and below will be at the convention center. The 23 and 25 Outrages will be making their first appearance at a boat show.
“The outboard center console market is thriving, and it’s no coincidence that we have been focused on that segment in the past couple of years,” says Vaughn. “Our marketing approach is a simple one and is working well. We have three priorities, summed up in three words — simple, comfortable and fish. Every boat must excel in these areas.”
This could be a breakout show for Southport Boats as the Maine builder debuts two new boats — the 33 LX (Luxury) and 33 MT (Marlin Tower), says managing director Skip Robinson.
“Fort Lauderdale is going to be a big show for us, especially because we are going into what I consider a new market for us,” says Robinson. “The 33 LX has a bow wraparound and an extension of the helm to the port side for storage and food prep. It’s really a party barge on a very robust-running boat that maintains a center helm. We’ll have an ice-blue model with powder-coated T-top framing, so it’s geared toward the Florida market. I think we might sell the boat right then and there.”
Robinson believes the 30- to 35-foot center console market is coming on strong. “The pure CC over 40 feet represents a modest segment of the market and likely not much more than 50 units annually,” says Robinson. “That said, there is demand; in fact, we have current Southport owners asking when they will be able to have a Southport over 40 feet. Our answer: in about 18 to 20 months.”
Like Southport’s Robinson, Matthew Vetzner, vice president of marketing for Carver, feels confident that FLIBS will be a successful show. “We have strong but realistic expectations heading into the Lauderdale show based on the momentum the Carver brand, boats and dealer partners are carrying into the show,” says Vetzner. “Fort Lauderdale is a buyer’s show. And therefore, we expect to sell boats and continue to strengthen others’ opinions as to who and what the ‘new Carver’ is all about without sacrificing the core values and principles of the company or brand.”
The coupe market is gaining momentum as more boaters “do not want to hassle with canvas, climb or descend bridge steps and want a more inside/out type of experience to expand their entertainment and social spaces,” he says. “The Carver C52 is the perfect example of this.”
Viking will have four new models in its 15-boat display at the Bahia Mar, including the 72 Open Bridge Convertible, the 72 Enclosed Bridge Convertible, the 48 Open and 48 Sport Tower. “We are confident these new models will attract a good amount of attention solely on their newness because people like to see new things at the show,” says Peter Frederiksen, Viking communications director. “The new models will draw in people who will then have time to inspect the entire product line from 42 to 92.”
Viking will have one of every model in all of the variations — Open, Convertible and Motor Yacht. The Viking subsidiaries of Atlantic Marine Electronics, Palm Beach Towers, Clean Boatyard and the Viking Yacht Service Center from Riviera Beach will be on hand, as well. Viking expects that about 5,000 people will walk through its display.
Fort Lauderdale has always been a significant show for Sabre and Back Cove Yachts, even though much of the FLIBS focus is on “superyachts, as well as larger cruising and fishing boat models,” says Bentley Collins, vice president of sales and marketing for Back Cove and Sabre. “It’s hard to be noticed in a pond with such big fish,” he says. “But we will be there waving our banners and inviting our known clientele to visit new models such as our Sabre 48 Fly Bridge and the new Back Cove 32.”
The Back Cove 32 restates Back Cove’s commitment to the smaller inboard cruising boat segment, says Collins. “Many builders over time have just built bigger and bigger models and left behind their core values,” he says. “For Back Cove, the 32 is a renewal to the lower end of our range, which today spans 30 to 41 feet. The Back Cove 32 has a ready audience in the Southeast. It’s a great design for day cruises with family and friends, and she’s capable of runs to the islands for an extended cruising.”
Joan Maxwell’s Regulator Marine will introduce a 31-foot center console. “We think the 31 is going to do well for a number of reasons: It is new, and what we have been seeing as an industry is new sells; it falls nicely between the 28 and 34 — both in size and price. Regulator offered a 32 with a “euro transom” for a number of years, and it was always a good seller. Our customers know the quality fit and finish and legendary ride of Regulator, so we anticipate some of them will be moving up from the other models; this boat has the latest features, including the side door — like the 41.”
Maxwell thinks Regulator will have a successful show. “All the economic indicators remain strong, inventories are low and consumer confidence is high,” she says.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.