Organizers are calling the 46th annual Newport International Boat Show one of the most successful to date, as optimal weather greeted visitors and exhibitors brought several new boats to make national and world debuts.
The Newport Exhibition Group does not release attendance figures for the Rhode Island show, but says it was better attended than last year. The promoters sold all of the exhibit space, added docks to accommodate in-water demand and saw a “10 percent year-over-year growth in attendance,” says show director Nancy Piffard.
Exhibitors hoped that the Sept. 15-18 event would set a precedent for the fall boat shows. “The Newport show is always a pleasure to attend,” says Chaparral Boats Northeastern regional sales manager Aaron Krenzer. “There is something about the city that screams boating. What better place to have a show?”
Krenzer says cool mornings and warmer afternoons made for “great boat show weather.”
“Chaparral’s dealer Twin City Marine was excited with its results,” says Krenzer. “Good-quality customers were on the docks throughout. Twin City has finalized several deals and is working on several more. With Newport being an early fall show, we hope this trend continues.”
MarineMax, which recently bought New England’s Russo Marine, had a “spectacular” display of 24 boats, says Larry Russo Jr., president of MarineMax New England. “The total value of Sea Ray, Azimut, Galeon, Boston Whaler and Sailfish boats was over $30 million,” says Russo. “The weather was perfect, the attendance very good, and the sales were strong.”
The show’s largest installation since 2009 featured several new-boat debuts, including a 72-foot Hunt, a 42-foot Chris-Craft Commander and a 32-foot Back Cove. Bertram introduced its Bertram 35 at a press conference on Thursday (Sept. 15), the show’s VIP day. MarineMax hosted the world debut of the new Azimut 40 Verve.
The new Regulator 31 made its debut at the Ocean House Marina booth, and naval architect Lou Codega was on hand to talk about Regulator’s deep-vee hull. Bristol, R.I.-based Vanquish Boats debuted the 21-foot Bristol Harbor Series Cuddy, a one-of-a-kind “Patriot Edition” with a color scheme and interior design by local designer Megan Boss.
Chris-Craft debuted its Commander 42 to the world at the Cannes Yachting Festival and to U.S. buyers in Newport. Other powerboat debuts included the Southport 33 LX, Palm Beach Motor Yacht 65 and 42, Back Cove 32, Nordic Tug 40 and 44, and the North Rip 21.
The Dehler 34 was one of several U.S. sailboat debuts. Others included the Fairest 23R, Seawind 1190 Sport from Multihull Source, Maine Cat 38, Bali 4.0 Lounge, Salona 380, Italia Yachts 9.98 Fuoriserie, and the Morris M36X, says Andrew Golden of Rushton Gregory Communications, which handles marketing for the show.
The Azimut 40 Verve and Bertram 35 garnered a lot of attention with their world debuts, and both companies held VIP day media events.
Bertram Yachts debuted its first boat under new ownership — the Bertram 35, which is intended to be reminiscent of the popular Bertram 31 while implementing modern technology, comforts and styling. The company, headed by CEO Peter Truslow, held a press conference that attracted about 40 people, including Bertram enthusiasts and the press.
This particular boat was built specifically for a European buyer and was designed to be a picnic-style boat rather than a hard-core fishing boat, Truslow says. “Next time we will make it more of the offshore fishing boat people are used to seeing, but I think this is really appropriate for a New England debut,” he said. “It’s the perfect dayboat.”
“It’s the first new boat relaunch for us,” Truslow says. “The brand truly has a cult following. It’s really been a mob scene here today. People love this boat.”
In a brief period of time no fewer than a dozen people — exhibitors in other booths and show visitors — stopped to examine the boat. “I love these boats,” says one exhibitor who had come from a distant booth to see the new Bertram. “That 31 was my favorite boat of all time.”
Although she couldn’t climb aboard because of a bad knee, she shouted questions to her colleague about the boat, such as the location of the berth in the cabin and questions about the galley.
Hulls No. 1 and 2 were built in Maine through a partnership with the Lyman-Morse boatyard, but hull No. 3 is being built at Bertram’s new Tampa, Fla., plant, formerly the Lazzara Yachts facility, which Bertram recently acquired.
Founder Richard “Dick” Bertram’s son Morgan returned to the company shortly before the Italian Gavio Group agreed to buy it from the Ferretti Group. Bertram spent lots of time showing enthusiasts around the boat, candidly seeking opinions about its features and styling.
Later, Bertram said it felt good to return to the brand’s DNA. “I’m really happy with this boat so far,” he says. “The response has been over the top. The best thing about this is that I’m involved in a lot of the product development. I’ve always, in the past, been selling other people’s vision of Bertram, and this is the first time I’ve been involved in the product.”
Bertram says his father was a discerning taskmaster. “His favorite word was ‘immaculate,’ ” he says. “The best thing about this is I’m able to sell the product personally, rather than what other people thought Bertram was.”
Azimut 40 Verve
Azimut Yachts entered a new segment with its 40 Verve, exhibiting it for the first time in MarineMax’s large display. The boat, with three Mercury 350 Verado outboards hanging off the transom, is designed to hit the saltwater outboard market without including the extras for hard-core anglers.
The company did a ton of research in developing this model, which is designed to compete with the ever-growing — in size and volume — center console sportfishing segment, says Azimut-Benetti USA president Federico Ferrante while giving a tour of the boat.
“All of the boats that participate in this market segment are built with a very strong fishing DNA,” Ferrante says. “What we found when we talked to people was that about 10 out of 100 are using these boats to fish.”
What customers do want in these boats is easy-to-care-for outboard power that can get them from point A to point B quickly — the Azimut 40 Verve has a top speed of 45 knots and a cruising speed of 37 — and the seaworthiness and safety of those larger rugged center consoles, Ferrante says.
“Azimut will never be recognized as a fishing boat,” he says, adding that the boat can easily be equipped for fishing. “This boat has all the design structure for open seas, but without the expense and the space consumption” of things such as fighting chairs and live wells. “This is an entertaining paradise,” he says.
Ferrante touted the boat’s many American-made components, such as the SureShade retractable shade over the boat’s massive aft entertainment area, which can be easily converted to multiple configurations; the Seakeeper gyro; the Kenyon grill; the Raymarine displays; and the Mercury engines and controls, among others.
The company held a well-attended press conference to debut the boat to customers and the media.
“Azimut is really creating a segment within a segment,” said MarineMax Azimut-Benetti brand manager Andrew Schneider as he introduced the 40 Verve. Because so many buyers in that segment, which is designed around fishing, don’t fish, Azimut’s idea was design it with large spaces for socializing and entertaining, he says.
“One of the hottest segments in the country is the big outboard dayboat,” says MarineMax executive vice president of sales, marketing and manufacturing Chuck Cashman. “This is a definite departure in a segment that’s really hot.”
Several exhibitors and attendees could be heard on the docks saying how thankful they were that the enduring streak of heat and humidity in the Northeast had given way to more autumnal weather.
VIP events that were closed to the press and public were filled with prior owners and people who were looking to buy.
“I love this show. The energy is fabulous,” says Sabre Yachts and Back Cove Yachts marketing and sales vice president Bentley Collins.
Collins says serious shoppers were out in full force. “Thursday of this show is always strong,” he says. “This year the foot traffic seems up, and the quality of attendee is strong. There are a lot of interested buyers; that is typical of a Newport Thursday. It’s been all positive.”
MarineMax had 24 boats in the water — including the Polish Galeon boats, which were making their Northeast debut. “Newport was our debut in the Northeast for Galeon where we showed the 385HTS and had a North American debut of the 430SKY,” says Bob Burke, Galeon brand manager for MarineMax. “It was extremely exciting to see the positive reaction.”
Other boats MarineMax featured included the new 25-foot Boston Whaler Outrage, the Sea Ray 400 Fly and the Sea Ray 460 Sundancer.
“Having Boston Whaler participate in the Confident Captain program, we have even more Whalers [eight] at the docks,” says Russo. “And the beauty is, people get to experience those Whalers that are in the program.”
The Confident Captain program encourages families and individuals to sign up for on-water courses to build skills and confidence. The objective is ultimately to convert these boaters to future buyers. The program expanded its offerings this year to include more courses designed for women and youths. All of the classes were sold out before the show opened, Rushton Gregory’s Golden says.
The Newport Exhibition Group, owners and producers of the show, named the winners of this year’s Edson Awards for “excellence in portraying company image.” Four category winners each received a $1,000 credit toward 2017 show contract costs from the producers. Edson also awarded a “star of the show” plaque to an overall winner.
The winners were:
- Best in-water powerboat display: MarineMax, Clearwater, Fla.
- Best in-water sailboat display: Beneteau USA, Annapolis, Md.
- Best free-standing display: Sunbrella, Burlington, N.C.
- Best in-tent display: 727 Sailbags, Doylestown, Pa.
- Best overall display and Edson “star of the show”: Beneteau USA, Annapolis, Md.
“Overall, the exhibitors delivered a high level of professionalism — it was very difficult to choose the best display,” says Will Keene, chairman of Edson International.
“Exhibits were judged by an independent group and assessed on cohesive branding throughout; eye-catching and inviting setup; well-dressed, friendly, knowledgeable staff; brochures and business cards readily available; and a neat and clean environment.”
Among new products, the Hunt 72 was named best powerboat overall and best powerboat 35 feet and over. The yacht attracted lots of attention during a VIP party. It cruises at 32 knots and features three staterooms, a varnished cherry saloon, a galley and an extended flybridge with dinghy storage and a lift. There is access to the flybridge from the aft deck or via the interior saloon.
Newport Exhibition Group says the competition was open to domestic and foreign products that were launched in the United States after April 1 and made their boat show debuts at Newport.
Show attendees selected the People’s Choice Award winner; all other category winners were selected by a team of experts on the basis of innovation, value to the consumer, safety and aesthetics.
The Back Cove 32 won for best powerboat under 35 feet. The boat, which features an updated layout, is the latest model to be launched in a range that spans more than 700 hulls and 14 years.
The People’s Choice Award went to the Nordic Tug 40, which features direct access to the flybridge from the pilothouse, a starboard-side boarding door in the cockpit and a pilothouse with seating for six.
Winning for best sailboat was the Maine Cat 38. The open bridge deck is designed with a forward or aft helm layout that offers 360-degree visibility. The performance cruising catamaran is built with Core-Cell foam coring with quadraxial E-glass infused with vinylester resin for all components.
Garmin’s GPSMAP 7600 J1939 chart plotter series was named best electronic product; the Forespar PureWater+ was named best product.
The recipients of the Newport for New Products Awards were chosen by Bonnier Corp.’s Cruising World, Yachting and Sailing World magazines.
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.